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The Values of the French Republic
Transcript of The Values of the French Republic
Dr Karine Varley
What are the values of the French Republic?
Challenges to republican values
Republican and anticlerical France
Catholic and monarchist France
War of two Frances?
Article 1 of the constitution of the Fifth Republic (1958):
La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale
The constitution therefore suggests that France and the Republic are one and the same. So the values of the Republic are the values of France.
Eugène Delacroix, 'La Liberté guidant le peuple' (1830)
Leopold et Charles Morice, 'Monument à la république', Place de la République, Paris, 1879-83
Jules Dalou, 'Le triomphe de la république', Place de la Nation, Paris (1889-99)
Free, compulsory and secular
Shaped by principles established by Jules Ferry (1880s)
2005 law: Mission of schools to teach pupils to share the values of the Republic
Terrorist attacks have been interpreted in terms of attacks against the Republic
But debate still rages about what these values are and should be
The 2017 presidential elections saw far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen gain an unprecedented 33% of the vote, despite being seen by critics as a threat to the Republic and its values
In response to the perceived far-right threat, all mainstream parties and candidates rallied to assure the victory of Emmanuel Macron
Significance for the French Republic
The terrorist attacks have been widely interpreted as attacks against fundamental values of the French Republic. Charlie Hebdo was seen as an assault on freedom of expression and of the press. The Paris attacks were seen as assaults on the ordinary freedoms of French society. Perhaps most poignantly, the Nice attack took place on 14 July, the day that France celebrates the Revolution of 1789 and the values of the Republic.
Charlie Hebdo attacks and the French Republic
«Aujourd'hui, c'est la République toute entière qui a été agressée,»
Hollande, 7 janvier 2015
«C'est une atteinte directe et sauvage à l'un de nos principes républicains les plus chers: la liberté d'expression.» Nicolas Sarkozy, 7 janvier 2015
«Victimes martyres de la Liberté, de la liberté de la presse, pilier de la démocratie et de la République… Nous devons réagir à cet acte par l'union sacrée autour des principes de la République.» Anne Hidalgo, Maire de Paris, 7 janvier 2015
In its simplest terms, laïcité means that France is a secular state. The separation of Church and State, which was made law in 1905 was originally designed to limit the power of the Catholic Church and replace religious 'superstition' with rational thought. The idea behind it was that religion should be a purely private matter.
Since the 1990s, however, it has taken on a very different meaning, to become a more militant assertion of secularism.
Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French people mobilised behind the Republic
«J'appelle tous les Français à se lever pour porter ces valeurs de démocratie, de liberté et de pluralisme»
Hollande, 9 janvier 2015
The massive mobilisation in defence of the Republic was rooted in France's political heritage. During the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792 and 1793, the French people rose to defend the revolution in danger.
The tradition continued at moments of national crisis, including in 2002, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest against the far-right presidential candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
«Le crayon guidant le peuple» - references «La liberté guidant le peuple»
Reaffirmation of Enlightenment ideas
Descartes – «Je pense donc je suis»
Misquoting of Voltaire
Reaffirmation of republican values in schools
Since the terrorist attacks, the government has sought to reinforce republican values in French schools, focusing on « La laïcité et l'enseignement moral et civique ».
The fact that several of the Islamist-inspired attackers were home-grown led many to conclude that the values of the Republic needed to be reinforced in schools.
'La République indivisible'
What does this mean?
One French culture
Unity against difference
French rather than regional languages or in the modern context, languages that might be spoken by immigrant communities
Challenges to Republican Values
The problem remains that there are significant numbers of people who don't support the values of the French Republic. Some whose heritage is in former French colonies, especially in Africa, see laïcité as thinly-veiled neo-colonialism targeted at Muslims.
Image of Marianne used following 13 November attacks
Challenges to republican models of intégration
Equally, there are fundamental difficulties in the way the French Republic views different cultures. The French republican model of intégration is defined in opposition to ‘Anglo-Saxon’ multiculturalism. Many republicans see multiculturalism as dangerously divisive.
In recent years, the values of the French Republic have been at the forefront of public debate and questions about the French nation and French identity. While the Fifth Republic has been in place since 1958, the challenges of globalisation, laïcité and the terrorist attacks of 2015 and 2016 have raised questions about the validity of these values for some people and been seen as a remedy for others.
In recent weeks, the debate over laïcité took a different turn with clashes over a statue of Pope John-Paul II in Ploërmel. The statue, which features a cross, was ruled by the Conseil d’Etat to have violated France's 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, which forbids religious symbols in public spaces. The ruling sparked criticism from elements of the right and from the Catholic Church and gave rise to the hashtag #montretacroix in protest.
In 2015 a controversy erupted over laïcité in school canteens. In some areas, local mayors declared that schools should not provide alternative meals for pupils who did not eat pork on religious or cultural grounds.
The debate took a turn for the absurd last week when former president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that pupils who did not wish to eat pork should simply eat more chips: « Le jour où à la cantine, il y a des frites et une tranche de jambon, eh bien, le petit qui ne prend pas de tranche de jambon, il prendra une double ration de frites. C'est la République. La même règle et le même menu pour tout le monde. C'est ça la République ! »
What are the values of the French Republic? The constitution offers a starting-point.
Closely linked with these ideas is the notion that all French citizens should adhere to the same set of values and culture. While France may be a diverse country, officially, the Republic is not multi-cultural. Thus, those who come from different cultural backgrounds are expected to learn the French language and to fit into the French Republic.
Advantages and disadvantages of the French model
Those who support the French model of citizenship say it promotes harmony, as all citizens are treated the same.
However, critics argue that it can lead to some communities and those who do not agree with the values of the Republic feeling alienated.
Why has laïcité become so contentious in recent years?
The population of France has become less homogenous in religious and cultural terms in recent decades. In very basic terms, a growing Muslim population combined with the changing nature of Islam and changing attitudes of the younger generations have combined to produce clashes between those who seek to uphold the values of the French Republic and those who reject them.
2010 law banning niqab and burka
France was the first country in Europe to ban the niqab and burka. Offenders face a fine of 150 euros and are obliged to take a citizenship course where they will be taught the values of the French Republic. The ban was contentious, with some critics accusing the government of singling out Muslims. However, supporters of the ban claimed that it was about equality for women under the Republic.
In the summer of 2016, however, controversy surrounded the 'burkini'. In the aftermath of the 14 July terrorist attack in Nice, the mayor of the nearby city of Cannes decreed that the burkini should be banned from beaches on grounds that it was 'ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the target of terror attacks'. The city introduced a by-law that said anyone in swimwear deemed not to 'respect good customs and secularism' would be barred from visiting beaches or swimming.
Schools and education have long been at the heart of the debates about laïcité
So how did France get to this position?
Many of the issues at stake are long-standing, but a series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 have left many searching for solutions.
Two years ago, on 13 November 2015, Paris was subjected to a series of terrorist attacks, culminating in the Bataclan massacre. 130 people were killed. The attacks came only 10 months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the attack on a Kosher supermarket, resulting 17 people being killed.
In July 2016, Nice was also subjected to a major terrorist attack, in which 86 people were killed.
Since then, there have been numerous other, smaller-scale attacks.
Paying tribute to the victims of Nice, President Hollande stated:
«Les Niçois et nous tous, plus largement, avons été atteints dans notre chair et nos valeurs républicaines. La République doit donc rendre cet hommage au plus haut niveau avec la présence du chef de l'Etat, et manifester ainsi sa solidarité et son soutien.»
An estimated 3.7 million people joined the Marche Républicaine in defence of the values of the Republic on 12 January 2015, gathering at the symbolic sites of the Republic.
However, critics of this approach claim that it fails to deal with the fundamental causes of the problems and the reasons that drove the terrorists to target France.
Other commonly-used terms in debates about republican values:
immigration is seen by some as a cause of désintégration and a threat to national unity
- social breakdown
- seen to be the consequence of multi-culturalism, resulting in communities becoming isolated