In This Review

Ethnicity and Equality: France in the Balance
Ethnicity and Equality: France in the Balance
By Azouz Begag
Bison Books, 2007, 154 pp.

Begag, France's first minister for equal opportunity and one of its first cabinet members of North African origin, has written a book that is part memoir, part sociological analysis, part policy prescription. (The book was actually written before he joined the government and before the widespread riots of November 2005 underscored the importance of its topic, but it is being published now for the first time.) The memoir recounts Begag's own experiences as an immigrant from Algeria who has felt the rage of a victim of racial profiling. The sociological analysis describes three types of Arab immigrants: those who actively try to overcome prejudice and succeed in society, those who give up and turn to crime or rebellion, and those in the middle, whose choices will determine the community's future. The policy prescription calls on France to face the reality that discrimination is rife and the "republican model" of assimilation is failing. The only remedy, he believes, is an active policy of promoting equal opportunity, such as that recently put in place by the elite Institute of Political Studies (known as Sciences Po). Begag left the French government in April 2007 and failed to get elected to parliament in June. That he would have been the only Arab in that parliament underscores why his ideas deserve a serious hearing.