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The « social lift » is out of order !

jeudi 9 septembre 2004

Traditionally, the sons and daughters of each wave of immigrants climbed some grades of the social scale. That’s what happened to the Polish, Italians, Spanish and Portuguese. They were progressively « integrated », first in the upper layers of the working class and then in the petty bourgeoisie : shopkeepers, foremen, executives, teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Since the middle of the 1970s, this process has been brutally stopped and that may be one of the sources of the religious identity crisis of the descendants of North African migrants.

France has known a certain economic stability after the Second World War. The Republican model was based on strong forms of social protection (social security, pension and health systems, etc.) and a regular progression of employment opportunities. But since the 1970’s, the unemployment has grown drastically (around 10 % today on a national basis, but up to 20 or 25 % in certain regions) and created a feeling of insecurity : one cant hope any more to stay in the same factory or company for 30 or 40 years ; it’s difficult to leave the tower blocks and find a credit to buy a small house in a « better » district ; today, a young worker spends years and years jumping from one badly payed job to another ; the perspective of a growing qualification has disappeared, etc. All these social difficulties are generally not blamed on capitalism ; migrants and their descendants have become the scapegoats of all sorts of social frustrations for which they have no responsibility. And hostility against Islam in the working class is often a politically correct way of expressing racist feelings.

The descendants of North African immigrants shared the « social ascension » ideal diffused by the Republican propaganda. They expected a lot from the school system and French society. With the crisis, they became strongly disilusioned. As they have much more difficulties than the other French citizens to get a qualified job, a decent housing and to become integrated in the wage-earners world, they are more and more attracted to a multiculturalist model (in French we prefer the derogatory word « communautariste » which means « closed in his/her community »), because they think it may work better than the Republican-secularist model.

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