Monday, February 10, 2014

Emmanuel Todd: The Explanation of Ideology

Brian Micklethwait has, on occasion, talked about how great Emmanuel Todd is, and on one of those occasions I went and requested a few books by Todd. Todd is a French social anthropologist, and he has divided up the world into seven familial structures- each of these structures have their own strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, according to Todd, people who grow up with particular family models are susceptible to particular ideologies.

So, for example, he suggest that the reason Communism arose in particular societies is because those societies were largely exogamous community families. There are strong bonds between the brothers, often multiple generations living in one household- and apparently enough friction between father and sons to encourage militant atheism, which Todd links to a psychological desire to kill the father.

Meanwhile, in America, we've got the absolute nuclear family. Communism isn't very influential. We are neither inegalitarian nor egalitarian.

The copyright on this English translation is 1985, and I must say I can't think of a counterfactual to his theories.

In fact, after he explained Muslim families, I understood why some of the extremist say you can't be for democracy and a Muslim. Because there really isn't a psychological place for a state in Islam. They are an endogamous community family- so they aren't going out into a larger community and looking for spouses. Instead, they tend to marry someone related to them. A democracy, or more crucially, a state, is superfluous to a strong, self-regulating, inter-generational family. So, the western ideologies don't do well in the Middle East, though our constant meddling through war, aid, etc... may eventually manage to atomize their family structure.

I do find it interesting on a personal level as well. Although I live in an absolute nuclear family world, my American grandfather died before I was born. The one grandfather I knew was from Cuba. He was most certainly not a communist- very Republican, but it can certainly be said he was a anchor for community.
So, when I see the great disconnect in the American sphere between rhetoric and reality- well, it is a lot like seeing a real communal family versus an ideologue spewing half baked notions which are all ultimately political, and very often exploitative.

So, I thought two things- one, I wonder if measuring some of the measures Todd points out in his book would allow America politicians to gauge what plays well in their locale. Family structure changes, if it does at all, slowly, but whether people are going to respond well to a more authoritarian tone or a more liberal one may be easy to infer.

Second, I am surprised to find an explanation of ideology, explaining a part of my personal confusion. I've got this Cuban family model in my head, but I live in this absolute nuclear place.

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