Jim Bennett and I recently had a chance to publish an essay in the Hungarian Review. It is titled America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ? In it we apply the same type of analysis we used in America 3.0.
In our essay we discuss the anthropological underpinnings of modern societies, and reference the work of Alan Macfarlane and the family system analysis of Emmanuel Todd. We note the extremely long lasting character of culture, and describe thinkers who are aware of this, and build it into their analysis, as the “Continuity Model.” We suggest that European countries need to find a path toward liberal democracy that is consistent with their underlying cultures. We note the damage done by Marxist and Marxisant thinking. We condemn the European Union as a serious misstep for Europe, and suggest that it be dismantled or cut back massively.
If any of our readers read the essay, we would be interested in your thoughts.
In the next issue, George Schöpflin responded to our essay.
We replied to his critiques, in A Rejoinder to George Schöpflin. Mr. Schöpflin’s response is useful, because it allowed us to respond to a criticism frequently leveled at America 3.0 and its authors. We are often accused of promoting a monocausal view of history, specifically that we are overly focused on family structure analysis, as developed by Emmanuel Todd.
Is it a fair criticism, for instance, to say that the article “tends to accept monocausality, reducing everything to a single factor (family types in this instance)”? Consider our text. Yes, we refer to the persistence of culture, and its impact on politics and economics, as a “Continuity Model”, based on the “well-founded assumption of the persistence of human culture”. We discuss the contributions of Alan Macfarlane and James Campbell to the understanding of cultural continuity in England. We turn to Emmanuel Todd’s analysis of family types. And we state that “[f]amily systems analysis explains some of the complexity of Central and Eastern European politics”. Surely the phrase “some of” demonstrates we are not asserting mono causality.
We therefore have no quarrel with Mr Schöpflin when he refers to the many factors beside family structure which influenced European – and Hungarian – culture, politics and economics. As Alan Macfarlane puts it, complex phenomena result from chains of causation with multiple links.
If there is a particular emphasis on family systems in our short article, it is because educated readers are typically familiar with cultural and economic arguments concerning national and civilisational differences, but they have usually had little exposure to modern family systems research. In a welcome development, the European Union has recently been sponsoring some of the key research in this area, such as the work of Gilles Duranton et al. on family systems and employment in Europe.
In America 3.0 we anticipate this criticism. We first list many factors which were influential on the West, England, and America. Then we say:
In this book we focus on family structure, and don’t dwell on [these other factors], as important as each of them is, for at least two reasons. First, the nature and importance of the Anglo-American type of nuclear family is too little known. It is a rather arcane academic subject at the moment, but it should not remain that way. It merits wider awareness, understanding, and discussion. Second, we have tried to identify the factors that make Americans different from people in other countries.
We are most certainly not claiming that there is any single cause for us being the way we are. Each of the foregoing elements is an irreplaceable part of what we are. What we are saying is that there is a distinctive, little known, and possibly unique cause of American exceptionalism that needs to be brought to light.
Family structure analysis is important, but it is not the only factor to consider. Alan Macfarlane’s work shows an extraordinary range of influences on England especially and modernity in general. For example, he has written an amazing book about the importance of glass, and another one about the importance of tea drinking. In both cases these factors are immensely more important than you would imagine before reading the books.
Nonetheless, family structure is a neglected element in national life. The risk is not that it will be given too much weight, but that it is almost unknown and will be ignored.
Finally, we offer our warmest thanks to John O’Sullivan, pictured above, who made it possible for us to publish in the Hungarian Review.
John’s most recent initiative is the Danube Institute:
The Danube Institute exists to provide an independent center of intellectual debate for conservatives and classical liberals and their democratic opponents in Central Europe.
Based in Budapest and Washington it seeks to engage with centre-right institutions, scholars, political parties and individuals of achievement across the region to discuss problems of mutual interest.
The Institute also seeks to establish a two-way transmission belt for centre-right ideas, policies and people between Central Europe, Western Europe, and the English speaking world, and to provide an authoritative source of rational and commonsens reporting and commentary for those covering Central Europe for the world outside the region.
One of the Danube Institute’s first events was to be a conversation between James C. Bennett and Josef Joffe entitled Declining America or Resurgent Superpower?. Sadly Mr. Joffe could not attend due to a strike by airline employees in Germany. Mr. Joffe’s book is entitled The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies, and the full title of our book is America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come. Bennett, Lotus and Joffe are all placing their chips on “resurgent superpower.”
If video becomes available of this event we will post it here and elsewhere.
We wish John O’Sullivan very great success with this worthy new venture.