Tuesday 17 January 2023

French historian Emmanuel Todd thinks the Third World War has already begun

He said so speaking to Le Figaro last week, as quoted by UnHerd.

“It’s obvious that the conflict, which started as a limited territorial war and escalated to a global economic confrontation between the whole of the West on the one hand and Russia and China on the other hand, has become a world war,” 

“The resistance of the Russian economy [to sanctions] is pushing the American imperial system towards the precipice.” 

[If  Russia] “managed to exhaust the European economy, while maintaining Chinese backing, American monetary and financial controls of the world would collapse, and with them the possibility for the United States to fund their huge trade deficit for nothing.”

“From their point of view, the Russians are in a war that is defensive and preventive … Because this is an existential question for them, they will strike back harder.” 

“No more than Russia, [America] cannot withdraw from the conflict, they cannot let go. This is why we are now in an endless war, in a confrontation whose outcome must be the collapse of one or the other.”

“It is a dilemma of the American economy: it can only face competition from China by importing skilled Chinese labour.”

“For the collective non-West, Russia affirms a reassuring moral conservatism.”

“When we look at the votes at the UN, we see that 75% of the world does not follow the West, which then seems very small.”

The article is here.


  1. UN votes are an indicator of strength in the world? Mais oui! Bravo M. Todd for this stirring performance of Gallic bad faith, pessimism, and wishful thinking. The West and the US have dealt with a lot more dangerous and unpleasant situations than this one and are still muddling on. And many, many Russians and Chinese would love to live in the West and join its "imperial system headed toward the precipice."

  2. I've read a book by Todd, "The Invention of Europe". It first appeared in 1990 but I think I read a revised edition (about 1995-1996) because the preface commented on the Maastricht treaty and why he voted against it.

    I don't know if he's a historian or rather an anthropologist. He tries to explain many aspects of societies as functions of the way inheritence is divided among siblings and passed between generations. The aspects are the political systems (the two-party system and first-past-the-post voting system in the UK, the long-living, stable political parties in the German world, the unstable, volatile parties in Latin Europe, an affinity for communism in Tuscany or Andalusia), the history of literacy (at different speeds in various parts of Europe), the history of "de-christianisation" of Europe. He defines two dimensions: One dimension is how the inheritance is divided (equally, the farm and land is divided; or a preferred son inherits the land and the farm and the other siblings get a share in money and must find a profession). The other dimension is how many generations live in a house, if it is an authoritarian system with a sort of family patriarch and a multi-generational home in which the sons bring their wives in the home where they grew up; or if it is a more individualistic system in which whenever a new family is founded the son must move out and have his own home. The four combinations, according to Todd, are able to explain the emerged political systems, the literacy, the speed of abandoning the church etc.

    For example the combination equal division of inheritance and multigenerational home with an authoritarian patriarch favours communism. Apparently the only places in Western Europe where this forms were common were Tuscany and Andalusia. The rest of the Latin Europe prefer equal inheritance and individual homes. Apparently this leads to volatile party landscape with occasional revolutions counterbalanced by a craving for order in the form of a military dictator. The German sphere (Germany, Austria, Sweden) would prefer, according to Todd, unequal division of inheritance and authoritarian homes. This leads to paternalistic stable political parties, a precocious emergence of literacy and adherence to church. The area around the North Sea (Britain, Denmark, The Netherlands) would prefer unequal inheritance division and individual homes. This leads to capitalistic competition, an abhorrence of communism and competitive political elections.

    The book is interesting as an intellectual speculation, and he has well researched it. But his thesis is not very persuasive. Sometimes the data do not support his thesis and then finds all kind of explanations why the thesis still holds. The explanations of the political systems in France and Germany are the most persuasive.

    In the last chapter he comments on the contemporary (mid-90s) political landscapes of Europe, when the French Front National was still a sort of oddity and Jean-Marie Le Pen had not yet qualified for the second round in the presidential elections. He risks making some predictions which have proved very wrong. Namely he considers that people vote for the Front National because they are worried mainly about their jobs, that immigrants would take away their jobs. He's very optimistic about the integration of Algerian immigrants, he sees signs that most of them are already French. Identity is a non-issue for him. So he was persuaded that the Front National would fade because of lack of "political fuel".

    And why did he vote against the Maastricht treaty? Because by researching these issues he's persuaded that the Maastricht treaty is a straight-jacket too tight, too uniform for the irreducible diversity of European societies and peoples.