09 April 2010

Book: After democracy (in French)

Of possible interest to those able to read books in French: "Après la démocratie" (After democracy) by Emmanuel Todd (Gallimard, October 2008):


Review: "Emmanuel Todd, the French historian, made a name for himself by predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union. [...] In his latest book, [...] he conjures up the alarming possibility of a post-democratic Europe reverting to ethnic scapegoating and dictatorship. Mr Todd's thesis will strike many readers as nonsense. In particular, his conclusion that only overt protectionism can preserve Europe's social fabric has already been attacked for being dangerously counter-productive. After all, was it not the reversion to protectionism after the crash of 1929 that tipped the world into the Great Depression and fuelled the rise of Hitler? Yet some of Mr Todd's arguments are as insightful as they are polemical, and reflect the evolution of Europe's political debate. His warnings of a democratic meltdown in France, and perhaps more generally in the developed world, certainly deserve to be read, challenged and debated." (John Thornhill, "Financial Times")

From the publisher's description (my rough translation): "Beneath a variety of symptoms, we encounter a veritable crisis of democracy. In order to understand it, we must identify the contributing factors, both present and historical, including the emptiness of religion, educational stagnation, the new social stratification, the destructive impact of free trade, the impoverishment of the middle class, confusion of the elite. [...] We have to ask ourselves if politicians, unable to manipulate our 'opinion democracy' any longer, will not simply seek to curtail the universal franchise."

Emmanuel Todd is a Research Engineer at France's National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED). A political scientist by training, he holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge.

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