Monday, May 7, 2007
French turn to Governing through Crime?
Does the election of Center-Right candidate Nikolas Sarkozy in the French Presidential elections (read Seb Rotella's coverage in the LA times) signal that France is now preparing to take an American style turn toward governing through crime? As interior minister during the 2005 riots that swept many immigrant neighborhoods in France, Sarkozy called rioters "scum" and threatened to use a hose to clean them out of France. More than previous Center-Right candidates Sarkozy has invoked themes law and order and promised to hold juvenile offenders and illegal immigrants to account. But Sarkozy is also seen as a stalking horse for a more neo-liberal approach to governing with more risk and responsibility placed on French citizens and a less powerful welfare state. The opening months of the Sarkozy government should provide signs to whether accountability talk will focus on crime control and bashing immigrants, or whether Sarkozy will really turn to the harder task of breaking up the social management of the French economy and unleashing more market forces. My opening prediction is that since resistance will be greatest to economic reforms (look for massive street demonstrations in response to any serious efforts to cut back job benefits and vacations), Sarkozy will turn to the easier road of governing through crime.