One of the most important objectives for the administrators of any country or region in the world is to ensure that its citizenry are united despite their differences and the diversity that characterizes their different socio-economic, racial, ethnic, religious and political inclinations. Meier (2009, p. 269) claims that in the last decade or so the nation of France has been characterized by a series of aggressive revolts by the ethnic minorities in the nation. Mihalache (2008) reveals that the reasons for these protests range from employment opportunities, disparities in the nation’s legal system and unequal access to positions in public bureaucracy (Meier, 2009, p. 269). The fact that one of the ideologies of the French nation is an absolute rejection of the race and ethnicity phenomena act as an impediment to the nation’s adoption of a representative bureaucracy (Wacquant, 2008).
The nation of France is one of the nations in the world with a very interesting history, and an even more interesting composition of people. Vidal de la Blanche (1903) described the geographical nature of France as similar to “a medal stuck in the effigy of a people” (House, 1978, p. 36). The population in France is the result of hundreds of years of evolution as well as the association and interrelation between the people and their habitat, technology and strategies governing social, financial and political growth in the nation. France is amongst the most diverse nations in the world; this is diversity is typified by social, financial and political discrepancies amongst its inhabitants (Wacquant, 2005). Many a time in her history, France has had to instill and preserve the notion of national consciousness created during periods of warfare. The tensions that brought about unrest in France in the 19th and 20th centuries are still to be completely forgotten; this is due to the
geographical of tensions’ spatial consequences and origins. It is for this reason that the forces of unity and division in France are of great interest in the present day particularly for the polity, financial systems and society in France. This paper aims at analyzing in detail the centripetal and centrifugal forces in France as well as the manner in which unity can be maintained in this nation. These forces will be assessed through the past and present of the nation of France. A deliberation of the nation’s future will also made.
2.0.0 Centripetal Forces in France
The term centripetal is derived from two Latin words “centrum” (centre) and “petere” (incline towards). A centripetal force is described as a mindset or stance that brings together the people in a nation and increases their support of the state. Centripetal forces are very beneficial for a nation such as France due to the fact that they bring about stability of the nation, strengthen the state, create solidarity in the nation and unify the entire population. The centripetal forces in France have always acted to enforce the cohesion and homogeneity of the French nation since time immemorial. House (1978, p. 37) claims that these the centripetal forces in France are based on the “state ideology” by the French people. One of the most significant centripetal forces in the nation of France is the nation’s Great Power status in Europe which has been enjoyed since the 17th century. France is
characterized by a central form of governance with limited decentralization of power to the echelons that are just under the federal level. In addition to this, the capital city of France- the city of Paris- instills unique status significance amongst the people from all regions in France. The urban hierarchy that typifies France implies that many of the towns in France tend to be directly dependent on the capital city as opposed to the other provincial cities in the nation (Begag, 2007).
The policies that characterize the economy and financial systems of France also tend to act as a centripetal force in this nation. A great number of commercial organizations in France, particularly the large firms, have a propensity towards the application of economies of scale which place great emphasis on frameworks of decision making that are more nodal. The fact that the citizenry of France have the freedom to move from one area to another as well as transport their goods and partake of a shared transport system, energy and telecommunication brings the French nationals together in a sense of nationhood (House, 1978, p. 38).
The special management of the French economy, particularly the six successive financial system plans that have characterize the fiscal environment in France have served as a centripetal force since they have enhanced the greater fundamental unity in France. These plans have been of particular significance due to their ability to interconnect the urban ladder in France through the formulation of 8 metropolitan growth cities.
There are a number of factors that are perceived ad being centripetal forces in such as France. These include the long established fame for France when it comes to superior wine, fashion, food and art. The iconography and political pageantry such as the national flag, national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance in France serve to enhance the nation’s unity and brings the different peoples of France together. More over the French nationals have a shared history of struggle and conquests. In recent days the political leaders and policy makers in France have indicated a propensity towards the utilization of education to socialize children into the national philosophy of France.
3.0.0 Centrifugal Forces in France
It is very interesting that more often than not, there is always a centrifugal force for every centripetal one. A centrifugal force is described as the exact reverse of centripetal forces. As indicated by Begag (2007), rather than unify a people and enhance their support of the state, centrifugal forces serve to cause divisions in a state and bring about “Balkanization”. This refers to the set of procedures through which a nation breaks down as a consequence of conflicts between the different ethnic groups as was the case in the Balkans during the Second World War (House, 1978). Centrifugal forces in France are also perceived as being very closely related to the phenomenon of devolution which is perceived as the fragmentation of a state. In addition to weakening a state, centrifugal forces serve to cause state deterioration and lead to an interruption of a state’s internal order. One of the major centrifugal forces in France and the main reason for the upheavals and unrest witnessed in France in the last few years is the prevalence of political and economic inequality. The hierarchy of the financial system in France has led to a stratification of the French society into upper, middle and lower classes.
Rotella (2005) posits that there divisions in most of the social, political and economic systems in France. Work areas are typified by inequalities based on workers’ socio-economic, racial and religious backgrounds. According to Keaten (2005) the riots that characterized France recently were as a consequence of the social and economic inequalities in France. A great number of educated youth in France are restless since they cannot find employment. Other centrifugal forces in France include general pessimism and mistrust amongst the French.
In the nation of France it is very difficult to establish a balance between the centripetal and centrifugal forces (Begag, 2007). More over any equilibrium formulated between the two forces in France is subject to discrepancies depending on the mind set of observer. Furthermore during the post war period in France, such equilibrium was very inconsistent since the nation’s economy was developing very quickly. In spite of the agreement that the nationals of France had regarding the state idea in the late 1970s the nation of France was still characterized by an equal level of polarization between the Left and Right factions in the nation (House, 1978, p. 38). According to Meier (2009) the voices of the minority groups such as those from the low socio-economic or low class in society would be heard only occasionally.
4.0.0 Past, Present and Future of Unity of France
House (1978, p. 38) asserts that “the most important [centrifugal force] today is the continuing imbalance within France at the regional level, the variable extent of prosperity, adequacy of living standards, social conditions or total expectations”. These outcomes in France are brought about by the interplay of a number of divisive forces. Recchia (2008, p. 48) claims that one such force is immigration. Initially, during the 17th century the French did not emigrate in large numbers except for the Huguenots. The 19th -20ty century France was however characterized by great mobility of people to and from the nation leading to its being referred to as a “country of immigration” (Hargreaves, 1997). As a matter of fact, the past of France is characterized by the assimilation of millions of foreigners from different parts of the world. Before the 1940s a great number of Italians and Poles migrated into France. In the 1950s-1960s the Portuguese and Spaniards flowed into France and by the 1970s and 1980s it was the Asians and West Africans (Canet et al, 2008).
The present day France is a unitary state characterized by a first order civil stratification with the provinces headed by governors appointed in the nation’s capital-Paris. The governors’ authority is limited to that allowed by the federal government. Currently the numbers of foreigners in France who serve to increase the diversity in the nations as well as strengthen the centrifugal forces are indicated in the table below.
Country of Origin Percentage of Current Population in France
The Rest of Europe 14.9%
The rest of Africa 9.1%
Latin America 2.9%
North Africa 1%
The rest of the world 0.9%
Heneghan (2010) points out that France is currently typified by centrifugal forces emanating from diversity in race, religion and socio-economic status. The recent unrest witnessed in the nation has been caused by Muslims protesting against the mainstream Catholics in divided France (Heneghan, 2010). In the year 2006 the month of August, the Pew Research Center publicized the findings of a comparative study carried out on the Muslims in France, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom. This paper revealed that the nation of France currently has the largest population of Muslims, an estimated 5,000,000 people. Most of the Muslims in France originate from Morocco and Algeria. Historically, the cultural homogeneity and national culture of the French nation served as a centripetal force. In the present day, however, immigration has transformed the nation of France from its former state as a Roman Catholic, white and francophone nation (Crumley, 2007).
As stated by Hargreaves (2007), France is a multiethnic country characterized by great diversity in religion, race, ethnicity and socio-economic statuses. It is expected that in the future of France will be characterized by an increased domination of centrifugal by the centripetal forces (Gecker, 2005). This is mostly due to the increased advancements in the nations transportation and communication systems. When the systems of transportation in a nation are advanced, the citizenry can easily access the resources and public amenities in different parts of the nation; this serves to reduce conflicts emanating from some parts of the nation feeling marginalized and makes life easier. Effective communication systems in France are also expected to enhance the transport system and infrastructure in France and consequently increase the unity amongst the people in France (Dikeç, 2000).
Peace, harmony and unity are very important components in any nation that intends to develop its social, economic and political systems. In recent days France has been rocked by protests and unrest due to the social and economic disparities that exist in the nation. This paper has discussed in detail the forces of unity (centripetal) as well as the divisive forces (centrifugal) that are responsible for the unrest that has characterized the past and present of France. Deliberations have also been made on the impacts that the centrifugal and centripetal forces in France may have in maintaining unity in the future. If unity is to be maintained in France it is not only the political leaders but also the different peoples in France that need to commit themselves to appreciating each others cultures and managing the differences between them. This can be done by focusing on and emphasizing the centripetal forces in the country as opposed to the centrifugal ones.
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