In the United States, the expression “affirmative action” generally refers to a wide array of measures set up at the end of the 1960s by executive agencies and the federal judiciary. These measures grant some (more or less flexible) kind of preferential treatment in the allocation of scarce resources—jobs, university admissions and government contracts—to the members of groups formerly targeted for legal discrimination (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, women, sometimes Asians).1 In France, by contrast, the main operational criterion for identifying the beneficiaries of affirmative action policies (in French, “discrimination positive”) is not race or gender,2 but geographical location: residents of a socioeconomically disadvantaged area will indirectly benefit from the additional input of financial resources allocated by state agencies to that area as a whole.
A French Attempt at Affirmative Action in Higher Education?
French Republicanism prohibits the creation of American-style affirmative action based on racial and ethnic descent. Nevertheless, France has its own affirmative action programs based on socio-economic indicators in given geographical zones. Over the past ten years, there have also been experimental and informal efforts to diversify selective institutions of higher education. This article assesses, through ethnographic field work and in-depth interviews, one of these programs—the establishing of a classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles in a working-class and heavily immigrant suburb east of Paris. The article reveals that while local underprivileged students who attend the classe préparatoire are most unlikely to wind up in a grande école, they just the same receive essential instruction that readies them for university study. As members of the original teaching team leave and are replaced, however, the future of the prépa's mission is far from certain.
The Politics of Color Blindness in France and the United States
France and the United States are commonly portrayed as proceeding from diametrically opposed presumptions in their approaches to race policy.1 The United States, this line of argument goes, has pursued a race-conscious approach to attacking racial discrimination, developing policies such as affirmative action that offer compensatory advantages to members of historically or currently disadvantaged groups.2 The American approach involves directing benefits and opportunities toward individuals who belong to discrete, identifiable groups within society. This sort of targeting, in turn, presupposes that these groups constitute legitimate political categories and that those who fall into these categories are due special consideration.
The Controversy over "Statistiques Ethniques"
Daniel Sabbagh and Shanny Peer
In the United States, while some race-based policies such as affirmative action have faced often successful political and legal challenges over the last quartercentury, historically, the very principle of official racial classification has met with much less resistance. The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, according to which “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” was not originally intended to incorporate a general rule of “color blindness.” And when in California, in 2003, the “Racial Privacy Initiative” led to a referendum on a measure—Proposition 54—demanding that “the state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin,” this restriction was meant to apply exclusively to the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment, that is, the three sites where affirmative action was once in effect and might be reinstated at some point, or so the proponents of that initiative feared. In any case, that measure was roundly defeated at the polls.
An American scholar is often struck by the absence of race in France as a category of analysis or the absence of discussions of race in its historical or sociological dimensions. After all, “race” on this side of the Atlantic, for reasons having to do with the peculiar history of the United States, has long been a focus of discussion. The notion of race has shaped scholarly analysis for decades, in history, sociology, and political science. Race also constitutes a category regularly employed by the state, in the census, in electoral districting, and in affirmative action. In France, on the contrary, race hardly seems acknowledged, in spite of both scholarly and governmental preoccupation with racism and immigration.
Nafissa Sid Cara and the Politics of Emancipation during the Algerian War
the “well being and dignity” of all Algerians. 27 The plan included construction in cities, agricultural improvements, education and vocational training for Algerians, and an affirmative action policy that required one in ten public servants be of
The 1979 Vincennes Conference on Neoliberalism
Michael C. Behrent
, he identified the rise of neoconservatism as the most disturbing trend in American politics. In a May 1978 article he discussed Nathan Glazer’s critique of affirmative action, as well as the work of such neoconservatives as Daniel Bell, Daniel Patrick