With his book Le Déni des cultures (Paris: Seuil, 2010), the sociologist Hugues Lagrange sparked off a polemic within France. Having established, through local studies, that young people from Sahelian Africa were overrepresented in criminal activity in France, he explained this phenomenon mainly in terms of cultural factors, including lack of independence on the part of women, paternal authoritarianism and polygamy. These factors are themselves aggravated by the reception France affords its immigrants.
Michèle Tribalat, a demographer specializing in ethnic and migratory issues, has read this work for Futuribles and presents her analysis of it here. Though she finds the importance of cultural factors well supported by the local analysis, she rejects the findings that morals in Europe have become less liberal and borders increasingly closed. Migratory flows and the proportion of persons of foreign origin in the population actually increased in many European countries during the years 1990-2000. Tribalat argues that it is this real development and the attendant conflicts over modes of life and values that explain a rise in ethnic tensions, including in states with a reputation for tolerance, such as the Nordic countries. However, underlying these tensions there is often an appeal to the importance of the principles on which liberal democracies are based. Michèle Tribalat is astonished at Hugues Lagrange’s advocacy of greater multiculturalism, given the picture he has himself established of the devastating effects of certain specific cultural characteristics.