Monday, December 08, 2014

Some criticisms of Emmanuel Todd

Since, I may have some more posts about Emmanuel Todd, I thought that I should start with some of the criticisms.
Evelyn Rawski in her review of "The Causes of Progress" says "The attempt to encompass complex historical changes occur, ring over several centuries in all parts of the globe under one rubric suffers from inadequate data about various regional cultures and an overly simplistic analytic scheme." She gives specific examples from her own area of specialization: China. She also says "The great value of Todd's book lies elsewhere: it forces scholars out of the increasingly narrow specializations in which we tend to spend our lives. We may disagree with Todd's interpretation and his facts, but we can learn a great deal from the structural comparisons he makes. If comparative studies are stimulated by books like this, we may eventually achieve a more satisfactory synthesis to explain the demographic, economic, and cultural changes that are central to the early modem and modem historical ages."

William Roseberry in his review of "The Causes of Progress" (behind a firewall, is even more scathing. He says that the jump from family structures to attitudes leaves much to be desired. But he seems to go easy on Marx in Marx and Anthropoloy.

Lesly Page Moch in his review (again behind a firewall)of "The Explanation of Ideology" says "Problematic sources exacerbate the implausible aspects of the study..."

The above reviews are by academics. I do not know the background of the next reviewers.
Craig Willy in  Emmanuel Todd’s L’invention de l’Europe: A critical summary "Todd’s method is to correlate everything. Though a historian, he is as interested in correlation across space as across time. Did I mention the book is also an atlas? The method in a word: Correlate, then speculate. The “speculate” part is definitely Todd’s weakness. " But he goes on to say "Todd is addicted to the “power” of the prophet. His various books have forecasted: the fall of the Soviet Union (1976), the failure of EMU (1995), the dysfunction of globalization (1997), the decline of the United States (2002), the democratization of the Muslim World (2007), and I probably missed one. Todd has no divine knowledge – he can hedge his bets or be inaccurate, he tends to over-generalize from the news of the day and dismiss things that do not neatly fit into his system – but he has a very solid data-based method, looking at the longue durĂ©e, which allows him to be far more interesting and worthy of attention than your standard pundit.". 
The missed one may be about Nicaragua. Check also this review of "After the Empire" and 'Testing Todd':
"This paper has investigated whether the family systems that Todd attributes great explanatory power to for political and educational developments can be
corroborated with other data. This check came from ethnographic data collected in
Murdock’s Ethnographic atlas, translated to country-level data with ethnic
population figures from the Narodov Atlas.
In half the cases, Todd’s family systems can be reconstructed to the ethnographic data from Murdock.....There are also important mismatches in The Explanation of Ideology."

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