Sunday, November 25, 2007

French and Dutch Communitarianism

Update- Thanks to Charles and his excellent timing, he forwarded this link to Jonathan Miller's blog:

Miller's post discusses a recent article in the New Yorker about French commedian Dieudonne Mbala Mbala, who is perhaps the most outspoken opponent of communitarianism in France, if not the entire world. Notice Charles' comment regarding the ACL, and the lack of response to his contribution from the Americans. Most Americans still refuse to even learn how to pronounce the word. I can't speak a word of French, but Nordica can, and she loved her high school trip to Paris. I'm wondering now if we shouldn't consider becoming Frenchwomen, or French Canadians.. who are still the main orderers of our anti-communitarian book, 2020.

The European Constitution was rejected by the French and Dutch voters because they saw the supremacy of communitarian law with "critical eyes." So what does the term mean in France and the Netherlands? Tonight I went looking for an answer to that.

Apparently, communitarianism in France is perceived as giving too much power to the community, and it stands in opposition to France's republican idea of individuals and their place in the state. To a republican French national, communitarianism destroys the fabric of French society by allowing small religious and ethnic communities to establish their own set of standards and rules that protect the community over the individuals. I haven't found much on how the French voters view the establishment of a European "community," but the record clearly shows they voted against it.

I find it very interesting that French people are so familiar with the term and its ramifications on their nation.. while the American people who support their republic and argue against immigration policies (open border policies that establish "little Mexicos" and "little Russias" in the American heartland) never seem to grasp the defining policy behind promoting "cultural diversity and tolerance." Americans are never told the actual terms for their demise. We have embraced the policy of not requiring our immigrants to learn U.S. law... we do not require them to become Americans at all... we even let them fly other nations flags over American public schools. Is it any suprise they don't respect our values or our culture?

The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought, By Lawrence D. Kritzman, Brian J. Reilly, M. B. DeBevoise we learn "America, with its communitarian fragmentation of the polis, represents for most French thinkers the very image of a society in disarray."

Derin Suller explains The French Idea of Republicanism:

"According to the French version of republicanism, only the 'atomistic individualities' of citizens, and not communities, form the nation. In that sense, French republic is 'the gathering of the citizens, not the gathering of the communities.'1

"This approach directly affects the way individual rights are defined in France. Due to its strong opposition to the idea of a nation that is formed by a gathering of communities, the French state chooses to assumes that communities do not exist on a sociopolitical level. The state takes this aspect of its republicanist ideology so seriously that it even goes as far as considering all sorts of characteristics and expressions that have to do with a communal identity a problem.

"With full loyalty to this model, the French expect every one within the borders of the country to conform to the French culture - which, they believe, is what 'being French' is about. However, due to its misconceptions, France fails to differentiate conformity from egality, and unfortunately, this is exactly how it creates an army of outsiders."

In Catholicism and Politics in France in the 20th Century, Part I by Hugues Puel, Scarica l'articolo in ZIP we find, The communitarian personalism of Emmanuel Mounier:

"If Maritain played a key role in the launching of Esprit, he did not decisively influence the philosophical conceptions of Mounier. These are Mounier’s own and were forged in the French philosophical tradition which issued from Descartes. They did not depend on the Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy which Maritain had so brilliantly illustrated, but more on a tradition of French humanism. Communitarian personalism can perhaps be characterised by the following traits:

  • - an attitude of openness, a refusal to close in on oneself, either individually or socially

    - a method of tension and interaction between freedom and solidarity with a refusal to limit the person

    - A process of personalisation which links interiorisation and exteriorisation in a movement surpassing them both

    - A philosophical matrix, using to the term of Paul Ricoeur, linking man to his triple dimensions:

  • That of his vocation, that is, the call to develop his own being fully

    That of his incarnation, that is, his relationship with other people and with things

    That in the community, which cannot exist without the mutual learning of each person

  • - an anthropology that teaches that man should be continually open to the future where he may live in the world by living in harmony with himself."
  • From "France: One and Divisible" By Ezra Suleiman, Published on: Nov 18, 2005. Ezra Suleiman is professor of political science and director of the European Studies program at Princeton University. He is the author most recently of Dismantling Democracies (Princeton University Press, 2003).

    "The urban riots that recently broke out in France result from a loyalty to a philosophy that has scarcely been modified even in the face of a society whose ethnic, class, and religious composition has been evolving. But there is an equally strong attachment to a second, equally important ideology, which is of a more recent vintage and which goes by the name of “the French social model”. Both “le modele republicain” and “le modele social” have much to recommend them: the first stresses equality while the second points to “solidarity”, or “fraternity”. They are not subject to debate since politicians risk their careers if they so much as suggest a debate on such principles.

    "Why have these guiding principles been so avidly embraced by the elites of the Left and the Right? Republicanism not only explains and justifies state centralization, but is believed to set up a unified, egalitarian, and secular society. This is in direct contrast to what the French see as the “communitarian” society of the United States where ethnic and religious groups are viewed as undermining the cohesiveness of the society. But can a society be acknowledged to be diverse in the private domain and unified in the public arena? And what is meant by “equality”? Who determines what is the “common good” and what represents equality?

    The Jewish News Weekly has a post on Friday March 9, 2007, called

    French Socialist struggling for Jewish votes, by nina bassist, jta:

    "His opponents accuse Sarkozy of favoring a “communitarian” approach — encouraging strong identities within different ethnic communities, something perceived as contrary to France’s republican ideal."

    The Jewish Journal has an article by Claire Berlinski, about anti-Semitism and French republicanism, where she explains: "
    "The French government, in contrast, vigorously rejects this kind of cultural separatism, which it terms “communitarianism.” The word connotes the intrusion of unseemly religious or ethnic particularism into the public sphere. Yet communitarianism is precisely the essence of Marseille Espérance.

    "Marseille Espérance is, in effect, an end-run around the government’s anti-communitarian principles. Since French law forbids the recognition of ethnicity, the city recognizes religions — ethnicity by proxy."

    Claire closes with "

    "Of course, Marseille is not some kind of pluralistic utopia. While there is less anti-Semitic tension in Marseille than in other French cities, there is tension, nonetheless. But in Marseille, unlike other French cities, the worst of the tension has been dampened. And in this, Marseille may serve as an important model for the rest of Europe.

    "Marseille suggests, in other words, that the French republican ideal is dying. It was a noble experiment. But its days are over."

    In Reason, History and Politics, The Communitarian grounds for Legitimation in..., by David Ingram, Chapter 4- is called "French Comunitarianism and the Subjagation of Identity"

    In Dick Pels, Three Stages of Social Theory we find:
    "The familiar debate between Durkheim and Tarde, for example, may illustrate a conflict between a ‘French’ communitarian and an ‘Anglosaxon’ individualist on French soil;"

    In Intermarriage among Jews in France: Preliminary Remarks by Erik H. Cohen, School of Education Bar Ilan University "French Jews have been criticized as being “communitarian”. The term communitarian is vague and undefined, making it difficult for the Jewish community to defend itself and its loyalty to France. According to a self-described communitarian writer, “Communitarians take issue with the idea that the individual stands and should stand in direct unmediated relationship with the state and with society. …Communitarians argue for the continuing significance of status and local networks, and the potential of other intermediate institutions” (Frazer 2000: 21-22). Republican ideals demand that the individual is only a citizen, that is, in an unmediated relationship with the state. Those who criticize the French Jews for being communitarian often refer both to formation of a distinct community with its own institutions, such as schools, community centers and media, and to the Jewish community’s support of Israel. Supporting Israel may be perceived by some as an allegiance to another nation and a split from French foreign policy, which has historically been pro-Arab."

    Included in Political economy from below : economic thought in communitarian anarchism, 1840-1914. By Rob Knowles, there's the first major writing of the French communitarian anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in 1840,

    From jellou blogspot we find: "So what is the alternative to French color and identity "blind" assimilation; what sort of social and political integration qualifies as truly postcolonial?
    Firstly, according to a widely held opinion among Frenchmen, communitarianism is the dominant integration model in the Anglo-Saxon world. To French Le Figaro, even Sweden is communitarian. This is to say that everything is relative of course. Or as they say: the one-eyed may be king among blind people. In truth, except for specialized political scientists, the word communitarianism (kommunitärism) has never been part of the language use of Swedish, rather Jacobin, monarchy."

    From the Transatlantic Intelligencer we learn a little more from Monday, December 5. 2005, Is Freedom of Thought Under Threat in France?

    "Finkielkraut... an emblematic figure: a republican, a Jew who is true to his origins but refuses every form of communitarianism or any systematic alignment with Israeli policies, someone who is resistant to political correctness and concerned with ethical questions across a wide variety of domains, from the school to daily mores. And at a deeper level, because he is someone who could be capable of drawing intellectual or academic milieus toward a respectably moderate conservatism." (Michel Gurfinkiel is editor of the French magazine Valeurs Actuelles. This article has been adapted from the 2 December edition of the weekly. – JR) )

    More coming... found a lot more than I thought i would, haven't even started on the Dutch yet.