Savoir-faire today

Theodore Dalrymple has an article in City Journal, The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris, that details conditions in the housing projects in which the French have been fostering the development of a peculiarly destructive immigrant underclass. The piece has some fascinating aspects, many of them relevant to recent VFR discussions:

  • The role an underclass that PC places beyond criticism can play as shock troops and guardian of the cultural liberation that—as Mark Richardson recently observed here on VFR—Leftist elites want for themselves. French rap doesn’t receive official praise because it’s good but because it’s evil—because it calls into question and disrupts traditional moral norms from which elites wish to liberate themselves.
  • More generally, the consequences of absolute refusal to recognize publicly that cultural dissolution brought on by the welfare state and other aspects of modern life, and cultural clashes brought on by mass third-world immigration, raise serious issues that can’t be administered out of existence. The functional reason such things cannot be discussed publicly, of course, is that the discussion would call in question the omnicompetence of current ruling elites. The cites represent the triumph of the modern administrative welfare state. What could conceivably be wrong with them? Since the whole social order depends on the assumption that everything can be administered, to raise questions that suggest otherwise is to be insane, ignorant or malevolent.
  • What ever happened to Continental sophistication and worldly wisdom? Did it ever exist? Whatever the good or bad points of the way the French arrange private life, their public life appears from a distance to involve a compound of Cartesian willed ignorance, Gallic hypocrisy, Parisian naivete and false piety, and the indifference to human suffering of the compassionate social-welfare state.

4 thoughts on “Savoir-faire today”

  1. While it is inciteful,
    While it is inciteful, Darymple’s piece has to be viewed in light of the tradition Anglo-Saxon hostility towards the French. He chooses to blame the French welfare state and France’s city planners while he is strangely ambiguous about the real root cause of the problem—flawed immigration policy. The Brits also have their problems with immigrants. Their cities errupt at regular intervals with race riots. Immigrant or immigrant descendents’ crime is a problem in Britain as it is in France. (One of the refreshing things about British television it will actually broadcast perpetrators’ mug shots. Let’s just say that more often then not, those pictured are not your traditional Englishman.) Brit cities have their “no go areas” to match France’s “quartiers sensibles”. One cannot blame French ministers or city planners for England’s racial and ethnic troubles. Darymple gets the problem exactly wrong—no matter what type of policy is directed at new arrivals, large numbers of immigrants from radically different ethnic and religious backgrounds cause problems.

  2. Greetings,

    If Dalrymple is

    If Dalrymple is correct, then he’s pretty much alone …

    I personally found his writings xenophobic, and especially with regard to immigration. Fact of the matter is that most studies show that a measurable decline in crime with the introduction of immigrants. First generation immigrants have a lower crime rate than the public at large (I believe one of the few countries where that isn’t true is in Sweden).

    And as far as crime rates, France’s rate is actually quite low. In fact, the EU crime rate for the period 1995-2000 grew only around 0.7%. Curiously, in Spain (where I live) the crime rate rose 9.5% for the same period, but still was under 0.65 crimes per 1,000. In terms of murder rates, France has a murder rate of around 1.7 per 100,000 (Spain’s is 3.3), compared to the US rate of 5 homicides per 100,000.

    Anyway, just throw out that bit of caution.


  3. I don’t see why you say the
    I don’t see why you say the French crime rate is low. Growth rates don’t have much to do with the absolute amount of crime. In any event, for a brief current account see , and for comparative statistics for a number of countries see .

    The problem I agree is not normally first generation immigrants. Dalrymple in fact touches on that point—the older generation are horrified by what their children and grandchildren have become. On the other hand, you can’t expect immigrants not to have descendents, so to my mind it makes sense to blame immigration for much of the crime.

    I don’t think it makes sense to accuse Dalrymple of xenophobia, antiGallicism or whatever. He’s certainly written enough about the horrible human catastropes produced by the British welfare state and by the social and cultural causes promoted by the chattering classes there. And if he goes elsewhere and notices similar causes producing similar consequences, why not mention them?

    It’s true Dalrymple doesn’t concentrate on immigration as the specific problem. He refers to the issue and then says he will talk about a different aspect of the situation. I suppose one reason he does that is that he has spent much of his life working among the native British underclass so the aspect of things he knows best is the generation of an underclass by modern Western European institutions.

  4. Mr. Gil says,

    “Fact of the
    Mr. Gil says,

    “Fact of the matter is that most studies show … a measurable decline in crime with the introduction of immigrants.”

    That crime in France has skyrocketed with the advent of large-scale immigration from North Africa is a matter of record so well documented that one can only ask what planet you have been on, Mr. Gil. Go to the pages of and look it up—the statistics are all there, in articles and threads too numerous to count.


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