Monday 12 December 2005, by Bonelli Laurent
The «explosion» of insecurity in the peri-urban areas of France has become a compelling subject of political, electoral and media debate. There has been a surge of uneasy or alarmist talk, special dossiers and sensationalist coverage, sweeping whole areas of topical social and political relevance firmly into the background. Basing their views on constantly enlarging charts of crime, security analysts and «experts» are predicting the appearance of «no-go» areas controlled by increasingly younger, more «hardened» and more violent delinquents, while political parties of all persuasions point to their electors’ «demands for greater security» and call for more decisive action on the part of the police and the courts. As a result, since the mid-1990s, urban security has become one of the main priorities of one government after another, and an area to which considerable material and legislative resources have been devoted.
In order to understand this extraordinary rise in the importance of the security issue in our society, we need to view the political, media and bureaucratic circumstances that make this possible at a given moment, as the cumulated result of the input of a variety of social players from such different spheres as the police, politics, the press, university, social institutions, business, etc. No «social problem» exists in isolation. In order to become one, it requires «the action of socially interested groups to devise a new way of perceiving the social world in order to act on it» , in other words a mobilisation effort which must be constantly questioned and updated. This is what I intend to do in this paper, first by studying the morphological and social changes in the working class neighbourhoods of French towns, then the changes in ways of approaching the «violence» of the young people of these neighbourhoods, and finally the constantly increasing action taken by the police to resolve this «urban disorder». In conclusion, I will suggest a number of avenues to explore in order to overcome the current stalemate which, by converting the social issue into a security issue, classifies a large number of our fellow citizens as «new barbarians».
Download at PDF format
 Lenoir R., «Objet sociologique et problème social», in Champagne P., Lenoir R., Merllié D. & Pinto L., Initiation à la pratique sociologique, Dunod, Paris 1996, p. 77.