what hides his concept of “civilizational separatism”

11:26 a.m., October 11, 2021, modified at 11:51 a.m., October 11, 2021

For Eric Zemmour, who occupies the media news without it being always known if he is a candidate or not in the presidential election, France is threatened by “civilizational separatism”. This term (separatism) is undoubtedly not the fruit of chance: we remember that it was used to speak of decolonial struggles, in particular that of the Algerians and, long before, in Antiquity, that he was the expression of a classic reproach against the Jews (some authors consider it to be at the basis of Judeophobia? Our way of life, our “values” would be threatened by the rise of Islam, to such an extent that the “Great replacement”, in a horizon announced as too close not to worry about it, will not fail to occur. In front of this supposed danger, it would be advisable to put forward the virtues of assimilation.

In doing so, Eric Zemmour only updates what has long been the doctrine of the Republic, a doctrine of which only the “national camp” would defend the heritage, while making fun of its values. Indeed, the latter would express a “post-modern vision of Man”. Let us pass on the lack of definition of the concept of post-modernity, and let us translate: to desire equality and fraternity would be to work for “the indifferentiation of peoples and individuals, the negation of their history and their disappearance as ‘civilizational and political entities’.

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But then if undifferentiation is an evil, how can we want assimilation, which has the ultimate objective of indifferentiating? Understand who can.

In reality, Zemmour accepts differences as soon as those who embody them are placed in a status of subordination: according to him, does not France’s greatness reside in its civilizing mission, that is to say say in education, through colonization, “inferior races”? Position indifferent to the horrors of colonial racism, considered as the price to be paid for the moral edification of the natives.

Assimilation, a policy with racial foundations

This adherence to assimilation should not come as a surprise if one remembers that it was the name used to justify a policy with racial foundations. Policy which is expressed with clarity in the existence of privileges for the colonists, making them a kind of aristocracy, that is to say a separate race. Moreover, as the American historian Tyler Stovall underlines it, the colonists more readily designated themselves as Whites or Europeans than as French: “It is in the colonies that the conceptions of the French national idea were confused first. with the racial idea of ​​whiteness. “

But let’s come back to Eric Zemmour and his favorite themes. Adherence to assimilationism implies, despite the apparent paradox, the inassimilability of some. Doesn’t the polemicist regularly remind us that Islam is not compatible with the Republic? In this regard, it is significant that the obtaining of citizenship for Muslim women in Algeria, in 1958, was linked, during inauguration ceremonies, to the removal of their veil: how better to express the idea than you had to stop being a Muslim to become French?

This is clearly the opinion of the polemicist. But, even if he is considering remigration (from whom, exactly?), He says he does not harbor any hostility towards Muslims whom only narrow minds would confuse with Islam.

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But what would a homophobe be who does not distrust homosexuals? Through the case of Eric Zemmour, we understand that the ancient idea of ​​a French nation defined in racial terms has a lasting influence on contemporary debates. And it is not the incantatory calls for universalism that will persuade us of the contrary.

What universalism are we talking about?

Because, what is proposed to immigrants is to comply with French traditions, these being supposed to be universal in essence. Universalism then is no longer a humanism open to diversity but a “symbol of resistance of French nationalism”. This is how Achille Mbembe describes it in the collective work of 2005, devoted to La Fracture coloniale: “By dint of holding for so long the“ republican model ”for the completed vehicle of inclusion and emergence to individuality, we ended up making the Republic an imaginary institution and underestimating its original capacities of brutality, discrimination and exclusion. “

The judgment may seem harsh, but French history, well before the establishment of the Republic, testifies to this racialist connotation. Universalism goes astray, to the point of emptying itself of its substance, when it makes national identity the compass of the republican struggle.

In reality, the assimilationist model is linked to a misguided conception of universalism, which it is common to designate, with Michael Walzer, as “overhang”. The American philosopher draws attention to the uncertain character, as to its effects, of a universalism, that of the Judaism of the prophetic times, which would propose to serve as a light for the nations.

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Uniformly lit, of course, but “the light being weak and the nations recalcitrant”, it is possible that the work of civilization takes a long time, even an infinite time. The very foundations of colonialism and the reasons for its refusal are stated with impressive sobriety by the American philosopher: “The servants of God stand at the center of history […], while the stories of others are chronicles of ignorance and meaningless conflict. “

A hatred of the universal

It is not without significance to note that the position of overhang can be dressed in other clothes, in particular those of anti-cosmopolitanism, which vilifies inveterate utopians and beautiful blind souls. Isn’t it exactly on this register that Éric Zemmour is located?

So much so that it is permissible to hypothesize that behind this false universalism hides in reality a hatred of the universal which has its roots in counter-revolutionary thought as exemplified by the famous sentence of Joseph de Maistre in his Considerations for France (1796): “In my life I have seen French, Italians, Russians, etc.; I even know, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be Persian, but as for man I declare that he is not. have never met in my life. “

In the same way, Zemmour describes a fragmented world in which must prevail the obsession with purity, that is to say the hatred of the mixture, the anguish of indistinction. About three years ago, we wrote here, about its place in public space, that we had to resist the “twilight semantics”, the one described by Orwell in 1984, as an instrument of subjugation of individuals. through an impoverished and Manichean language. Maybe there is still time?

The author publishes Universalism on trial, Le Bord de l’eau, November 5, 2021.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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