In most developed countries there is a palpable sense of confusion about the current state of affairs. Many things that were taken for granted a decade or two ago no longer seem secure, and many people are looking for new ways to understand how we got to where we are today and where we are heading.
In this major new book, the leading sociologist, historical anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd sheds new light on our current predicament by reconstructing the historical dynamics of human societies from the Stone Age to the present. Eschewing the tendency to attribute special causal significance to the economy, Todd develops an anthropological account of history, focusing on the long-term dynamics of family systems and their links to religion and ideology – what he sees as the slow-moving, unconscious level of society, in contrast to the conscious level of the economy and politics – and on the dramatic changes brought about by the spread of education. This enables him to explain the different historical trajectories of the advanced nations and the growing divergence between them, a divergence that can be observed in the rise of the Anglosphere in the modern period, the paradox of a Homo Americanus that is at once innovative and archaic, the startling electoral success of Donald Trump, the lack of realism in the will to power shown by Germany and China, the emergence of stable authoritarian democracy in Russia, the new introversion of Japan and the recent turbulent developments in Europe, including Brexit.
This magisterial account of human history puts into perspective and enables us to understand in new ways the massive transformations taking place in the world today, transformations that have less to do with the supposed homogenizing effects of globalization and the reaction to it and more to do with the diversity among nations that is rooted in the long history of human evolution.