The Reappearance of Violence in France
Over recent decades it seemed that violence was in retreat within French society. The brutality of former times had been curtailed, and its energy channelled to serve the comfort and security desired by a softer, gentler middle class. Even bandits exhibited some professional class.
This climate of non-violence has been challenged in the past five years by juvenile destroyers and their expressions of spite (spitting, incivility), hatred and humiliation in an outburst of violence against property and persons who embody the established order.
This challenge to social order and sudden rise of tensions has surprised a peaceful society where mutual tolerance if not solidarity had minimized the sensation of police authority. In contrast to France of the good life, a society of urban violence is spreading geographically (684 sensitive districts in 1994 as compared with 511 in 1993) and in grave degrees.
Is this recent phenomenon no more than a brief episode linked to the unemployment crisis and an adjustment in French social relationships? Economic and social prospects are sufficiently dark to justify genuine concern that it is a growing phenomenon which could degenerate into far more serious explosions.