Contesting Fraternite: New Working Paper analyses the politics of protection in contemporary France
A new Working Paper by Jennifer Allsopp argues that the contested usage of the concepts of Fraternité and Solidarité in debates concerning vulnerable migrants in France reflects the tension between particularist and universalist visions of French republicanism.
The paper cites several episodes of the criminalisation of assistance to vulnerable undocumented migrants in recent years which sparked political debate in 2009 on the existence of a “délit de solidarité” (crime of solidarity). Allsopp explores the role of Fraternité – the philosophical concept embedded in the republican triptych – in the debate and the extent to which the politicisation of these terms reflects a broader tension in the way French citizens understand their responsibilities towards “outsiders”.
The paper traces the revival of Fraternité in the language of the French political Right to the period following Sarkozy’s appointment as Minister of the Interior in 2002, considering how this discourse has encouraged the development of fraternal bonds between citizens at the expense of solidarity with “outsiders”. As President of the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party), Segolène Royal epitomised the more universalist leanings of socialist patriotism by equating Fraternité with “the will of humanity”.
These competing interpretations are critiqued as Allsopp shows how both sides attempted to frame their position as a commitment to national principles. For the Right, the need to control irregular migration was presented as a crucial stake in France’s preservation as a community of values. For many on the Left, the measures necessary for such control threatened to undermine the very values which the community was supposed to represent: they constituted an affront, not a safeguard to Fraternité.
Allsopp concludes that whilst the contestation provoked by the délit de solidarité debate may reiterate the possibility of articulating a universalist nationalism, the relationship between immigration and national identity is still predominantly framed as adversarial in contemporary France.
Image: In the bitter cold, a fire helps to keep up spirits at an encampment near Calais. UNHCR / H. Caux