Government Plan for Parisian Suburbs Panned

<p>A group of French academics have written an open letter decrying the latest in a long string of plans to deal with the working-class Parisian suburbs, which saw riots in 2005.</p>
February 1, 2008, 11am PST | Michael Dudley
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"We are sociologists of diverse theoretical and methodological orientations who have been working for 20 years on the situation of the blue-collar suburban enclaves. Today, we sign this joint text to denounce the blatant inadequacy of the diagnosis and insufficiency of the remedies proposed by the [Urban Affirs Minister Fadela Amara's] plan to erase the continued impoverishment of the urban periphery's stigmatized neighborhoods."

For 20 years, every new legislature has become an opportunity to launch a suburban enclave plan without even taking the trouble of evaluating the preceding one. The plan-before-last, Jean-Louis Borloo's "urban renovation" proposal, aimed to "break apart the ghettos" in order to reestablish "social cohesion." It hadn't yet produced any first effects when the new Secretary of State for the City - the 19th to occupy that position in 17 years - already presented a new "Marshall Plan," "Hope for Suburban Enclaves," also supposed to resolve everything. Three directions of "new" action are announced: education, employment, opening up of urban enclaves. In the middle of the 1980s, education (the "ZEP"), youth employment (the local "Missions") and the opening up of urban enclaves (the DSQ) were the Socialist government's priorities. In the 1990s, the "free zones" were supposed to restore employment, educational supervision was supposed to nurture scholastic success, city policy was supposed to urbanize the neighborhood enclaves. Today, the labels have been changed, but the only innovation is that everything is being done in miniature: after targeting 13, then 26, then 150, then 751, then 163, the new plan targets 50 neighborhoods. Why 50? What will become of the others?

As long as it is not based on a recovered political legitimacy, the umpteenth "suburban enclaves" plan will get bogged down in the swamps of communication and impotence. Until the next riots, until the next plan.

The blue-collar suburbs don't need another plan, but an overall and continuous policy of job creation, public service enhancement, reduction of inequalities and active struggle against multiform discriminations."

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Published on Thursday, January 31, 2008 in Truthout
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