Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020-21/The French Security Law

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The French Global security law[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The 20th of October 2020, Jean-Yves Fauvergue et Alice Thourot introduced a new proposition of law to put in action within the French government. It included new regulations upon the municipal police’s power, the instauration of new equipment and devices (drones, cameras for pedestrians…) of video monitoring for enhanced social security and new policies to restrict rights to disseminate videos of the police. The last proposition constitute the 24th article of the law and triggered massive social reactions and discontentment. [1] We are going to base our study on the 24th article of the law which focuses on the filming of policemen

Proposition: « Art. 35 quinquies. – Est puni d’un an d’emprisonnement et de 45 000 euros d’amende le fait de diffuser, par quelque moyen que ce soit et quel qu’en soit le support, dans le but qu’il soit porté atteinte à son intégrité physique ou psychique, l’image du visage ou tout autre élément d’identification d’un agent de la police nationale ou de la gendarmerie nationale autre que son numéro d’identification individuel lorsqu’il agit dans le cadre d’une opération de police. » [2]

Sociological approach[edit | edit source]

Sociology is a discipline which examines social structures, the evolution of social life and human behavior within a common culture. [3] . Proving sociological insight on a law appears beneficial in the full understanding of a policy and its insertion in society. During a period of national confinement, several thousand citizens gathered during the month of November to challenge this law, which they considere to be liberticidal. According to the government, this law only aims to tackle issues of increasing violence against the police due to online diffusion of videos calling for violence. Even though, this law claims to protect the nation’s police, many activists, journalists as well as the EU and the UN are expressing their dissatisfaction with this law, which is not in line with French values and human rights. [4] In the midst of growing debates over the police’s role along with the diffusion on online platforms denouncing police brutality and in the midst of a sanitary crisis, the law’s article 24 appears to its opponents as a way to repress freedom of the press and gives free rein to impunity for the police’s action and responsibility. [5]

Conflict Theory Perspective[edit | edit source]

Conflic theorists, centers their sociological perspective upon power relationships within broader social structure, in particular inequality and uneven wealth distribution causing consequent class conflict. [6] According to Chevigny and based on evidence he collected in America, a conflict theorist of the 95s,police brutality is a governmental instrument used for and by social elites to suppress potential social threats that could destabilize their privileges. [7] This perspective emphasize the exploitative aspect of social structure and the global passivity and lack of consciousness due to established and uncontested status quo and consensus. [8] Using this perspective as an evidence, the 2020 French law regulating rights upon video-recording the police, appear as a mean to prevent the population from having access to disturbing videos that could destabilize the established order to the detriment of potential victims, as well as allowing police officers to commit unjustified violence with impunity to groups that would repeat a threat. All of this in order to conserve the existing structure and cover up undesirable social movements, likely to cause social unrest.

Functionalist approach[edit | edit source]

The functionalist approach describes society as a large entity constituted of different major social institutions. Functionalists analyse how these institutions interact and coordinate each other to create a stable and robust body.[9]The functionalist theory underlines that the leading causes and consequences of specific events are not direct but rather indirect. As Herbert Spencer, the society from a functionalist perspective is "organs" that move together to become a "body".[10]

Philosophy and the Global security law[edit | edit source]

On the 17th of November 2020, the government decided to adopt the global security law. The new measure allows citizens to be observed from a drone as well as cameras that police officers will be wearing to record civilians actions during legal procedures. Civilians don't have the right anymore to take any video footage of the police. With the implementation of this law, the government reinforces its leverage on the population. The French people are now watched in all of their movements and are incapable of looking back at the authority, making the look a new object of power.[11] This is what Michel Foucault observes in his book " Discipline and punish" where he talks about the panopticon a project thought by Jeremy Bentham. The "panopticon" would be a tower of control at the centre of a prison where someone could observe every movement of the prisoners without them being able to look back at him. The human tends to act correctly in front of a camera: he stands straight tries to look decent for the eye of the observer. The subject of the film becomes a subject of the observer installing a new power relation between the two. As we are subjects to the others look, we become constrained physically, giving them more power. In this context, allowing a one-way observation of the other provides full control for police officers and attacks our freedom. However, Hobbes demonstrates that giving more power to a member of society is the key to societal cohesion. According to his book, "Léviathan" written in 1651 the " man is a wolf to man". Humans are naturally egoistic beings that are hostile towards his community as this would end into a war where everyone would fight each other. Civilians are therefore obliged to accept to submit themselves to one leader to guarantee security and social cohesion. Initially, men are violent and to prevent from a violent death they will forget about their natural human rights to follow a leader that will bring peace by being able to condemn the ones who don't follow the rules. In this situation, if we follow Hobbes train of thought, by giving more power to police officers, the French government is ordering for more social cohesion within the country.[12]

  1. (Vie Publique, website, 2020)
  3. (American Sociological Association, website, 2020)
  4. (online article by Emma Beswick, euronews, 2020, journal)
  5. (online article by Emma Beswick, euronews, 2020, journal)
  6. (Robinhood, website, September 17, 2020)
  7. Book, “edge of the knife”, 1995, Paul Chevigny
  8. (Thesis, Policing the Police: Conflict Theory and Police Violence in a Racialized Society, Benjamin L Snyder, University of Washington 2013)
  9. cite book |first=John | last= Holmwood |title= "Funtionalism and its Critics | book= Historical developments and theoretical approaches in sociology |date= 2005 |volume= 2 |url=
  10. Simon, Walter M. "Herbert Spencer and the "Social Organism"." Journal of the History of Ideas 21, no. 2 (1960): 294-99. Accessed December 1, 2020. doi:10.2307/2708202.