Lacity yesterday and today

Word milk has a millennia-old history. At XIXe century, it becomes emblematic of a set of values ​​associated with progress; but since the 1980s, it has been one of the key terms in French politics.

Few works of a scientific nature exist on secularism, and this makes the two works that Vronica Thiry-Riboulot devotes, through a historical semantics approach, to tracing the past and recent history of the word particularly welcome. milk, which has become one of the popular terms in French politics. The two books complement each other well. The first covers a vast period from the prehistory of the term to the 1980s, while the second covers the last decades.

Laos, Lai, lake

The author goes back to Greek terms Laos Then lacos and the Latin term laicus. These terms have in common the fact of naming a group of individuals characterized by their belonging to this group. They are unremarkable people. In a Catholic context, they designate the mass of the faithful located at the lowest level of the hierarchy. Laicus evolves towards the medieval form layan individual who is at the bottom of the social ladder and subject to the clergy.

On the other hand, at XVIe century, the term lacquerin Calvin and other Protestant authors, constitutes a resumption of laicus, in a movement of reversal of value that Thiry-Riboulot compares to the ngritude of Senghor and Csaire. This process continues with the Enlightenment and, if lacquer remains associated by antithesis with a name which designates a member of the clergy, he moves away semantically from the ecclesiastical field and acquires (the opposite of lay) a positive connotation.

After analyzing the use of terms audience, civic, civil, scular (and English secularism), terms more or less synonymous with lacquerthe author shows that this last word begins, at XIXe century, to be used in the political field to qualify that which has freed itself from the Church. This term then becomes emblematic of a set of values.

But nothing is simple, because if freedom constitutes a value associated lacquerin the field of education, free can be synonymous with lacqueror associated private (by opposition audience) and then be its antonym. Important observation, because the war of the two Frances is marked by a conflict of freedoms. It nevertheless remains that it then has two meanings: one ecclesiastical and the other political, which serves as the basis for the derivative milk.

A second lacization threshold

Thiry-Riboulot studies the use of the word lacism, competitor, XIXe shekel, of milk. In England, secularism is the name of a doctrine which recognizes the laity's right to govern the established church. I would add that it is the same with the term secularization and this explains the difficulty of using, in English, terms from the semantic family of the word lacity. Its invention assumed both a dominant Catholic culture and the structuring event of the French Revolution.

Gradually, in France, the word lacism is mainly used in conservative and Catholic circles, while lacité becomes the word of Republicans. It would have been interesting to complete this judicious examination by paying attention to the internal conflict, which ran through this period, between the supporters of secularism.

At the turn of XIXe And XXe shekels, expressions like Lacquer (i.e. the secular school) or full milk call into question the lacitude of Jules Ferry and his successors, considered too accommodating. Some would like to establish a state monopoly on education, which Clemenceau opposes, seeing it as a tyranny of the secular state. This dissensus, which we find in another way (Clemenceau being this time on the side of the intransigents, versus Briand and Jaurs), in the creation of the law of separation of churches and state in 1905, remains the blind spot in many histories of secularism.

The author studies the derivatives of lacquer: lacerate, lacerator and lacing. This last term is widely used between 1880 and 1905, indicating a dynamic, a movement which corresponds to what I decipher, for my part, as the establishment of a second threshold of secularization.

Gradually, the word milk predominates, often taking on an axiological social meaning, arousing enthusiasm or rejection, and connoting a social project linked to the belief in progress. However, from 1945, the term became mainly used to combat public subsidies for free schools, until 1984 (with a short rebound in 1994). Its meaning is narrowing.

A milk of fight

The frequency of the number of articles in the World containing the word lacity decreasing from the year 1944 to the year 1978; it goes back from 1981 (attempt to unify public education and private education), then, in a particularly important way, from the turn of the XXe and XXIe century.

This switch in terms of frequency is accompanied by a second switch, concerning the terms with which the word is associated. Without surprise, Catholic constitutes the most frequent word in the religious lexicon associated with seity until the 1980s; it then diminishes until it almost disappears, while the words Muslim and Islam, absent until then, become very frequent and remain so until today.

In addition, certain themes evoke the Muslim religion, without the words Islam or Muslim needing to be used. Consequently, the term secularism no longer appears when the Catholic Church intervenes in public debates, for example about PACS, marriage for all, the Vincent Lambert affair or bills on euthanasia. However, in its time, the law allowing divorce (1884) was considered a law lacquer.

current social employment of milk Regarding the debates around the two schools, other uses were followed by a sort of short circuit assimilating, in 1989, two cases of very different significance: the Rushdie affair and that of the three schoolgirls from Creil.

From there, sartorial visibility will repeatedly constitute a reason to talk about secularity. In passing, the author notes that, if numerous attacks with political-religious motivations were perpetrated in France from the 1980s, it was the occasion of the January 2015 massacre against Charlie Hebdothat a link is made between crime and terrorist attacks.

This second shift is accompanied by changes in connotations. An example: while previously, the expression of combat lacquer was used positively and that of combat milk negatively, this last expression becomes valued (and very frequent). Furthermore, a link is established between secularism and feminism, even if it means reconstructing a totally legendary story.

Finally, if as soon as somewhat precise definitions of secularism are stated, they appear valid for other countries, a number of expressions used clearly suggest a French exception, and increasingly associate, over the years, secularity and the values ​​of the Republic. . This is particularly significant when the iconography depicts an opposition between a veiled woman and Marianne, the allegory of the Republic.

Too controversial a word?

The idea of ​​a conceptual invariability of the word lacity is nevertheless socially strong, in political and philosophical discourses. It induces two lexical prohibitions: first, the fact of adding an adjective of lacity (this must be without epithet, as they saychurch to designate the Catholic Church); then, the use of this word in the plural.

But these normative injunctions are not easy to respect by the very people who dictate them. The author deciphers the strategies implemented to circumvent the ban. Thus, even if secularity would be unique, we could distinguish different conceptions of secularity carried by the secular republicanTHE integral lacquerTHE no-lacquer, etc. This leads to the avoidance of the word or the transfer of the adjective to another noun (a strict view of milk) to hide an internal contradiction.

These social uses lead to semantic ambivalences and the use of terms that call for respecting the rules. However, the use of words symptomatic of the idea of ​​demand is often found in speeches that are otherwise in contradiction with the legislation. Hence the term abuse in the title of the second work.

These ambiguities today tarnish the reputation of the word secularity. Thiry-Riboulot makes, among other things, a significant observation: from 2011 so-called university diplomas of milk were established; but only 5 of the 16 which are approved and provided by a public university use the term secularism in their title, because this word is considered too controversial or has a negative connotation by people likely to register!

Thiry-Riboulot gives us here two first-hand studies, profoundly original and rigorously deconstructing the uses of the notion of laity, thanks to lexicommetric tools accounting for the use of the word, a semiotic analysis based in particular (in the second volume) on liconography and a syntagmatic study of contemporary uses of the term.

We must salute the impressive breadth of the documentation and the writing talent of the author who knows how to combine high technicality of language with a constant pedagogical concern, which makes reading enjoyable. Vronica Thiry-Riboulot's conclusions partly overlap with the results of previous academic work, historians and sociologists, particularly on the shift at the end of the 1980s. But, through her own approach, she brings new elements of understanding of history and of the present.