“Era of danger (to the republic) ends, era of difficulties starts” optimistically proclaimed the ideologues of the French Republic. Nonetheless recent Paris terrorist attacks and numerous other failed attempts unearthed major ideological fault lines underpinned by a considerable social alienation of a portion of the very own children of the republic!
Undoubtedly there are numerous ideological underpinnings that play important roles in such acts of violence. Moreover there are several international contexts with unconcealed amount of ethno-religious line-ups whose impacts are hard to undervalue at a domestic level. In particular the Middle East appears to be providing an inexorable source of ideological activism with ongoing conflicts and pervasive injustice inflicted on ethnic and religious grounds. Notwithstanding here I wish to highlight other internal political factors within the borders of the Europe that could provide powerful grounds for the legitimation of violence.
Civic rights and duties
In a recent speech at the Arab World Institute , President Francois Hollande emphatically underlined the “republican rights and duties” of all French citizens including the Muslim minority. The Prime Minister Manuel Valls in denouncing social discriminations on spatial levels went even as far as assimilating certain impoverished parts of France to instances of social apartheid. Such affirmations while clearly highlight some of the socio-spatial factors of segregation and even an institutionalized top-down or bottom-up processes of ghettoization, do not appear to go far enough to adequately highlight the republican normative significance of such destructive political realities by being trapped in the prevailing imperative of moral condemnation of violence.
Furthermore it appears that such discourses of civil reconciliation based on a consensus on the principles of rights and punishment provide a mere fig leaf and a modicum of consolation in the face of the fundamental deficiency in the republican provisions to protect and promote the central principle of liberty on both private and public levels which characterise and indeed qualify a republican political system.
Republican political theory
As far as the republican ideology is concerned it is important to illustrate its main tenets in order to assess the degree of their socio-political pertinence. The first pillar of the republican doctrine of state as envisaged by its main ideologues is a provision against what has been labelled as imperium i.e the state becoming a dominating force in the life of the free citizens. It goes without saying that at this vertical level in major western democracies a lot has been done to regulate and balance the public power and make the political system more representative, transparent and accountable, needless to add that a lot has yet to be done on these grounds to attain the republican ideals.
Notwithstanding it is the second pillar of the republican political doctrine which is the one that does not seems to have found its adequate space in such systems claiming to be upholding republican ideals. This principle explicitly concerns guidelines against the private domination: dominium to use classic republican terminology. This principle is related to the horizontal management of power relation in the sense that the republican citizens not only should be free from any economic and material domination but also they should be empowered by means of various provisions of distributive fairness and social justice. Unlike the liberal counterpart, the Republican humanist state does not stop at a mere non-interference in the private spaces leaving a great amount of autonomy to self-regulating balances of horizontal powers. Rather a republican state is even authorized to positively regulate and even aggressively intervene at social spaces to guarantee the absence of cultural, normative and economic domination.
A republican failure
It is not hard to observe that this is the very exact area where the respublica seems to have blatantly failed. This fundamental failure in providing adequate republican guarantees of social justice seems to have turned various discriminatory spaces into fertile breeding grounds for all social malaise of most western democracies. At a wider global level a new study has alarmingly highlighted that we are moving towards the point that 1% of the world population possessing as much as the remaining 99%! Thomas Piketty’s prominent work in this field is a good indicator of the fact that the global economic development has not translated into a reduction of the social inequality resulting in a considerable fragmentation and alienation due to inequitable access to the social resources.
As far as France is concerned, although a lot has been accomplished on these accounts in comparison to most other western democracies, it is evident that a significant amount of the republican ideals have been systematically overlooked by a system that has shown to be more inclined to accommodate economic imperatives of the liberal politics. It is not hard to observe that a considerable portion of the republican directives for social justice in the form of equality and class mobility appear to have been side-lined by the overriding rules of the free market and paralyzing principles of the state neutrality.
In this light if we consider every single act of terrorism and their perpetuators, it is not difficult to identify pronounced traces of social injustice that should have been at the heart of all political programs of a republican polity. On the other hand an accentuated deficiency in promoting the civic republican values through the so-called “politics of belonging” have also played a prominent role. The attackers at the Charlie Hebdo magazine were the examples par excellence of such portions of the republic that have fallen outside the purviews of the inclusive republican provisions.
Hence although the ideology continues to loom large in the immediate background, the failure of the state itself to fulfil basic republican political promises and guarantee adequate levels of distributive fairness regarding the socio-economic resources of the commonwealth should not be undervalued either. Thus the absence or even the inadequacy of such republican provisions of comprehensive social justice not only confronts the republican model with a veritable “era of difficulty” but also exposes the entire republican political edifice to an existential “era of danger” fatally threatening the entirety of the republican social contract.
Dr. Vahid Nick Pay: Chief Political Editor