A musical metaphor is developed

In this blog posting, someone called Judge Ellis is quoted saying, somewhere in America, some time recently or not so recently, in connection with something Trump-related, this:

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud – what you really care about is what information Mr Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment.

“This vernacular to ‘sing’ is what prosecutors use. What you’ve got to be careful of is that they may not only sing, they may compose.”

Good expression. Never heard it before, although it must have been around for decades.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Talking about Brexit

Patrick Crozier and I have just fixed our next podcast, which we will record early next week. Read about and listen to earlier ones here, and in due course this next one will go there too. And for this next one, we will talk about … Brexit. I knew you’d be excited.

Many claim that they are bored by Brexit, and maybe many are. Although I suspect some are really just pissed off with not getting exactly what they want. (And who is getting exactly what they want?) Either that, or actually only bored with other people’s opinions, but not with their own. Me, I find the whole process rather fascinating, now that I have got over having been so wrong about it. I thought that Brexit would lose the Referendum, but it won. And I thought that once it had won, it would happen without too much fuss, because the Conservative Party leavers would mostly bow to the inevitable. As of now, that hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Brexit is a subject that Patrick has strong opinions about, which is good because although this will not stop me interrupting (I’m afraid I always interrupt), it may at least mean that some of the times when I do interrupt, he’ll interrupt back and shut me up until he’s finished the point he was making before I interrupted.

Here is a Brexit photo I recently photoed, of a bus driving around and around Parliament Square, saying Believe in Britain and LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, but with nobody in the bus apart from the driver:

They all left, I guess.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd

Incoming from Craig Willy, of whom I did not know until now:

Hello Brian,

I see you’ve written a great deal on Emmanuel Todd. I have just written a summary of his big history book, L’invention de l’Europe. I thought you might find it interesting.

I also see you have the impression he mainly criticizes the U.S. for being a “hollowed out,” financialized “fake” economy. In fact he is incredibly critical of the eurozone, for that very reason, which he argues is responsible for the hollowing out, dysfunction and financialism of the French and peripheral European economies.

All the best, and feel free to share if you write anything new on Todd. My Twitter.

Craig

In response to my email thanking him for the above email, and asking if he has written anything else about Todd, Willy writes:

I discuss him a fair bit on my Twitter feed as he offends many with his criticism of Germany and euroskepticism. Otherwise I just wrote this short piece on Todd and the euro from a while back.

This I have now read. Very interesting, and I think very right. Interesting parallel between the Euro and the Algerian War.

Things appear to be really motoring on the Todd-stuff-in-English front. At last.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A new crane has already arrived

Yesterday, again, I ventured back across the river to see whatever I could see in the vicinity of that helicopter crash.

I couldn’t get near to where the worst of the drama unfolded on Wednesday, and I couldn’t yesterday, which is not a circumstance I would dream of complaining about. But today, as on Wednesday, I was able to gaze upwards again at that stricken crane, this time from the other side:

If you compare that picture with my earlier picture (immediately below), you will see that nothing up there has yet changed.

Other than the weather. Yesterday, and today, very grim and snowy. Also, I took the above picture just before it got seriously dark. The pictures below having been taken somewhat earlier. I did quite a bit of wandering around before I got that shot of the crane, but was very pleased when I finally got it.

On the ground, it is an entirely different story.

A whole new crane has arrived:

You can just see the edge of the tower there, above the road sign.

And that’s not the half of it:

Altogether, about a dozen different articulated lorries had arrived, presumably earlier yesterday, and parked themselves in the roads at the other end of the new bus terminal from Vauxhall railway station. When I got there, there were still drivers in the cabs of several of these lorries. In total there were about a dozen lorries. These cranes are big. I’m guessing the economic situation means there were plenty of spare cranes to choose from.

And I further guess that these things have something to do with this crane:

I assume that this new crane is about to be erected alongside the old and broken crane, to dismantle the broken crane, and then to finish the job of building the tower. How exactly will that look, I wonder?

Things are moving a lot faster than I guessed, to get the tower-building going again.

The tidying up from the crash seems to be taking place a bit further along the road, crucially not right next to the tower, and that process is happening simultaneously with getting the new crane in. The two jobs don’t clash. On the contrary they go together. Then, when the old crane is gone, and when the crash is cleaned up, the road will open again.

Is the plan to open the road again,after a weekend of feverish activity, on Monday morning? Definitely asap, it would seem.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane

Yesterday I posted a short photo-piece at Samizdata about the Vauxhall helicopter crash, but had difficulty with the photos. Not having posted any photos on Samizdata for about a month, I had to rediscover how to do it. I am definitely not going to be switching to WordPress here any time very soon. Although, come to think of it, maybe I will switch soonish, if only to be able to practice posting photos on WordPress, here. Given that here I allow myself to do any damn fool thing I feel like doing. Like not post anything for a week, for no good reason.

So anyway, here is a photo (a slice out of the photo I did post at Samizdata) which I tried to post at Samizdata yesterday, late last night, but got in a muddle with and gave up on. Now, I will embed a link to this, from there.

The problem with photoing this ruined crane is, for me, getting into a good position. This was the best shot I could get yesterday, given that I was in a hurry because of fading light. What I may now try is photoing it from one of the platforms of Vauxhall Station, which is the other side of the crane from where I was yesterday. Station platforms being long, you can move back and forth until you get the best shot. Today looks like nice weather, so maybe I’ll try that this afternoon.

I need more text here, to fit the photo into this posting without it bashing into the previous posting. So, what else to say about this?

Well, one thing I can say is that I am extremely curious about how they will sort this out. I guessed in my Samizdata piece that it will be a while before they get around to sorting out this crane, because on the ground they have other things to sort out, involving thousands of commuters going to and fro every day, on the road onto which the stricken helicopter fell, spreading flames everywhere. The builders will just not be first in the queue. The builders will be needing the road when they bring in whatever other cranes they need, to remove the ruined crane, and to put up another crane, so I’m guessing they’ll have to wait until the road is sorted and back in business.

Plus, do they mend the crane, or replace it? Does anyone know what the routine is for fixing a crane in this state, on a site like this one? As I understand it, the entire tower-building job depends on that crane, and now the entire job comes to a shuddering halt, until they can get that crane mended, or another crane into that same spot. Heaven knows what that delay will cost, per hour.

I hope I get really lucky and get to photo them sorting this out, but am not optimistic. Building contractors are not in the habit of drawing attention to themselves when they are busy building. They just want to be left alone to get on with it. The press-releasing, attention-grabbing phase only gets under way when the building is good and finished.

That ought to be enough text.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Jobs difference

Opening paragraph:

I saw the news of Steve Jobs’ death on a device that he invented – the iPhone – and I’m writing on another machine that he willed into being: the graphical interface computer. I happen to be using a PC running Windows, with generic hardware I put together myself; technically, only my keyboard was made by Apple. But none of that matters. Just like the touch-screen smartphone and, now, the tablet computer, the PC that you and I use every day became ubiquitous thanks mainly to this one man. I’ll go further: Whether you’re yearning for a Kindle Fire or a BlackBerry PlayBook, whether you play Angry Birds on an iPod Touch or Google’s Nexus Prime, whether you’re a Mac or a PC, you’ve succumbed to Steve Jobs’ master plan.

“Willed into being”. That sums up the man’s achievement and way of working beautifully. As I understand him, Jobs was essentially the spokesman for us consumers amongst the great Community of Geeks, which is why he was so loved by so many of us consumers. He was the one saying: “It’s not good enough that you can make it work. It has to be easy for humans as well. It has to be nice. It has to be cool. Do it again.”

Michael sent me the link because, like me, Voorhees Manjoo uses a Mac keyboard attached to a PC. In fact, I think my Apple Mac keyboard is the only piece of Apple kit I have ever owned. But I enthusiastically endorse what Voorhees Manjoo says, and here record my profound thanks to Steve Jobs for the profound influence he has had, not just on Apple and its products, but upon the entire world. I didn’t “succumb” to the Steve Jobs master plan. I accepted it with enthusiasm.

The Samizdata commentariat is saying what it has to say about Jobs here. I particularly liked this, from Rob Fisher:

Yes, this is terrible news.

It bothers me that even with the resources at his disposal, Jobs could not keep himself alive. I’m attending a conference on Saturday at which life extension technology will be discussed. If the optimists there are correct, one day we’ll all be much richer than Steve Jobs.

Detlev Schlichter also just sent out an emailshot recommending this. Haven’t yet watched it, but will.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Emmanuel Todd (3): Quotes from the Introduction to The Explanation of Ideology

I have already done two postings about the French historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd. In the first, I sketched out Todd’s Explanation of Ideology, as described in his book of that name (in its English translation). In the second posting, I simply listed the eight families into which Todd classifies the world’s people, together with the countries in which each family type prevails.

I now want to quote Todd himself. Below are a couple of chunks from the introduction, entitled “democracy and anthropology”, to The Explanation of Ideology, translated into English by David Garrioch.

First, the first few pages of that introduction (pp. 1-6 in my 1985 Blackwell hardback edition):

No theory has so far succeeded in explaining the distribution of political ideologies, systems and forces on our planet. No one knows why certain regions of the world are dominated by liberal doctrines, others by social democracy or Catholicism, by Islam or by the Indian caste system, and others again by concepts which defy classification or description, like Buddhist socialism.

No one knows why communism has triumphed after a revolutionary struggle in Russia, China and Yugoslavia, in Vietnam and Cuba. No one knows why in other places it has failed – sometimes honourably, for in certain countries it plays an important although not dominant role in political life. In France, Italy, Finland and Portugal, in Chile before the coup in 1974, in the Sudan before the elimination of the communists by the army in 1971, and in certain Indian states such as West Bengal or Kerala, communism has a stable electoral position and traditionally enjoys the interest and support of many intellectuals.

In some areas of the world communism has made a brief but conspicuous appearance. In Indonesia it once seemed set for a brilliant future but evaporated after a military take-over and a brutal massacre. In Cambodia, a near neighbour in global terms, its performance was still more striking, rapidly developing to such murderous intensity that it destroyed itself within a very few years. One suspects, however, that these last two examples, spectacular in their power and instability, are not representative of conventional types of communism.

Elsewhere we find that Marxist-Leninist organization, while not entirely absent, is very weak and of almost no political importance: for example, in Japan, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Greece. Throughout much of the world the conquering and would-be universal ideology of the twentieth century has no real influence and is represented only by tiny fringe groups. Communism, which in Russia and China has produced Titans, in the Arab world has given birth to no more than a few martyrs and in the English-speaking world to a number of eccentrics. In most of Latin America – if we exclude Cuba and Chile – in Africa, Thailand, Burma and the Philippines, Marxist-Leninist influence is insignificant.

The history of communism is similar to that of other universal creeds: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam. It has proved rapidly successful in certain societies with which it has a mysterious affinity, only to be stopped after this initial expansion by barriers which remain invisible.

The failure of political science

A simple enumeration, worthy of lonesco, of the regions and countries where communism is strong illustrates the failure of a political science at present largely dominated by utilitarian and materialist ideas. Liberals and Marxists alike now agree on the importance of economic factors in history: the public or private nature of the means of production and exchange, the level of industrial development, the efficiency of agriculture, the numerical importance of different socio-professional groups. But could one hope to find any economic characteristic which was shared by all the regions where Marxism-Leninism is strong: by Finland and Kerala, Vietnam and Cuba, Tuscany and the Chilean province or Arauco, Limousin and West Bengal, Serbia and southern Portugal, or even for that matter by Russia and China before their revolutions?

On the eve of 1917, Russia was overwhelmingly rural but had sufficient agricultural surplus and enough mineral resources to finance rapid industrial growth. China in the first half of the twentieth century was even more strongly rural, but would have had the greatest difficulty in producing any agricultural surplus at all. Even in good years she could hardly feed her population. So sparse was her industrial development that even the most hard-line Marxist would not dare to accord responsibility for the 1949 Revolution to the proletariat of the Celestial Empire. From a Marxist point of view, the China of 1949 differed from the Russia of 1917 in one vital respect: the peasants had a much clearer idea of private property than did their Russian counterparts, among whom a sort of agrarian communism, the periodical redistribution of land according to family size, was widely practised. But this difference does not really help explain these events because it invalidates the most convincing of the ‘economic’ interpretations of communism: that which portrays it as a more modern industrial version of a traditional agricultural system.

For we find Russia and China, entirely different countries, from an economic point of view, plunging with similar enthusiasm into the same political adventure only thirty years apart and with surprisingly similar results. They shared, to begin with, a single characteristic – their rural economy – which explains nothing: in 1848 when Marx called on the workers of the world to break their chains, 95 per cent of the inhabitants of the world were peasants. Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Mexico, all nations where communism was to remain weak, were no more developed industrially than Russia or China. The one major exception was Britain, whose working class was to remain impermeable to communist ideology for 200 years.

Theories of class struggle explain nothing. Some working classes are attracted by Marxism-Leninism and others are not. The same applies to the rural population which in some countries is open to communism, in others not. Even normally conservative bourgeois intellectuals in many countries betray the most elementary rules of class warfare and allow themselves to be seduced by Bolshevism.

Social democracy, Islam, Hinduism, and the rest

As the most crucial ideology of the twentieth century, communism has been widely studied. Traditional political science, although unable to explain its appearance in a particular country, has nevertheless managed to give a good description of it, one which also serves to define, negatively but with equal precision, its economic and political antithesis and its world-wide enemy, Anglo-Saxon liberalism. The characteristics of communism are therefore absence of elementary political, religious and economic freedoms; egalitarian subjection of the individual to the state; and a single permanent ruling party. The features of liberalism, on the other hand, are seen to be free exercise of political, economic and religious rights by the individual; abhorrence of the state, which is perceived as an administrative necessity but also as a threat; and rapid changes of the party in power as a result of the workings of an electoral system.

Anything beyond these two poles is heresy. Yet the nations which subscribe to one or other of these ideologies, to liberalism or to communism, account for only 40 per cent of the world’s population. The remaining 60 per cent have not received nearly the same attention from political scientists, and are considered conceptually irrelevant. Their ideologies and political systems are at best treated as imperfect forms, somewhere in between communism and liberalism according to the degree of economic, religious or political authoritarianism. At worst, they appear to social scientists as legal or religious monstrosities, aberrations of the human imagination that cannot be registered on the scale dictated by European political conventions whose linear structure is like a thermometer, capable of measuring only hot or cold, the degree of liberty or of totalitarianism.

Putting together all these misfits, all the ideologies which are neither ‘communist’ nor ‘liberal’, gives another of those comical lists which political science is capable of producing: social democracy, libertarian socialism, Christian democracy, Latin-American, Thai or Indonesian military regimes, the Buddhist socialism of Burma or of Sri Lanka, Japanese parliamentarianism, technically perfect but with the sole flaw of never changing its ruling party, Islamic fundamentalism and socialism, Ethiopian militarist Marxism, and the Indian regime which combines parliamentary and caste systems and whose 700 million subjects have in one swoop been disqualified by ‘modern’ political science.

Social science has found a justification for refusing to fit these exotic systems and ways of thinking into its conceptual framework: is it reasonable to hope to understand them when the principal mystery, that of the liberal/communist conflict, has yet to be resolved? But this argument is easily refuted: it is precisely because of the refusal to look on all political forms – whether European or not – as normal and theoretically significant that communism has never been fully understood, and nor, as a direct result, has its liberal ‘antithesis’.

Furthermore, if we move from a politico-economic definition of ideological systems to a religious one, the opposite of communism is no longer liberalism but the whole group of doctrines which proclaim the existence of a spiritual realm. For communism alone declares that God does not exist and is prepared to impose this belief on humanity. Here the liberal, pluralist systems, tolerant or agnostic on religious questions, are out of the picture. They cannot provide a conceptual framework for the increasingly violent conflict between communism and Islam in Afghanistan, or between communism and the Catholic church in Poland.

Is it, then, too much to allow that the range of political and religious ideologies spread around the world does not divide into two camps, but forms a system with many poles, and that all these poles – communist, liberal, Catholic, social democratic, Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist – are equally normal, legitimate and worthy of analysis?

A satisfactory explanation of communism must also provide the key to other world-wide ideologies. The situation is precisely that which is encountered in the natural sciences: one cannot partly understand the principle of the attractive force of matter, that of the circulation of the blood or of the classification of the elements in chemistry. To take the whole world as the field of study, therefore, is simply to apply to social science the minimum of intellectual rigour which the natural sciences take for granted. Any hypothesis must take all the forms observed into account.

And now here is the conclusion of this same introduction (pp. 16-18):

General methodology

The oppositions ideology/anthropology and social relations/human relations are particularly useful outside Europe when attempting to trace the origins of religious ideological systems. They are indispensable if one is accurately to describe ideologies which are based on ideas about family ties.

The Indian caste system is a family ideology which places each individual in an abstract and impersonal social network, the caste (or to be more precise the sub-caste), which is defined by ties of descent outside which he or she cannot marry. But the sub-caste is composed largely of people who do not know each other and who live in different places. Beneath this intellectual edifice can be seen a particular family structure, a model of interpersonal relations which produces the concept of and the need for social segregation. These two levels – social and human, ideological and familial – must be clearly distinguished if the caste system is to be placed with any precision among the various political and religious ideologies – communism, Islam, social democracy, the various forms of Christianity – which likewise define social relations between people who do not know each other directly.

A universal hypothesis is possible: the ideological system is everywhere the intellectual embodiment of family structure, a transposition into social relations of the fundamental values which govern elementary human relations: liberty or equality, and their opposites, are examples. One ideological category and only one, corresponds to each family type.

Ignoring all the accepted procedures of present-day social science and at the risk of being branded a positivist, I am going to test this theory and prove it in the same way as in any exact science: by exhaustively comparing the hypothesis and the evidence, that is by a complete examination of the familial and ideological systems experienced by the settled human groups which make up at least 95 per cent of the population of the planet. Testing the theory involves two steps.

First, a general typology of family structure must be devised. It must be both logically exhaustive, starting from first principles and setting out all the possible family structures; and empirically exhaustive, that is to say taking into account and describing all the family forms which are actually observable on the surface of the planet.

Second, it must be shown that to each family form described there corresponds one and only one ideological system and that this ideological system is not to be found in areas of the world which are dominated by other family forms (in mathematical terms one would speak of a bijective relationship between family types and political types).

A further requirement is that secondary variations in family structure within each anthropological type must correspond to secondary variations in the political or religious forms within the corresponding ideological type.

And then, to his own complete satisfaction at least, Todd proceeds to prove all that.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology

What causes the different peoples of the world to think and feel so differently about such things as religion and politics? Despite inventions like the telephone, high speed modern transport by rail and air, and now the latest such miracle in the form of the internet, people in different parts of the world still seem defiantly different from one another. And their differences, instead of being ironed out by modern communications technology, are instead made all the more visible and scandalous to all who concern themselves about such things. Why?

Why, historically, do political and religious ideologies often start by spreading with the speed and completeness of a medieval plague? But why do they then, with equal suddenness, mysteriously cease their expansions?

Why do the world’s different peoples, in addition to quarrelling with one another, seem so very varied in their responses to the opportunities and agonies of economic development? What is economic development?

I now believe that the best clutch of answers to these questions (and to many other related questions both historical and contemporary) has been supplied by the French historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd, who was born in 1951.

I have not read all of Todd’s books, because my French is not good enough. But I have read, and I own in treasured English translations, the two that appear to be the most important. These are: La Troisième Planète: Structures Familiales et Systèmes Idéologiques, published in 1983, published in English, in 1985, as The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems; and L’Enfance du Monde: Structure Familiale et Développement, published in 1984, published in English in 1987, as The Causes of Progress: Culture, Authority and Change.

The first of these books is probably the most striking one, and in this posting, I will concentrate on – in the amazingly confident title which Todd or someone chose for the English edition of La Troisième Planète – the explanation of ideology. The explanation.

I will now attempt an approximate summary of Todd’s explanation of ideology.

The peoples of the world are different in their ideological orientations because they have different “family structures”. The world’s different ideologies and ideological tendencies (communism, Islam, social democracy, Anglo-Saxon liberalism, the Indian caste system, and so on) are projections onto the public stage of ideas first learned within the family.

In the family one acquires beliefs about such things as the nature of and proper scope of parental authority, the appropriate degree of equality or lack of it in the relations between men and women, and between older brothers and younger brothers, the proper way to get married and have children in one’s turn, the appropriate relationship between one’s family and other families, and so on.

These ideas are handed down from generation to generation, and do not change from one century to the next, or even from one millennium to the next. Family structure, for Emmanuel Todd, is the independent variable. It causes other things. It is not itself caused. It simply is.

“Family structure” does not mean the particular circumstances of particular families. Family structure is the belief set that all those raised in a particular anthropological setting hold in common about the proper nature of family life. Some particular parents divorce or die young while others do not. Some have many children while others have few or none. Some children marry, earlier or later, and have children of their own, others not, and so on. Todd does not trace any connections from the particular family history of an individual or of a group of individuals to their subsequent behaviour and attitudes. It is what members of the same anthropological group all agree to be the proper nature of the family, and of the various privileges and obligations associated with it, that matters. He is concerned with the ideal family, so to speak.

In different family systems, the same events will be experienced differently, with a different degree of shame or triumph, or even absolutely differently. Divorce happens, but is usually (not always) experienced as a problem. A married sister may, or may not, retain links with her original family. Cousins or nieces may be encouraged to marry cousins or uncles, or fiercely forbidden to. Incest may be taboo (or not). Brothers may be equal, or unequal. Fathers may control their grown-up sons until death do them part, or not. Mothers may be powerful matriarchs, or little more than girls. And so on. All of this varies from place to place in the world, and it is these local agreements and global disagreements that Todd is concerned with.

What triggers history’s great eruptions of ideological and religious enthusiasm is mass literacy. When a majority of the young men can read and write for the first time, that is to say at a time when a majority of their fathers could not, then there is always an ideological upsurge. Hence the German Reformation, the English Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Islamic fundamentalism, the Tamil Tigers, and so on and so on and so on. Each of these eruptions into ideological modernity takes its particular and quite distinct form from the family structure that dominates in the place where it happens.

Rising literacy is easy to see coming. Anthropology is easily studied. Therefore both the timing and the nature of such ideological eruptions can be easily predicted. Todd has an impressive record of such successful predictions. (I recall Todd’s very confident announcement that Nicaragua would not turn communist, at a time when it was widely predicted that it was about to.)

So much, for now, for the explanation of ideology.

In The Causes of Progress Todd turns to other less explosive and destructive but equally important effects of mass literacy. Mass literacy, in a very basic sense, is economic development. When a population becomes literate, it gets rich. Not immediately, because it takes time to get rich, and it especially takes time to get rich if the ideological eruptions triggered earlier by mass literacy are particularly destructive.

Mass literacy among women also has profound effects upon fertility, which tends to oscillate wildly during the modernisation process. Fertility first surges, then plummets.

Further Emmanuel Todd postings here will, I hope and intend, go into more detail. In my next posting, for instance, I intend to itemise all the world’s various family structures, and which ideologies they correspond to.

I also hope to speculate about and in due course (this is a blog after all) to find out about why Todd’s theories have had so little impact in the English speaking world, despite appearing to have extreme relevance to many contemporary debates and concerns, about such things as Islamic terrorism. Is it because they are simply wrong? I don’t now think so, but I do think that Todd is often wrong (at the very least extremely contentious) about many matters incidental to his most important ideas, which has surely not helped.

Worse, from the point of view of anyone else who is interested in ideological matters being willing to spread his ideas, Todd appears to reduce all ideologists to mere sock puppets for their inner anthropologically programmed urges.

But that is all to come. For now, that will have to suffice.

My Emmanuel Todd blogging journey has now begun.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog