- Mixité sociale, et après? ed. by Éric Charmes, Marie-Hélène Bacqué
The notion of social mix has been widely accepted since the 1980s(1) as a legitimate means of distributing populations in space. This collective work edited by Éric Charmes and Marie-Hélène Bacqué sets out to probe the effects of using the notion in public policy and working to achieve social mix. The five contributions are highly diverse but their coherence is clearly conveyed by the introduction, the conclusion and the brief presentations by the editors that precede the chapters.
In the first chapter, Marie-Hélène Bacqué asks how social mix as a public policy notion and aim affects common representations of classe populaire [working-class or relatively poor] neighbourhoods, critiquing the disqualification-naturalization of communities it entails. She begins by recalling Weber's definition of the community–"a group defined by a feeling of membership, belief in a common heritage, by a tradition or shared origin" (pp. 19-20)–then shows that communities develop on different bases (geographical, religious, work-related, etc.), and that a person may therefore belong to several of them. From this perspective, communities are not merely social groups that individuals can withdraw into; they also provide resources, generate critical consciousness and transmit a power to act. Naturalizing communities makes it impossible to conceive and understand social change, she explains, particularly the processes by which the classe populaire has become desegregated, processes linked to longer education and a wider range of cohabitation, interaction and co-presence situations of the sort described in detail by Olivier Schwartz(2). For Bacqué, the notion of social mix misrepresents the real issues operative in working-class neighbourhoods, issues related not to withdrawal into a community but on the contrary the transformation of such neighbourhoods due to the increasing diversity and increasingly precarious situation of this social group.
In the second chapter the eminent American sociologist Robert Sampson offers a dense, detailed account of the theoretical framework of his Great American City. Sampson specializes in "the neighbourhood effect"; that is, the impact of neighbourhood characteristics on inhabitants' social trajectories and outcomes. He shows that "ecological concentration of the truly disadvantaged" (whose lives are characterized by poverty, unemployment, family breakups, racial segregation and other ills) does affect levels of violent crime and mutual assistance but that this effect is not mechanical. Sampson develops two concepts that complexify analysis of segregation. First, the notion of a "mirroring" neighbourhood whereby he can claim that shared perceptions of disorder predict how a neighbourhood will develop and change–notably by following what Jean-Claude Chamboredon [End Page 528] (1985)(3) described as the dynamics of "social construction of populations"– and that individuals settle in neighbourhoods with inhabitants whose perceptions they share. The second concept is "collective efficacy", namely effective social regulation: a means of keeping crime low and a possible resource, including in segregated neighbourhoods. Sampson thus highlights the fact that these kinds of neighbourhoods may be resources; his analysis of the neighbourhood effect goes beyond a critique of segregation.
In Chapter 3 the geographer Mathieu Giroud probes the ambivalent social effects of social mix in connection with the gentrification of classe populaire neighbourhoods. Promoting social mix in these neighbourhoods side-skirts the adverse effects that gentrification has on the most vulnerable components of the population. Classe populaire neighbourhoods get "rehabilitated" for the stated purpose of opening them up to the middle classes, but this relegates symbols of that group's heritage to the category of aesthetics and has the effect of effacing the related, possibly conflictual social history of the place. Drawing on his study of a historically working-class neighbourhood of Grenoble, Giroud shows how social mix there is still marked by relations of domination and social control of the less advantaged group, though that group occasionally manages to put up "some resistance".
In Chapter 4, Stéphane Tonnelat draws on a review of the American...