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  • Open Republic, Multiculturalism and Citizenship: the French Debate
  • Alastair Davidson (bio)

En France, la logique de la citoyennetÇ s’oppose
      Ö celui des minoritÇs

(Schnapper 1994: 189)

This essay is not concerned with the recent reforms to citizenship of J-P ChÇvänement and Elisabeth Guigou. Nor does it discuss the ongoing drama of the sans papiers under the new rules. Rather, it addresses what underpins many of these practical problems: how French theorists cope with the problem which globalisation poses for deeply rooted French notions of what it is to be a citizen.

In this essay I focus only on some of the terms of globalisation that appear especially relevant to the issue of citizenship. These are (1.) the imperative to develop freedom of movement for capital, goods, and labour in territorial spaces greater than those of the nation-state if human well-being is to continue; (2.) the resultant end of labour forces that are primarily drawn from inside the nation-state and their replacement by multi-ethnic labour forces as labour is drawn to the richer areas of the world, including France; (3.) the development of plural identities as the newcomers come and go physically and with the distanciation and disembedding of their worlds (Giddens 1990); and, above all, (4.) the increasing irrelevance for significant minorities of the world’s population of the feeling that each person “belongs” to only one community. I have written about these issues in various places (Davidson 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998 forthcoming). All the writers discussed below take these factors as the background to their concerns. Sami Nair illustrates the centrality of migration in his words:

[W]e have entered a period of huge displacement of population. I use the word displacement deliberately. For, when the populations of entire regions leave, this is not because they want to leave but because they are obliged to by the situation. In fact, what is called globalisation, the extending of the economy to the globe, goes together with the uprooting of entire peoples, abandoned by the flight of productive structures, left to the blind forces of the world market. Even the rich countries undergo these changes fully. Was it not one of your (Charles Pasqua) colleagues, Philippe Séguin, who spoke just recently about a real social “Munich” with respect to the consequences which flow from European unification? What then can we say of the countries of the South and East?

(Nair 1997: 73).

While Nair is careful to emphasise that the main immigration is in the developing countries and not in Europe or North America — a fact made doubly clear by the forced repatriation of millions in Asian-Pacific countries in the recent financial crisis — he indicates what is essential even in a France which is least affected by such migration. The arrival in recent years of millions of denizens who do not share the French collective memory means a national capitulation to uncontrollable global forces.

The change of France to a multi-ethnic and increasingly a multicultural- community with three million Muslims alone (see Wievorka 1993: ch. 1 and passim) poses massive problems for traditional views of citizenship. These are encapsulated in the debate on the limits to the notion of the open republic which claimed to resolve adequately the conflicting claims of nationality and participation.

I will focus on four groups of responses and select authors from among them, while referring to others. First, the prize-winning Dominique Schnapper, above all her La CommunautÇ des citoyens Sur l’ídÇe moderne de la nation (Gallimard, 1994) and her forthcoming La relation Ö l’autre (Gallimard 1998). Her position is simply that the open republican model of citizenship is all that is possible in a polity based on democracy and human rights. Second, the work of Said Bouamama and his colleagues, which says that that model is no longer adequate. The main works discussed are La citoyennetÇ dans tous ses Çtats De l’immigration Ö la nouvelle citoyennetÇ (l’Harmattan, 1992) and Vers une nouvelle citoyennetÇ Crise de la pensÇe laique (Boåte de Pandore, 1991) and several more recent articles. Together these advance the model of a multicultural and universal citizen. Third...

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