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Political Dimension of the 2005 Riots (From Rioting in the UK and France: A Comparative Analysis, P 147-156, 2009, David Waddington, Fabien Jobard, and Mike King, eds. - See NCJ-229457)

NCJ Number
Michel Kokoreff
Date Published
February 2009
10 pages
This chapter develops the hypothesis that the 2005 riots in France stemmed largely from a diversity of political ideas and processes that existed not only within the riot-affected cities, but more generally in a French society fixated on the possibility of an internal security threat.
In developing this hypothesis, the author first proposed that the rioting behavior was meaningful to those involved as an expression of powerful feelings of injustice and a collective demand for respect. This view was tested with the findings of field surveys conducted over a period of approximately 15 years (Duprez and Kokoreff, 2001; Kokoreff, 2003), as well as a post-analysis of the 2005 riots in several cities on the outskirts of Paris (Kokoreff, 2008). Based on these analyses, the chapter concludes that the 2005 riots were fueled by a variety of political problems within French society that fomented a sense of injustice and inequality among the disadvantaged; however, for such overt action to have any political impact, it required the presence of appropriate mediators and/or the formation of effective alliances. This is what was lacking among the youth who participated in the riots. Urban riots in France have been historically marked by their close bonds to local, if not parochial factors. Rioters ages, behavioral choices, and choices of targets were all linked to local characteristics. Once riots cool down, the rioters themselves were typically reluctant to shift to rational political and social action that achieves long-term change. Establishment politicians and policymakers were more interested in restoring order and in pacifying anger than in working with disadvantaged populations to improve their living conditions. Life resumed as before the riots, until the next wave of riots led by the younger generation and/or newer French migrants.


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