Promise postponed: republican values, social exclusion, and the French banlieue

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.4, 2019


Promise postponed: republican values, social exclusion, and the French banlieue(Abstract)


Beth S. Epstein


The ongoing crisis of the disadvantaged French outer-city is portrayed in France as both the consequence and cause of the breakdown of an engaged and participatory collective life, and is increasingly viewed as the result of rising ethnic tensions and of the failure of French republican values to take hold. As these explanations gain ground, they move consideration away from the socio-economic transformations that have so durably impacted conditions in these outer-city areas. De-industrialisation and the shrinking of the welfare state have greatly diminished the potential for social mobility in these districts, hollowing out in the process the potential of the French republican project to manage social inequalities. Through a consideration of these discourses and the way they have shifted since the 1990s, it is argued that the rising enactment of ethnic tension in the banlieue needs to be seen as an expression of this contradiction, of the modernist hopes and subsequent disappointments that these districts have incarnated, and of the failure of the state to sustain these areas during a period of prolonged economic restructuring.