Parity and Diversity in Contemporary France: Equality in Questions
My current research puts the French Republic to the test by looking at its promotion of parity, diversity and the controversial discussion on “gender theory” reactivated by the law of May 2013 on same-sex marriage. Within this framework, the challenge of this presentation is to grasp what contemporary uses of parity and diversity say about how topical the equality principle is in 21st Century French society. With this aim in mind, the persistence of inequalities, in particular sexual, racial and social, will not be seen as a mere defect in the implementation of an ideal principle but as an expression of the ambivalence of these principles. Without wishing to embark upon epistemological quarrels, my approach is different from research in political theory, and also in economics and sociology which are often based on “non-ideal theory”. I consider indeed that in order to understand unfairness in the real world, analysis of the principle of justice in action is fundamental. In my perspective, knowledge of what is considered as the best is so required to understand the persistence of inequalities and how aim towards a more egalitarian society. Parity and diversity policies will thus be analyzed as cases studies to understand dilemnas surrounding liberal and republican thought on equality. Do these policies embody the search for biased equality by switching from the political to the ontological, cultural and economic register?
This question sheds light on the reasons why equality remains unobtainable in the French Republic. In particular they invite us to analyse the ambivalence of the French motto, liberté, égalité, fraternité. Those who don’t belong to the republican brotherhood, because of either sexual and/or racial singularity assignation, cannot even begin to look for equality understood as parity of participation by Nancy Fraser and freedom as non-domination by Philip Pettit.
Our hypothesis is that the discursive framing of diversity, as it has emerged in France, challenges the compatibility between three competing frames: republican and liberal equality entrenched in a universalistic tradition; the politics of identity in a multicultural context and a neo-liberal approach embodied by the social investment paradigm. It consists to justify the politics of equality, in particular between the sexes but also between differents cultures, as an investment designed to prevent future social risks such as academic failure, delinquency, urban insecurity and poverty. Similarly to parity, diversity understood as a spur for policy innovation, is not a French exception, but rather a discursive strategy to be understood in the light of challenges posed to European societies by the growing recognition of differences, and of policy transfers from the EU-level used to address multiple inequalities using the same policy paradigm. From this perspective, policy reforms designed to ensure parity and diversity contribute to the establishment of institutional support for ‘conditional equality’, subordinate to the ‘performance’ of difference. Performance is both seen as a mise en scene and estimated as an added value.
In order to test the hypothesis outlined above, we cross-referenced the analysis of academic, economic, institutional and political policy documents on diversity with a qualitative survey carried out at a time when diversity was beginning to show incipient signs that it was being incorporated into institutional thinking (2008-2009). This study consisted in 163 personal interviews with political, institutional, economic, labor-union, religious and NGO leaders, and academics. From a discursive-institutional perspective, we investigated the French republican principle of universalistic equality and the diagnosis of a society divided by multiple types of discrimination. After questioning the link between parity and diversity politics, we analysed whether the accumulation of discrimination criteria could be interpreted as a positive, albeit ambivalent type of intersectionality. This is because for individuals belonging to groups that are marginalized or discriminated against, it constitutes both an asset to be included in the public or economic arenas, and an obstacle to being fully recognized as a ‘peer’.
Institutionalizing Intersectionality? Blurring boundaries in the realm of EU anti-discrimination policies
This paper addresses the developments of equality and anti-discrimination policies in the EU over the past decade, through the lens of current debates on multiple discriminations and intersecting inequalities.
Grounded into a discursive-sociological approach to the Europeanization of gender & other equality policies (Lombardo, Forest, 2012), and the emerging scholarly literature on the institutionalization of intersectionality in the EU (see: Krizsan, Skjeie, Squires, 2012; IFJP special issue by Kantola and Nouisiainen 2009), it firstly pays attention to the recent, unachieved shift towards a multiple discrimination agenda at the EU level. In particular, it considers whether this agenda, which started to blossom from the late 2000s onwards, has led to blur the boundaries between different inequality strands – both in terms of collective action and policy making, or resulted in a merely “additive” anti-discrimination approach by which various strands of inequalities are framed separately (as identity grounds) but jointly addressed by policies (through the register of mainstreaming) (Squires, 2007).
Secondly, the paper focuses on the developments of equality and antidiscrimination policies at the domestic level, mainly under the impetus given by EU antidiscrimination policy. While recent attempts to map the institutionalization of intersectionality - in the form of complex anti-discrimination policy instruments and policy framings addressing more than two discrimination grounds at once, have pointed out the “changing nature of European Equality regimes” (Krizsan, Skjeie, Squires, 2012), it argues instead that no truly integrated approaches have been implemented so far in the Member States (MS).
The paper further analyses the patterns of convergence and variation around multiple inequalities, focusing on Europeanization as the main convergence factor, which acquires different levels of relevance, depending on the respective paths of institutionalisation of the equality policies in MS. This path dependency towards domestic political, institutional, and discursive legacies – especially in the fields of gender equality - is addressed as the main variable explaining the existing differences in the institutionalisation of policies tackling multiple inequalities.
Drawing upon the empirical work carried out under QUING (Quality in Gender+ Equality Policies, FP7, 2007-2011), the additional data collected for the comparative chapter on Southern European Countries published in Krizsan, Skjeie and Squires (2012), and for a volume published with Carmen Dominguez and Réjane Sénac (2013), the paper brings evidences from the Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish cases to support the analysis. It concludes by critically discussing the potential of an intersectional focus to effectively support equality and anti-discrimination policies, especially as the Europeanization framework is being challenged in most of the MS.