Monday, December 1, 2008

Todd's Latest Blast

Clive Davis asks what I think of Emmanuel Todd's* Après la démocratie, which the FT reviews rather more warmly--although the review begins by saying that "Mr Todd's thesis will strike many readers as nonsense," it adds, almost grudgingly, as if to make a fair fight of it, that "some of Mr Todd's arguments are as insightful as they are polemical"--than Le Monde:

Saupoudrée de jugements à l'emporte-pièce, cette démonstration hésite souvent entre l'essai et le pamphlet. Elle perd du coup de sa force. Surtout, Emmanuel Todd pèche par présomption. Si la solution qu'il défend était la panacée, on le suivrait sans hésitation. Hélas...

Well, Clive, I appreciate being turned to as a guru in these matters, but I haven't read M. Todd's screed, nor will I. Life is too short, and I'm a long way from sharing Todd's "reductionist" view, as characterized by the FT:

... globalisation is simply the exploitation of cheap workers in China and India by US, European and Japanese companies. He is therefore an unabashed champion of European protectionism. Erecting trade barriers would increase European wages which, in turn, would increase demand and boost trade, he argues. The "social asphyxia" that is sucking the breath out of democracy would disappear.

This is foolishness. The danger of course is that the crisis may make it seem plausible to people who would have dismissed it out of hand a year ago. It isn't productive to engage in polemic on this level, however, so I'm going to refuse the invitation, Clive, though thanks for asking.

* Old-timers will recall that it was M. Todd who provided Jacques Chirac with the phrase fracture sociale, which he used to such good advantage in his campaign against Lionel Jospin in 1995 and then promptly forgot as soon as he was elected.

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