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Dilemmas of Equality:Perspectives from France and the USA

  • Epstein, Beth
  • Murkheje, Romi
  • Pélabay, Janie
  • Sénac, Réjane
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1959
SPIRE @ SciencesPo
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France and the USA are often considered “sister republics” (Higonnet 1988) on the basis of their respective republican legacies and the crucial role played by equality in their constitutional foundations, public cultures and political arrangements. Despite the apparent consensus on equality between these two nations, each has to wrestle with the common challenge posed by persisting and shifting forms of inequality. This challenge is met differently in France and the USA due to the particularity of their historical experiences, political frames and social attitudes towards sexual, racial, and religious identities. Still plagued by the ghosts of, on the one hand, colonialism and, on the other, slavery, French Republicanism and American Liberalism continue to grapple with the “dark spots” of their respective pasts while straining to adapt to calls for greater pluralism in an age of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. The rise in patriotism, populism, and nationalist movements currently unsettling traditional political arrangements in both countries as well as across much of Europe further exacerbates these tensions between the claim for unity and the recognition of diversity. In an age of neoliberalism, the ambiguities that trouble this fundamental principle are heightened in the face of growing social and economic inequalities, tied to the decline of the ideal of an open society and a growing divide between majority and minority groups. As the ideal of an open society recedes, so does inequality become the object of managerial strategies which, in lieu of examining its systemic causes, engage in quick fixes and band-aid solutions.

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