Futuribles Journal n° 395

Géopolitique - Société, modes de vie

Tolerance and Xenophobia in Europe : Are “Cultural Areas” still Relevant?


Several countries, having been faced for over five years with a serious economic crisis that has grave social consequences, have seen the growth of populist political parties with, in many cases, xenophobic overtones. But do these political expressions echo the trends in Europeans’ values and behaviour with regard to tolerance and xenophobia? It seems not, at least up to 2008, the date of the last survey of European values, as analysed here by Guillaume Roux.

Roux begins by drawing up a geographical chart of tolerance in Europe: the values of tolerance are everywhere in the majority, but the levels are highest in Northern Europe and lowest in Southern Europe and in the former Soviet bloc countries, with Western Europe presenting a more mixed profile. Over the last two decades, these seem to be durable differences, even though, in general, the values of tolerance have progressed in many countries (doubtless in connection with increased individualization) and the homogeneity of Western Europe is a little diminished by comparison with 1990.

Roux goes on to analyse Europeans’ behaviour towards ethnic minorities (preference for the employment of nationals and xenophobia). Even though the situation varies greatly from one country to another, we find a geographical distribution similar to that for tolerance, with the countries of northern Europe showing the least xenophobic attitudes in 2008 and those in the south and the former Soviet bloc having the most xenophobic behaviour. Generally, over a long period (1990-2008), the trend is for xenophobia to decline, but the coherence between the values of tolerance and attitudes towards ethnic minorities remains stable, confirming the partially cultural dimension of positioning with regard to xenophobia. 

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