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Emmanuel Todd’s Lineages of Modernity

6,392 words

The idea that the norms implanted upon us by our families affect our personalities and our prospects in life is almost a truism. The idea that there is a strong relationship between the Western nuclear family and liberal modernity is no longer controversial, and so is the idea that different family types have existed across the world and that these types have played a significant role in the historical trajectories of the cultures of the world. Some are aware of the so-called “Hajnal line” proposed in 1965 by John Hajnal, which divided Europe into two areas: a western/northern side characterized by a significant proportion of women who married late or remained single, with comparatively lower fertility rates; and an eastern/southern side characterized by early marriage, a low proportion of single women, and higher fertility rates. There is also an awareness that endogamy or cousin marriage, including polygamy, have been common practices in many regions outside the Western world where exogamy and monogamy have prevailed.

But outside France, and outside the narrow field of the anthropology of family types, few know that Emmanuel Todd is currently considered the foremost expert on family systems in the world. With the recent publication and translation into English of Lineages of Modernity: A History of Humanity from the Stone Age to Homo Americanus (2019) it will be hard to ignore him. Todd is a serious scholar who has dedicated his life to the study of family systems across the world, starting with his Ph.D. dissertation, in association with the foremost experts, and for 25 years at the National Institute of Demographic Studies in France.

Inverse Model of Western History

Todd’s Lineages of Modernity is an arresting work seeking no less than an “inverse model of history” in which the West is no longer identified for its headstart in creating modern institutions but for its close identity with the “original” state of existence of Homo sapiens when family structures were characterized by “liberal” and “egalitarian” relationships. Todd argues that the deep structures of human history can be explained in terms of the evolution and structures of different family types. The nuclear family is not original to Europe (or England) but was the original family type of humanity since the emergence of Homo sapiens in Africa, with all the other family types evolving in higher degrees of complexity from this common “undifferentiated” nuclear family, starting in historical succession with the stem or authoritarian family, then the communitarian-egalitarian (but still exogamous) family, followed by the endogamous communitarian-egalitarian type, and finally, the “very complex” polygamous families regularly found in Africa today.

The “pure” or “absolute” nuclear family associated with Europe, and sometimes restricted to the modern era, is the closest in structure to the original “undifferentiated” nuclear family of hunting and gathering societies, because Europe, as the youngest civilization in Eurasia, had less time to develop complex family forms. Complex families are found in the regions of the world with the oldest history. Individualism and liberalism are not unique attributes of Europeans: hunting and gathering peoples in Africa with their nuclear families were already individualistic, democratic, and feminist. In fact, the latest version of the Western nuclear family of the post-1960s is the closest to the undifferentiated family in its acceptance of divorce and homosexuality, and its egalitarian and open-minded atmosphere in the raising of children. “Women’s emancipation. . . is only the radicalization of a primitive state of humanity.” (p. 16)

From this perspective, the Hajnal line seems simplistic and barely capable of grasping the most significant differences in family types within Europe. The celebrated nuclear family (a married couple with children who set up their own household after marriage or adulthood) is only one of three other major types inside Europe, restricted to England, Denmark, and Holland, and a few pockets in Norway and northern France. With the expansion of Britain, this family type (also characterized by the sharing out of the property as the parents saw fit) was extended to America, Canada, and Australia, becoming the key type of the “Anglosphere.” But the “stem family,” which has prevailed over central Europe, including Germany, south-western France, and Sweden, in addition to various pockets in south Italy and elsewhere, has been just as important in Western civilization, and this type is “non-nuclear” since the eldest son (who is the sole heir) brings his bride into the parental household in a state of cohabitation.

There is also in Europe the “egalitarian nuclear family,” which prevails in the Paris-Basin region, southern Italy, central and southern Spain, and other areas. Its key defining trait is that it mandates equality of inheritance among brothers and sisters. Finally, there is the “communitarian family” which calls for cohabitation of all married sons with the parents, and equality of inheritance between sons. This type, also not nuclear, is found in central Italy, Russia, and south-eastern Europe. The long term historical patterns, religious beliefs, and political ideologies of Europe have been decisively determined by these family types.

Family Types in the West

Kevin MacDonald’s work convinced me that family structures are crucially important to explain the divergent path of Western civilization. The criteria Todd employs for the classification of his family types are very different, and while I will criticize him for ignoring MacDonald’s emphasis on how the rule of exogamy in the West encouraged the emergence of “moral communities” based on values voluntarily established by individuals freed from kinship ties, I am persuaded that the differences in family types Todd draws within Europe are originally important. Readers of Lineages should consult Todd’s first major theoretical work, The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structure & Social Systems (1985), for a clearer presentation of the way he classifies family types. Basically his focus is on:

  • the nature and scope of parental authority
  • the degree of equality between husband and wife, and between older and younger brothers and sisters
  • the degree of marriage between the children of brothers (and sisters), that is, cousin marriage and inbreeding within extended families.

Todd believes that families provide children with the setting within which they learn about power relationships, authority, freedom, and equality. Families play a crucial role in the socialization of children, instilling values that determine their religious and psychological dispositions and their views about how societies should be organized. The stem family encourages an inegalitarian state of mind because the older son is the sole inheritor of the family’s property; and it encourages submission to authority, or authoritarianism in politics, because the newly married son is obligated to live under the authority of his parents in a state of cohabitation as the successor of the family’s estate.

In the absolute nuclear family, there is no cohabitation rule, all the children are encouraged to move out as young adults, and set up, through marriage, autonomous family households. This encourages a freer state of mind. Moreover, since parents are free to share their property among their children as they see fit, rather than giving the property to only one son, there is an egalitarian strain within this nuclear family type. The feeling of egalitarianism, however, is strongest within the egalitarian nuclear family (dominant in the Paris-Basis regions where Todd likely grew up). This family is similar to the pure nuclear family except that there is a symmetrical rule of inheritance with all the children, including the daughters.

In the exogamous communitarian family, there is cohabitation of all the married sons with the parents, and there is equality of inheritance for all sons, but not daughters. This family, therefore, encourages authoritarianism and egalitarianism. The endogamous communitarian family also has a rule of cohabitation and equal inheritance for all the brothers, with the difference that marriage between the children of brothers is favored. This family is absent in Europe and is found primarily in the Arab world, Turkey, and Pakistan, among other regions.

Unconscious Level of Family Structures

One often reads that Emmanuel Todd “attracted attention in 1976 when, at age 25, he predicted the fall of the Soviet Union.” This accurate prediction may have animated him to claim that his theory of family types can explain not only the emergence of different ideologies in Europe, communism, fascism, Nazism, and liberalism, including the broad patters of history, but predict as well current political trends, such as the election of Trump, Brexit, the rise of Islamophobia, the integration or not of immigrants, and the current creativity of nations.

An overview of Todd’s books may give the impression that he has a variety of distinct intellectual interests, as testified by the titles of some of his other books, The Destiny of Immigrants (1994), Allah is not to blame! (2011), After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (2003), and Who is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class (2015). But the subjects of these books, some very popular, are intimately connected to his research on family types. In his view, short-term historical and political events can only be comprehended if they are framed within the historical patterns and possibilities established by different family structures.

Todd was influenced by the French Annales school idea that the study of history should draw a distinction between the slow movement of deep-seated historical structures (geography, climate, demography, and the psychological mind-set of the epoch), and the fast movement of political events and individual personalities. The way he sees it, history is fundamentally determined by the “unconscious” and slow movement of family structures, rather than the superficially “conscious” world of rapidly moving political events. Like the Annales school, he believes that there is a middle level of historical movement between the slow world of family structures and the fast world of daily events, which exists at the “subconscious level” where time passes more slowly than at the level of political events but faster than at the level of family movements.

Todd is convinced that the central historical reality of this “subconscious level” is the “movement of societies towards universal literacy.” The growth of literacy was the crucial factor in the rise of modernity, and although universal literacy began in Germany (a nation heavily infused with stem family values) in the sixteenth century with the Protestant Reformation, the spread of mass literacy had a deeper effect in those nations with absolute nuclear families where individuals were raised within a liberal setting, in contrast to the authoritarian setting prevailing in Germany. The authoritarianism embedded within Germany’s stem family made this nation less dynamic, whereas England became “the heart of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century,” and the Anglosphere came to dominate the world from 1700 until the present.

Todd believes that literacy “makes children more intelligent” and allows for “a more complex inner life,” even stating that it brought forth “a new kind of human being.” (p. 115) Literacy, modern science, and industry have now become a worldwide phenomenon, and this is leading to a “convergence” of cultures, with millions across the world increasingly attracted to the “naturalness” of people living in the Anglosphere, the way Americans exhibit the common sense of the original Homo sapiens that still lives within us all, the “naturalness” of individuals freed from the rigid patterns and rules of stem and community families, in contrast to the undifferentiated family life of primitive humanity with its relaxed, tolerant atmosphere between men and women, adults and children, brothers and sisters.

“The seductiveness of Anglo-American culture to all the peoples of the world” is still tempered, however, by old family patterns and values, which continue to exist in “Zombie” fashion within the minds of peoples across the world even as they come to assimilate the norms of the Anglo-American nuclear family. They still abide by the traditional ordering of relations between husband and wives, and they still remain attached to old religious beliefs rooted in their millennial family structures, and this means that the convergence of the world’s cultures will be mediated for a long time by the different psychological dispositions of individuals rooted in divergent family structures. The “hidden family values explain the persistence, in continental Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and elsewhere, of specific ideological temperaments, essentially resistant to the non-egalitarian liberalism of England and the United States.” (xv)

In his book, Who is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class (2015), which made him a media celebrity in France, Todd framed the rise of “Islamophobia” and anti-immigrant attitudes among the French middle class (in response to the 2015 Muslim attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo) as a reaction coming from the historically Catholic and conservative regions of France where stem family values dominated.

There are two Frances. There is a central France, which includes the Paris-Basin region and areas in Marseille and the Mediterranean, where there is equality on the family level and a deep attachment to the universal equality of humans and the secular values of the French revolution. This France welcomes immigration and believes in assimilation, and is optimistic that immigrants and Muslims will assimilate to the principles of secularism and equality in the public sphere. But there is also a France located in the southwest and in cities such as Lyon where, despite secularization, a “zombie Catholicism” still inhabits the psyche of the French rooted in its long history of stem authoritarian family values, and its projection of family hierarchies and inequalities onto the world of politics.

Predictions and Correlations

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Todd draws many other interesting relationships between family types, ideologies, and types of government in European history. But rather than offering detailed causal arguments, he remains satisfied with identifying correlations between family types and government types, between liberal families and liberal politics, egalitarian families and egalitarian governments, authoritarian families and authoritarian states. Some of the correlations he observes are more persuasive than others. Is it a coincidence that communism only emerged, or played a strong role in European party politics, wherever communitarian families prevailed — in Russia, China, Vietnam, or in particular regions in Italy? Communism has never managed to gain widespread support in areas with absolute nuclear families. He notes, too, that despite the decline of communism, authoritarian politics and state-communitarian policies have continued to prevail in Russia and China. He criticizes the naïve American idea that the spread of markets and democratic ideas will usher in liberal politics in nations deeply rooted in non-liberal family histories.

His argument on the correspondence between absolute nuclear families and liberal politics is very strong and, of course, supported by many prominent demographers. What about Germany with its stem family? Those who have always wondered why Germany was only marginally drawn to the growing influence of English individualism and French egalitarianism in the nineteenth century, may find Todd’s focus on the authoritarian and inegalitarian socialization of children within the stem family rather appealing. The primogeniture of the stem family comes with a high level of authority embodied in the father and in the identification of the eldest son as the one chosen for the family inheritance. The eldest son learns to see himself as the next in line, the patriarch responsible for the family heritage, while still under the discipline of the father at home after marriage with his wife. But Todd has a hard time explaining why the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on the inner religious convictions of individuals over the hierarchical authority of Catholicism, came out of Germany. He has a hard time explaining as well the cultural creativity of Germany after 1750. He speculates that nations where the stem family “reaches or exceeds 75%” are characterized by “rigidity.” The proportion of the stem family in Germany, he observes in the same breath, was 40% in 1500, 60% in 1800, and 80% around 1870. Todd surely knows that by 1870 Germany had become the dominant power in Europe, surpassing England not only in its military and economic power, but in its cultural influence and scientific originality. The institutions were authoritarian and state officials may not have been as relaxed as wild and loose Africans in prehistoric times, but everyone agrees that Germany was the main agent behind the Second Industrial Revolution.

I could go on with other anomalies, such as the prevalence of the stem family in nations as different from Germany as Sweden and Japan. The authoritarianism and disciplined industrial dynamism of Japan are well known, and it does point to the influence of stem family values. But Japan exercised little cultural influence in the world other than in high tech products in recent decades. Sweden was very militarized during the seventeenth century, as Todd notes, but the same can be said of many liberal nations, depending on the period one chooses. The “liberal” English state spent between 75% and 95% of all revenues on war and preparations for war during the long period between 1130 and 1815. How can one identify Russia and various nations in Eastern Europe, where an oppressive and highly exploitative serfdom persisted into the middle of the nineteenth century, as more “egalitarian” than the liberal nations of Denmark, England, and Holland, where a middling peasantry was able to modernize farming?

All things are relative, but one may also wonder how relaxed family relations were in the England portrayed in Samuel Butler’s novel The Way of All Flesh (1903), based on Butler’s family experience with a tyrannical father who had the power to dispose of his property as he saw fit, using the threat of disinheritance as a club to cow his children into obeying the father’s values and expectations? Conversely, why should we assume that the adoption of primogeniture by the German peasantry was associated with authoritarian impulses rather than a compassionate concern with the disintegration of the family estate into tiny properties unable to sustain any children? The image we get from Govind Sreenivasan’s The Peasants of Ottobeuren, 1487-1726 (2004) is that of parents deeply concerned “for the dignity and well-being of all the children,” encouraging the apprenticeship of the younger children in rural crafts as impartible inheritance came to be adopted in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

The Undifferentiated Family is Not Nuclear

But the greatest flaw I find in Lineages of Modernity is the complete separation of a Europe dominated by the stem family from a Europe dominated by the absolute nuclear family, along with the concomitant argument that the emergence of modernity was deeply rooted in family relations akin to the original “undifferentiated” family of hunters and gatherers. Using Todd’s own words, carefully reading between the lines, and bringing out the implications of statements spread out in the book, it can be shown that there were greater differences between the absolute nuclear family and the undifferentiated families of hunters and gathers than between all the family types inside Europe. For all the interesting differences between family types inside Europe, none of them compare in their historical effects to the contrast between the European family types taken in unison and the endogamous family type in the non-Western world.

Both the endogamous families in the East and the undifferentiated families of hunters and gatherers were framed by powerful kinship networks and value-orientations, whereas the kinship networks of all the European family types were weaker to begin with and then utterly destroyed by the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation, as Kevin MacDonald has observed. It was the destruction of these kinship networks that made possible in Europe the rise of new forms of community associations based on values rather than nepotistic blood ties. These new associations, including the ancient Greek city-states, the republican institutions of Rome, the guilds, representative assemblies, monasteries, churches, and universities of medieval Europe, the business corporations, banks, and nation-states of modern Europe, were intentionally created based on voluntary decisions — and crucially important in the unique developmental path of Europeans.

Can we really accept Todd’s claim that the absolute nuclear family was similar to the original undifferentiated nuclear family? The undifferentiated family is classified by him as nuclear because it consisted of a conjugal couple with children, but if one pays careful attention to this argument, this family can hardly be defined as nuclear. First, “monogamy was undoubtedly dominant, but it was not, as in the Christian societies of Europe, an absolute obligation.” (p. 60) Polygyny was “quite common.” Second, this original family was “flexible” in that it was not uncommon for the newlyweds to join the parents of the wife until the birth of the first child. In other words, a defining trait of this family was “coresidence” of newlyweds with parents. Third, the exogamy of this family type was “tempered” by the fact that about 10% of the marriages were between cousins. Fourth, although Todd is ambivalent or purposely unclear, it seems that the exogamy of the undifferentiated family occurred within a “kinship network” of several families, and that this network could very well be identified as “an endogamous territorial group.” (p. 72, my italics) The nuclear household of this original family was tightly “inserted into a kinship system.” (p. 37)

Todd tries to make light of these key differences by describing this undifferentiated family as a more “flexible” nuclear family, or as a nuclear family of “a very undogmatic kind.” But, in my view, these distinctions between the absolute and the undifferentiated family are far greater than the distinctions he makes so much about between the absolute, the egalitarian, and the stem families, and possibly the communal family. It becomes transparent from his own statements about the history of the family in Europe that the absolute nuclear family was a very late development, and that it was only in the modern era, sometime in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, that this family came into full fruition. (p. 170) So, the question has to be asked: how many steps of differentiation had to be taken to get to this absolute nuclear family from the undifferentiated family that apparently prevailed in Europe in medieval times?

Todd estimates that the differentiation of family types from the original undifferentiated type began after the invention of agriculture with the rise of primogeniture in Sumer during the third millennium BCE. This undifferentiated family continued to prevail among the historically “backward” barbarians (Celts and Germans) of the ancient and the early medieval world in Europe. From the fifth century to the tenth century, Todd observes, the family type of Europe was the undifferentiated nuclear family. It was only from the 11th century onwards that some differentiation was visible with the introduction of primogeniture by the Franco-Norman aristocracy, which signals the beginnings of the stem family. In Germany, the aristocracy asserted the equal distribution of inheritance, but the peasantry started to adopt primogeniture around the 13th century. In England, the conquering aristocracy introduced the “value of inequality inherent in the principle of primogeniture” (p. 161), and this value spread down the social structure into the “upper layer of the peasantry, the yeomen,” though, overall, the absolute nuclear family came to prevail in England.

He says that primogeniture “is the source of the stem family,” and that the stem family is “a non-nuclear complex model.” (p. 157) The absolute nuclear family remained nuclear, close to the undifferentiated family, and so this absolute family was apparently less differentiated than the stem family. But then, as I just pointed out, Todd also says that the absolute nuclear family came into full fruition much later in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Why so many centuries if it was so similar to the undifferentiated family, and the stem family was supposedly a later development? What are the criteria Todd employs in his detection of the absolute family so late in Europe’s history? The fundamental criterion is the “destruction” of the “kinship framework that initially framed” this family before the modern era. The Catholic Church began the destruction of the kinship network that had always “framed” the undifferentiated family. The Christian “transformation” entailed chastity, “absolute monogamy” or absolute prohibition of polygamous relations, and “radical exogamy” or a “taboo on consanguineous marriage.” (p. 91-92) It was this absolute prohibition on cousin marriage that set the ball rolling against the kinship network that had hitherto “framed” the undifferentiated family.

Todd further tells us that the Protestant “transformation profoundly destroyed the undifferentiated kinship network. . . in countries as different as Germany, England, Sweden, and the United States.” This “was an essential step in the emergence in Europe of pure nuclear family types, and linear stem types, decluttered from the lateral association of relatives.” (p. 123, my italics) In other words, the destruction of this kinship network and all the other changes we just identified above were also characteristic of stem family countries: Germany and Sweden. So why not identify the stem family as a nuclear type? If the absolute or pure family only emerges in modern history when monogamy was imposed, when cousin marriages and polygamous relations were abolished, and the conjugal couple was isolated from the kinship network, why play clever games about how European nuclear family relations were akin to that of primitive Africans? It should be noted that Todd also agrees with the Hajnal line argument that the absolute, egalitarian, and stem families came to be similarly characterized in modern times by late marriage and a comparatively higher proportion of unmarried women.

Destruction of Kinship Networks is Key

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Todd barely cares to understand European history — the immense transformations and creativity of this civilization. Not a single work on the “rise of the West,” the “great divergence,” or the “uniqueness of Western civilization” is referenced. The only “transformations” he identifies are the spread of Christianity, the Protestant Reformation, and universal literacy. In his “inverse model of history,” Europe/England is a young and undeveloped culture blessed by a backward nuclear family type that encouraged universal literacy and made modernity possible. He attributes the rise of modern science in Protestant Europe to the fact that 35%-45% of the population was literate at the turn of the century in 1700, and is convinced that with the spread of literacy worldwide a new type of human being is now visible beyond Europe, open to new ideas, the education of women, and less rigid family relations. Are we supposed to believe that Sub-Saharan Africans with a 72% literacy rate, the same ones who practice polygyny, are becoming a magnificent population of “new human beings” far more creative than less literate Renaissance Italians and Newtonian Europeans? As F. Roger Devlin showed in his meticulous review of Lineages, Todd obediently abides by the authoritarian academic exclusion of Darwinian research about racial differences in the world.

Todd is way off in his claim that the ideology of liberalism and the rise of representative institutions — including the nation-state with its modern legal system — were the products of a culture that “lagged far behind the rest of Eurasia in its family and political development.” (p. 193) He wants us to believe the main reason England gave birth “in the seventeenth century” to a liberal revolution was “because enough of the primitive (or original) democratic. . . representation survived.” (p. 193) The undifferentiated family in primitive Africa was the original source of democratic rule and “very free.”

On the other hand, and this may confuse readers, Todd then observes that democracy has always come along with ethnocentric attitudes and the exclusion of the Other, for “a democracy is a specific people organized, for its own ends, on its own territory.” (p. 256) The “birth of Athenian democracy was violently ethnic, with a body of citizens defined as against slaves, against metics, against the citizens of other Greek cities, against barbarians.” (p. 255) Likewise, “the general rise of democracy in Europe, between 1789 and 1900, was accompanied by. . . nationalism, i.e. the definition of the social body as against the Other.” (p. 256) He finds in current American democratic politics “an inability to break free from the dialectic of us and them.” (p. 223)

What is Todd trying to get at? His intended point seems to be that the same Europeans who brought modernity with their liberal families are likewise very attached to their national identities and not as welcoming of immigrants as they should be if they are to live up to the egalitarian ideal of a universal Homo sapiens. Todd spends, in this vein, many pages going over the prevalence of “racism” in the United States, the unfair incarceration rates of blacks, the way blacks are victimized into committing higher homicide rates, with fathers leaving their children and unmarried mothers regularly giving birth to children. From its inception, American democracy has had a “need for an Other — and thus for xenophobia.” (p. 241) Trump exploited this xenophobia in his appeal to the less educated and less literate whites who were losing from neoliberal economic policies and from an educational system that divides people in terms of their intelligence.

Todd fails to see that the contesting issue about the “rise of democracy” is not that this form of rule existed among simple bands and tribal units consisting of extended families but that Europeans were responsible for its emergence as members of advanced societies. He misses completely how the emergence of civic polities and nation-states in Europe was made possible only because Europeans were able to rise above their kinship ties and establish new forms of association based on civic principles and universal rules. Todd sort of notices that modernity brought about “new forms of community integration which replaced a destroyed kinship network.” (p. 125) But these “new forms of community” were already visible in ancient Greek times in the form of city-states. The ancient Greeks were not democratic because they were primitive and tribal. On the contrary: they reorganized themselves into city-states after curtailing the prior control of clannish aristocrats. The ethnocentrism that is inherent to human beings was thus shifted from the narrow world of kinship groups to the broader world of city-state ingroup membership. To understand the evolution of Western liberal institutions, the creation of republican states, including a whole range of new associations unique to this civilization, guilds, legally autonomous urban communes, universities, and many other corporations with the right to manage their own affairs, we must pay attention to the way Western families were disconnected from kinship networks.

This problem is compounded by Todd’s dismissive attitude towards Western intellectual history. He informs us that he came “from a French family” which transmitted to him “the idea of the superiority of British empiricism. . . [which he] always perceived. . . as mere common sense — the common sense of a Homo sapiens who doesn’t want his mind to get muddled by words, who doesn’t want to lose touch with the reality of the world.” (xii-xiii) I will leave aside countless Piagetian studies about the inability of hunting and gathering peoples, including peoples in undeveloped cultures today, to think in formal-operational ways, and who actually believe that words themselves have magical powers. Are we to believe that the republican form of government created by the Romans with their concept of libertas, the parliaments of the Middle Ages, and the contemporary “moral communities” Kevin MacDonald has written about were common-sense products of a Europe “terribly backward in its historical development”? (p. 193) Were the collections of past laws and extracts of the opinions of great Roman jurists into what came to be known as the Corpus Juris Civilis (written by numerous lawyers and scholars under the supervision of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the sixth century CE) based on common-sense ideas already present among the peoples of prehistoric Africa?

Improving Western Families Through Racial Mixing

Todd’s perception that the Athenian city-state and the nationalistic nation-states of the modern era were “ethnocentric” is valid. But this was an ethnocentrism that stood above the tribalism of kinship networks at a higher level of civic membership. Todd clearly identifies with the ideology of a “universal human being” he claims to find inscribed in the egalitarian nuclear family prevalent in central France and in the Paris-Basin region. He grew up in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a mid-sized town located in the Paris suburbs. His father, Olivier Todd, was a renowned Leftist journalist. His Jewish mother, Anne-Marie Nizan, was born from communist philosopher Paul-Yves Nizan; and as a young man, Todd was a member of the Communist Youth. “French universalism,” he writes, “operates according to a simple subconscious model: children are equal, adults are equal, people are equal, and there is therefore a universal human being.” (p. 200)

But the notion that French people are no different in citizenship from foreigners is more a product of a post-WWII France dominated by cultural Marxism than a product inscribed for centuries in the family structures of this nation.

Numerous publications in recent decades can be cited decrying how the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen made “the universality of citizenship. . . dependent on nationality.” These words come from Max Silverman’s Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism, and Citizenship in Modern France (1992), which describes how “French society became nationalized” and racist through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and accuses Ernest Renan, the liberal author of the famous essay “What is a Nation?” (1882), of advocating a “new” form of “cultural racism” and of saying that foreigners did not have “the same memories, the same past as us.” French national identity was long characterized by an us against them mentality. Keep in mind that Renan was writing about European immigrants, and that what Silverman is objecting to is a France that is not universalist enough in making Africans, Muslims, and Jews feel at home. The whole program of populating France — and all Western nations — with millions of non-whites is a recent phenomenon.

Todd comes from the same cultural Marxist ideological background as Silverman and the globalist elites in control of French culture. He was very upset by the “anti-immigrant” attitudes he saw in the mass demonstrations which took place in cities across France in January 2015 to honor the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. He traced the “Islamophobia” of France to “sexagenarians” influenced by the authoritarian values of stem family structures rooted in the Catholic regions of France. “Sexagenarians are criticizing young people for being Arabs, Muslims, or rappers, as they criticized the children of the 60s for having long hair and liking Anglo-American pop.” In an interview, he openly admitted that he became more conscious than ever of his Jewish identity as he saw millions of French people affirming their national identity in the face of Islamic violence: “the identity of a Maranno. . . a Jew who is converted by force [to Christianity] but who secretly remains Jewish.”

In Lineages of Modernity, he often refers to the demographers who influenced him most: the French school of the Annales and the Cambridge School of Historical Anthropology. But late in the book, and somewhat quietly, he praises the Frankfurt School from Adorno to Fromm for the idea that individuals raised in an authoritarian family structure don’t produce liberal children but children who may be inclined to accept Nazism, as “in the case of Germany.” He “merely added to this standard interpretation the idea that there are many different family forms.” (p. 266) I would add that he also learned from the Frankfurt School that intellectuals should be committed to the culture of critique initiated by Marxists. He views both egalitarian and absolute nuclear families as great engines for the socialization of humans into egalitarian principles; and while he calls for a respectful awareness of the ways different cultures are rooted in different family types, he welcomes the way modernization is bringing a convergence of cultures with the education and status of women rising everywhere and the egalitarianism of matriarchy replacing the authoritarianism of patrilineality. But he is upset by “zombie” forms of authoritarianism prevailing in some regions of Europe, and by the presence of ethnocentric attitudes among white Europeans generally.

One of his major academic preoccupations has been “the integration” of immigrants into Western societies. He insists that immigrants have been assimilating to the prevailing nuclear family structures and beliefs of the West. His book, The Destiny of Immigrants (1994), comes to the conclusion that countries with egalitarian nuclear families have higher rates of intermarriage between whites and non-whites. He is “optimistic” about racial mixing in cultures with absolute nuclear families, and believes that the growing acceptance of intermarriages by Americans is “a good thing.” (p. 267) One gets a sense that he is very happy about the way Western families are actually “reverting” to the more “flexible” undifferentiated families of the original African Homo sapiens. The American nuclear family, he notes, is resembling ever more the “very free” families of primitive Africans in the rising number of unmarried couples living together, in the increasing presence of co-residence among the younger generation, the widespread acceptance of homosexuality, and the very high status of women. This undifferentiated form of family relations means “greater freedom of individuals in the life choices.” (p. 282) He sees this in the younger generation, including a greater openness to immigrants and the “possibility” that with rising intermarriages the “racially or ethnically segmented” societies of the West will be “abolished.” (p. 267)

In reality, for all his apparent capacities to predict political events, Todd is at a loss to explain the breakdown of French society, the insane obsession with “white supremacy” across the West, the permanent state of racial tensions, and the pathological celebration of black criminals — despite the supposedly harmonious egalitarianism of diversity and the “very free” undifferentiated family relations he loves to see spreading across the West. We on the Dissident Right were the ones who predicted that the imposition of radical feminism and immigrant diversity was bound to lead to the breakdown of families and national cohesion.

The superiority of Kevin MacDonald’s work on the uniqueness of Western families lies in his clear realization that the breakdown of kinship ties was not only a central ingredient in the rise of the West, but a key factor in understanding the current utopian delusions of whites. “Moral communities” based on universal values that call upon millions of immigrants with very strong kinship ties to cohabitate with whites who naively think that everyone is a member of a universal Homo sapiens are in contradiction to the latest Darwinian research on race differences.

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4 Comments

  1. sordello
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article. Ricardo Duchesne is rapidly becoming my favorite writer of the dissident right.

  2. Dissident Millennial
    Posted October 8, 2020 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    This is an incredibly dense read. It seems to me that whatever nuggets of value may be found in Emmanuel Todd’s work are overwhelmingly outweighed by his “inverse model of history” which strikes me as yet more sophisticated Jewish subversion in the mold of the “culture of critique” that Kevin MacDonald has so painstakingly documented. Duchesne is a brilliant mind and an invaluable resource, but I think he paid Todd way more respect than he’s due here. Family patterns are a worthy subject of Duchesne’s attention, but this essay got totally bogged down by Duchesne’s explication and deconstruction of Todd’s very bizarre anthropological macro-theory which of course completely ignores — and, in fact, only serves to obscure — the all-important reality of racial differences in human evolution.

  3. Henry
    Posted October 8, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Men like Todd prove just how little value academia has in determining truth these days.

  4. Franklin Ryckaert
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Todd has a Jewish and a communist background. As such he has a subversive agenda: undermining the selfconfidence of Europeans (especially NW Europeans) by stating that their family structures are actually “primitive”, and criticizing their “racism” and welcoming mass non-white immigration and miscegenation. The typical (Jewish) White Genocide Project.

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