Sociétés contemporaines 79, juillet - septembre 2010

Diversité et formation des élites : France - USA
First Edition

France et États-Unis ont instauré une "discrimination positive" articulant la prise en compte -officielle- d'un critère à dominante territoriale, et celle -officieuse- d'un critère ethno-racial. Un dossier dirigé par D. Sabbagh et A. van Zanten. Read More



Affirmative Action and the Texas Top 10 % Percent Admission Law: Balancing Equity and Access to Higher Education
MartaTienda, Sigal Alon, Sunny X. Niu

In Texas the end of race preferences in college admissions resulting from a 1996 judicial ban has triggered a search for race-neutral alternatives that could produce diverse student bodies. One of them is the 1997 Texas law which guarantees seniors who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class admission to any Texas public college or university, regardless of their test scores. Architects of that law expected that large numbers of black and Hispanic students would qualify for the admission guarantee because Texas high schools are highly segregated. This article examines whether, to what extent, and in what ways the new admission regime restored diversity at the public flagships while also increasing the pool of feeder high schools represented at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. We conclude that percent plans are inferior alternatives to affirmative action in both respects, as admission mandates can only indirectly influence application behavior and can not ensure enrollment, which is particularly difficult for minority and low income students.

Toward indirect affirmative action? New Strategies for Promoting Diversity in Public Institutions of Higher Education in California (1995-2008)
Daniel Sabbagh

Following the partial elimination of affirmative action in California during the second half of the 1990s, the "percentage plan" guaranteeing admission to at least one state institution of higher education to the high school seniors ranked in the top 4 % of their class has often been understood as a kind of substitution strategy. Does this strategy actually exist? If so, is it effective? What are the main consequences – direct and indirect – of the new admission regime? The article aims at answering such questions by offering a description of this regime – of its genesis as well as its effects and side effects –, focusing on the University of California's two most selective campuses (Berkeley and UCLA). Despite a current tendency to broaden the concept of merit as part of this new model of indirect affirmative action, so far the impact of the latter has remained marginal.

"Widening participation in the grandes écoles": Diversifying elites or renewing public policies in education?
Agnès van Zanten

The policies referred to in France by the term “widening participation in the grandes écoles” provide various advantages to youngsters from disadvantaged groups to facilitate their access to excellence tracks in higher education. This article focuses on the programmes “Conventions Éducation Prioritaire” launched by Sciences Po and “Pourquoi Pas Moi ?” (“Why not Me?”) developed by the ESSEC. In order to study the global aims and effects of these programmes the mode of analysis combines two complementary perspectives. The first one consists in linking the observed phenomena to the public problem to which these policies explicitly try to provide a solution, that is the diversification of elite higher education institutions. The second, to analyse them as managerial innovations that might modify policy instruments for positive discrimination as well as modes of governance of the educational system.


Investing intelligence. The “giftedness” diagnosis, between educational dispositions and scholastic perspectives.
Wilfried Lignier

Since the nineties, a growing number of French parents are investing the so-called diagnosis of “giftedness” – in other words, they make sense of the fact that one or more of their children has obtained a global IQ above 130 through a psychometric evaluation. This paper deals with the social conditions of this investment. On one hand, we stress the importance of economical and cultural resources, although we also show that the cultural proximity with psychological knowledge and the distance to scholastic evaluation may have a role too. On the other hand, we show that “investing intelligence” is linked to efficient school strategies, which are necessary to make the diagnosis socially consistent.

The struggle over mental health and its responsibility in the French energy sector
Marlène Benquet, Pascal Marichalar, Emmanuel Martin

The article studies the issue of employees' mental suffering in the French energy companies EDF-GDF between 1985 and 2008. It is based on the thorough analysis of the proceedings of a national committee for health and security at work. The paper wishes to show that the rise of the theme of workers’ mental health during the period cannot be understood without paying attention to the pre-existing debates on accident responsibility, to the people who mobilize this theme, and to the argumentations made possible by summoning this theme.


Presses de Sciences Po
Sociétés contemporaines
BISAC Subject Heading
Onix Audience Codes
06 Professional and scholarly
CLIL (Version 2013-2019)
Title First Published
14 September 2010
Subject Scheme Identifier Code
Thema subject category: Politics and government


Publication Date
14 September 2010
270 grams
List Price
16.50 €
Version 2.1, Version 3

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Daniel Sabbagh, Agnès van Zanten

La discrimination positive et la loi texane « des dix pour cent »
Marta Tienda, Sigal Alon, Sunny X. Niu

Une discrimination positive indirecte ? Les métamorphoses des politiques de promotion de la « diversité » dans l'accès aux établissements d’enseignement supérieur publics à caractère sélectif en Californie (1995-2008)
Daniel Sabbagh

L’ouverture sociale des grandes écoles : diversification des élites ou renouveau des politiques publiques d’éducation ?
Agnès van Zanten


L’intelligence investie par les familles. Le diagnostic de « précocité intellectuelle », entre dispositions éducatives et perspectives scolaires
Wilfried Lignier

Responsabilités en souffrance. Les conflits autour de la souffrance psychique des salariés d’EDF-GDF (1985-2008)
Marlène Benquet, Pascal Marichalar, Emmanuel Martin


Introduction originale Sociétés contemporaines 79