The November 2005 riots in France brought new attention to debates over the situation of underprivileged areas. Rather than analyzing what happened in these areas, this article examines how this social problem was constructed and publicized and has since become an object of public policy since the end of the 1980s. The political focus on underprivileged areas was not primarily or only an effect of increasing concrete problems, like unemployment, poverty, or juvenile delinquency. Instead, it resulted from and contributed to a fundamental restructuring of the French welfare state, by authorizing a recentering of public action on specific urban spaces—rather than across the nation—and on social ties, rather than economic reality. This constructivist study seeks to understand why politicians, experts, or civil servants have associated the question of ?underprivileged areas? with certain problems (like lack of communication and the weakening of social ties) while ignoring others (such as ethnic discrimination).