Working Paper

French and British Models of Integration Public Philosophies, Policies and State Institutions

Published 1 January 2007 / By Christophe Bertossi

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French and British integration policies have for a long time formed two mutually exclusive paradigms. Built on elements of the ideology introduced during the French Revolution, French citizenship is perceived as refusing any form of distinction on ethno-racial lines in the public sphere. In the eyes of this republican "philosophy", British policies have appeared to represent its antithesis with an approach based on the importance of minority groups and some recognition of multiculturalism as a social and political feature of British society. For the observer, this quick presentation of the dominant paradigms of citizenship in each country has the following consequence: "race" or "ethnicity" seem to form the hard edge between the two countries, with these concepts being rejected in France and central to the situation in Britain . Since the media, politicians and researchers have perpetuated this comparison between France and Britain , it has been set up as an insurmountable opposition between two different fixed "models". In recent years, however, we seem to have moved beyond this opposition. To make sense of this recent shift in both countries' integration policies, this paper proposes a renewed comparative approach which challenges the "mirror" image of a structural and essentialist opposition between French and British models of citizenship and integration. Also, the paper highlights key perspectives through which it is possible to envisage how far France and Britain share a common political future as globalised and multicultural societies, in spite of still largely dominant discourses focusing on the oppositions between the both nations.


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