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A recent entry, "Free Market Fires," has elicited an illuminating comment from M François Peyrat, a Parisian who is involved in the redevlopment of the Ile-de-France, the region of which Paris is the heart but which also includes the banlieues that surround the city. M Peyrat sees the recent troubles as primarily economic, and I'm inclined to agree, although I would like to see a clearer connection between the isolation of so many maghrébins (North Africans) in what we would call housing projects, and the greater difficulty that their young men seem to have getting jobs, on the one hand, and the French economy on the other. I most heartily agree with M Peyrat that neither the US nor the UK is a "multicultural" society.


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The situation mirrors the conditions, pre-Katrina, of New Orleans: segregation into horrid housing projects, no education, no jobs, no prospects. That's why the crime rate was so astronomically high. Add to that the indifference of the City's elite. Et voila, as you say.

Again, Daily Blague is doing me too much of an honour...
As a complement to my post, I do agree isolation plays a role. The unrest was not so bad in neighbourhoods closer to city centres or still relatively mixed socially.
Most of the "banlieues" were not "ghettoes" at the origin, of course. Many remain public-supported housing estates built for the upward-mobile French middle class of the 1950's to 1970's, in a context of post-war housing shortage, and were young families found then "up-to-date" housing conditions in relation with their financial means. Besides, the designers of those state-funded estates had to meet cost criteria in terms of building techniques and localisation (hence the development of cheaper farmland in outlying suburban areas). They did not build British-style rows of terraced houses, but high-rise blocks of apartments, because it was the designers' idea of urban modernity.
Many of these projects have gone downhill since the late 70's, as the more demanding middle class has gradually moved out, housing a poorer and poorer, increasingly ethnic population. As a consequence, some mayors have to cope with 50 nationalities and ethnic groups in their town. However, a lot of money has been spent on remodeling, repainting, insulating in those projects.
On the paradoxes of the welfare state again, French "school zoning" (carte scolaire)(your children are assigned to the public school of your neighbourhood, with derogations however), initially designed to prevent school consumerism and the emergence of "rich man's and poor man's schools", has proven to double-edged, as families who can afford it actually move to the areas with reputedly better schools.

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