Comparing British and French riots

In: Uncategorized

12 Aug 2011

Dominique Moïsi, a special adviser to the French Institute for International Relations, has written an interesting comment piece in today’s Financial Times comparing the riots in Britain this year with those in France in 2005 (free registration may be required to read). I am not endorsing his entire argument but some of the differences he identifies bear careful consideration:

“In France the riots mostly took place in poor suburbs surrounding Paris and a few other big cities. Except in one significant incident, in the plush seventh arrondissement, rioters were never able to get into affluent neighbourhoods. After all, Baron Haussmann, the city planner of Emperor Napoleon III, created large avenues to avoid the repetition of previous revolutionary days in a naturally riotous Paris. This is clearly not the case in England.

“Great Britain also does not have the strong police culture that makes France perhaps the most muscular of Europe’s democracies. But the chosen targets of the rioters were different too. In France, schools and cars were the primary objects, most likely because they were symbols of a thwarted social and physical mobility; only a false promise in their eyes. Their anger expressed their deep sense of social, economic, cultural, political, sexual and urban exclusion. Their very names (with their Arab or African connotations) and addresses (in the poor suburbs of Paris) meant they were never going to be able to find jobs in a market that was difficult even for young white people.”