One of the key debates in European social policy has been that between multiculturalism and assimilationism. French ‘assimilationist’ policies are generally seen as the polar opposite of British-style multiculturalism. French politicians pride themselves in having rejected the divisive consequences of multiculturalism. Unlike in the rest of Europe, they insist, in France every individual is treated as a citizen, not as a member of a particular racial or cultural group.
The question of French social policy, and of social divisions, has come sharply into focus in the wake of the recent tragic events in Paris. Assimilationists have long held multiculturalists policies responsible for nurturing ‘homegrown’ jihadists in Britain. Now, they are forced to answer why such terrorism has been nurtured in assimilationist France, too.
I have long been a critic of British multiculturalism. But I am no more enamoured of French assimilationism. The two outlooks are far more similar than…
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