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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday April 05 2007

And speaking of Todd (see below), I really was speaking of Todd last Monday night, into Patrick Crozier‘s portable computer.  Our conversation (click here to hear it) lasted just under half an hour.  Like Patrick I felt, immediately after our conversation had ended, that it bordered on the shambolic, but it was his thing, so I said, if you think it’s okay, okay.  Listening to it today, I find that I agree with Patrick.  It is okay.  Yes, I faff and fluff and fudge, but as I explain, what attracts me to Todd’s grand theorising is precisely its simplicity.  In essence the story he tells is very straightforward.  Anthropology is ideological destiny.  Literacy sparks the ideological explosion and then, when the rubble has settled and the blood has dried, it is economic development.  (Also fertility control.) However, the ramifications of this story are almost unimaginably complex.  As, presumably, if I can find such, is any academic debate about the story’s truth or falsehood (of combination of the two). So, don’t blame me for not talking very fluently about the fine detail.  If I could link to some exhaustive scholarly reaction to Todd, I would be mightily relieved.  But, on the internet, I have found only tantalising rumours, and cold trails.

I have delved into the academic databases that I can get to through the library here, but I have only found reference to Emmanuel Todd in the context of America as Empire, which apparently he has chosen to write about.  The academics here in the U.S. are euphoric about it, but they haven’t yet noticed Todd’s underlying theories.

On Monday, I will try to get the people who know a lot more about these databases than I do to work their magic, get past all the anti-Americanism and find something about the theories that you are interested in.

From what you’ve mentioned, Todd suffers from the same affliction that French movie makers have; they never resolve anything.  Imagine if an American had these theories.  Half the book would be about how to change your family structure so that your children will be safe from Islam, Communism, Hedonism, or whatever else parents are worried about at the time.

In the meantime, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number

I think it works very well for those of us who would like to see the government get a lot smaller, and it is based on very serious biology.

Posted by August Hurtel on 06 April 2007

August

Thanks for that.  Your comment reminds me that I really should say something about After The Empire, which, as you rightly say, has garnered Todd a lot of recent publicity.  As did his prophecy in the 1970s that the USSR was about to disintegrate.

I may also (but: I promise nothing!) get around to replying to your point about Americans “changing their family structure”.  Basically, says Todd: can’t be done!

And thanks especially for the possibility of further digging re Todd’s academic reputation.  I look forward to hearing more, as and when.  (But: I assume nothing!)

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 06 April 2007

Well,

From what little I’ve seen Todd’s been dismissed with two words:

overly simplistic

It seems the most academics have done with his work is write short book reviews in which the above phrase is featured.  Again, this is with reference to the family/ideology theory.

Sorry I couldn’t find anything more helpful.

Posted by August on 09 April 2007

Enjoying your discussion of Todd, as I dig through the “overly simplistic” “After the Empire.” It doesn’t seem too simple, but then I am far from an academic, and merely toying with anthropology as a tool for understanding history, and I’ve acquired a new respect for literacy, birth rates and Todd’s description of the American choice to move away from liberal democracy in the direction of futile maintenance of economic domination in the face of growing challenges.  The search began in trying to understand the relatively graceful, post World War II exit from empire, by the British.
(Overly simplified, once again.)

But, thanks.... from the former colonies.  cars43

Posted by Laurence Lewin on 30 April 2007
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