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There Is No Such Thing as Europe

anglosphere

French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd argues “There is no such thing as Europe” because the English-speaking and Scandinavian countries are so culturally different from the rest of the Continent. Daniel Hannan argues that, therefore, the UK should leave the EU and strengthen its ties with the Anglosphere.

One of this blog’s constant themes is that Britain is shackled to a corpse: the EU is the only trade bloc on the planet that is not growing economically.

It’s important to understand that this decline is not a temporary blip. Although the euro crisis has accelerated Europe’s slide, the underlying problem is demographic. Put simply, fewer and fewer youngsters are supporting more and more retirees. Europe’s working age population peaked in 2012 at 308 million, and will fall to 265 million by 2060. The ratio of pensioners to workers will, according to The Economist, rise from 28 per cent to 58 per cent – and even these statistics assume the arrival of a million immigrants every year.

However, as Emmanuel Todd explains (in English) in the clip above, these figures gloss over the variations within the EU. Britain and Scandinavia enjoy better demographic prospects than do most Continental countries. Todd says that he sympathises with the British dilemma: after all, there will soon be more people in the Anglosphere than in the EU. He doesn’t exactly use the phrase “enchaînés à un cadavre”, but you get his point.

Emmanuel Todd, incidentally, has a pretty good claim to being France’s leading anthropologist. Among other things, he has developed the idea that Anglosphere exceptionalism – our peculiar emphasis on liberty and property, our elevation of the individual over the collective – has its roots in different family structures. The family, he avers, is understood in much narrower terms in English-speaking societies (plus Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands). To us, it means parents, children and siblings. Elsewhere, families are considered more than the sum of their individuals, and have a measure of collective personality in law as well as in custom.

In their seminal book America 3.0, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus draw heavily on Todd’s researches to explain why free-market capitalism developed in places where families are nuclear and limited. But that’s another story. For now, take a couple of minutes to listen to Todd’s eminently reasonable analysis. And then try to tell me that we should stay in the EU.

The referenced video:

That the Anglosphere has a strong cultural affinity and have more in common with one another than with most of Continental Europe is hardly a new idea. And I was aware that part of the distinction is a different notion of the relationship between the citizen and the state. That this stems from different family structures—and, indeed, a different conception of what family even means, is something I had not previously considered. That the combined Anglosphere will soon surpass Continental Europe (which Todd defines, reasonably I think, as excluding Russia and Ukraine) in population is interesting as well.

But it’s not obvious how any of that effects the UK’s long term future in the EU. While I’m both a Euroskeptic and share Hannan’s affinity for the Anglosphere, the two are not mutually exclusive positions. The UK should absolutely build even stronger ties with the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; if Scotland becomes independent, it should nonetheless remain integrated into the Anglosphere. But EU membership doesn’t preclude any of that. As Todd acknowledges, the UK is incredibly dependent on trade with the other EU states. Access to the Common Market is a tremendous boon and one that doesn’t cost the UK anything vis-a-vis its relationship with the other Anglosphere states.

The question for London is whether the economic benefits of EU membership is worth the costs in sovereignty and backstopping of the weaker states. The answer there is much less clear. But I don’t see how it’s informed by Todd’s analysis.

Editor’s note: I’ll be in meetings most of the day and therefore limited in ability to participate in the discussion.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    Among other things, he has developed the idea that Anglosphere exceptionalism – our peculiar emphasis on liberty and property, our elevation of the individual over the collective – has its roots in different family structures. The family, he avers, is understood in much narrower terms in English-speaking societies (plus Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands). To us, it means parents, children and siblings. Elsewhere, families are considered more than the sum of their individuals, and have a measure of collective personality in law as well as in custom.

    What a load of rubbish.

    That’s nothing more than a grab-bag of just-so stories, a mishmash of ahistorical, out-of-context data mangled and twisted to make a fake point. It’s a complete misrepresentation and misreading of thousands of years of very rich and complicated legal, anthropological and historical trends, a grotesque oversimplification parading as contrarian insight.

    It’s hackdom, plain and simple.

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  2. Rafer Janders says:

    In their seminal book America 3.0, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus draw heavily on Todd’s researches to explain why free-market capitalism developed in places where families are nuclear and limited.

    Like Japan….

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  3. Rafer Janders says:

    The family, he avers, is understood in much narrower terms in English-speaking societies (plus Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands).

    Why would “Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands” be included along with the “English-speaking societies” and not, say, Germany? Why would Ireland, Scotland and Wales be included as English-speaking when they were are only English-speaking because of colonization and in cultural terms are more Celtic-speaking and clan-based? So many holes in this theory….

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  4. Rafer Janders says:

    Among other things, he has developed the idea that Anglosphere exceptionalism – our peculiar emphasis on liberty and property, our elevation of the individual over the collective – has its roots in different family structures.

    Or, you know, it could have its roots in the fact that Britain is an island, and so for a thousand years was able to defend itself against successive waves of foreign invasion in a way that every other nation in Europe wasn’t, or that in the Middle Ages and after it managed it managed to chart a middle course between strong centralized sovereign / weak nobles (a la France or Spain) or weak sovereign / strong nobles (Germany, Italy) with a largely balanced sovereign and nobles allowing a middle class to develop in the space between, or that England and the Scandinavian countries were never invaded, occupied and/or menaced by the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks and so didn’t bleed blood and treasure for hundreds of years serving as a bulwark against them….

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  5. Rafer Janders says:

    The other thing that the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Netherlands have in common? They were periphery countries, on the far north and northwestern edges of the continent, protected from invasion by the fact that they were islands, distant peninsulas or remote marshland. This relative geographical isolation served to insulate them from foreign attack, especially attack from (as mentioned above) the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks, and also gave them a seaborne, outward-facing orientation. The English and Dutch (and to a lesser degree Scandinavians) couldn’t expand outwards by land conquest, due to their sea borders, so they had to turn to the naval sphere, and that later gave them a leg up as shipborne international trade developed.

    Geography rather than family can explain as much or more of the different routes towards development.

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  6. Rafer Janders says:

    The family, he avers, is understood in much narrower terms in English-speaking societies (plus Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands). To us, it means parents, children and siblings. Elsewhere, families are considered more than the sum of their individuals, and have a measure of collective personality in law as well as in custom.

    And, again, c’mon: there’s far more of a clan-based, kinship culture in “English-speaking” Ireland and Scotland than there is in Continental societies such as Germany or Switzerland.

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  7. Rafer Janders says:

    And finally, as I finish ranting, any analysis that doesn’t dig deep into the different historical, cultural and especially legal heritages of societies that were part of the civil law Roman Empire and those that weren’t, or that doesn’t take into account the fact that most of Europe southeast of Vienna was occupied by the Ottomans for hundreds of years and thus was put onto a different path than their western neighbors, or that largely ignores the Reformation’s cleaving of western Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant world, or that similarly doesn’t address the Eastern Orthodox versus Roman schism between East and West and the many different cultural / economic / legal etc. divisions that created, isn’t to be taken too seriously….

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The other thing that the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Netherlands have in common? They were periphery countries,

    Can’t agree with this. The Netherlands are no more peripheral than Belgium and England was repeatedly invaded by the Norse, the Normans, as well as the Romans and others. My historical knowledge of Scandinavia is even weaker than my English history but I think you are correct about them (or at least Norway and Sweden).

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  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Rafer Janders: I’ll only use one reply but, well done sir, well done on each post. Will you and Steven Taylor and Tom Levenson get together and start a blog?

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  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    The Netherlands are no more peripheral than Belgium and England was repeatedly invaded by the Norse, the Normans, as well as the Romans and others.

    The Netherlands are actually more peripheral than Belgium, since (a) Belgium was a main route between France and Germany, (b) the Netherlands is higher up on the cold and stormy North Sea, and (c) for most of its history the Netherlands was unattractive swampy marshland, poor for farming, without rich forests, grazing pastures, or mines (as compared to the more fertile and productive Belgian land).

    And while England was repeatedly invaded, the last successful full-scale invasion was in 1066. Since that point, they’ve managed to fend off all comers.

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  11. Rafer Janders says:

    The family, he avers, is understood in much narrower terms in English-speaking societies (plus Normandy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands). To us, it means parents, children and siblings. Elsewhere, families are considered more than the sum of their individuals, and have a measure of collective personality in law as well as in custom.

    There’s also a correlation / causation problem here, in that the author attributes the successful economies to the family structure, when one could just as well say that the family structure is a result of the respective economies.

    In a strong, stable state with the rule of law, such as Britain or the Netherlands became, you didn’t NEED your clan or kinship bonds to protect you, because the state did that — and this, in turn, contributed to a a weakening of those clan bonds.

    In weaker, more insecure states (Italy, Spain, Europe under the Ottomans, etc.), by contrast, since you couldn’t depend on the state, you had to depend on your kin. And since people learned to rely on their clan, and to believe that blood ties were the only ones you could trust, their trust in state institutions, the rule of law, contracts, and everything else necessary to maintain a modern trading economy, never developed.

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  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And while England was repeatedly invaded, the last successful full-scale invasion was in 1066. Since that point, they’ve managed to fend off all comers.

    And just to add to this, that gave the English a 900 year head start on security on their chief rivals. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy etc. were getting invaded and occupied up through the 1940s.

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  13. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    That’s nothing more than a grab-bag of just-so stories, a mishmash of ahistorical, out-of-context data mangled and twisted to make a fake point.

    I have not read Emmanuel Todd’s work, so I’m not in a complete position to defend it, but I’d caution about judging the quality of his thought/theory from a one sentence gloss deployed in the middle of another man’s polemic.

    I suspect that Todd’s reasoning might be a lot more subtle and well built than “it’s all the family.” After all, we could reduce Weber’s subtle argument about the evolution of modern, western capitalism to “it’s all protestantism” — however doing so would be both inaccurate and a gross misrepresentation of Weber’s actual thesis.

    All that said, I totally agree with you that Hannan’s reduction of Todd’s argument makes little sense from a social sciences perspective.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders: You are correct about the marginal geography of the Netherlands (and so it’s lack of desirability), but you also said about them,

    “The English and Dutch (and to a lesser degree Scandinavians) couldn’t expand outwards by land conquest, due to their sea borders, so they had to turn to the naval sphere

    and

    the Netherlands is higher up on the cold and stormy North Sea,”

    If the North Sea was such an impediment to invaders, why was it not equally an impediment to Dutch maritime?

    Also, you are correct that the Normans were the last to successfully invade in 1066, but I suspect that it is because of reasons that have nothing to do with England’s physical separation, but rather it’s eventual political unification.

    Again, my knowledge of European history is limited, so these points I bring up are as much an attempt at a fuller understanding as it is pointing out what I see as “obvious” (to me anyway) weaknesses in your arguments.

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  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Also, you are correct that the Normans were the last to successfully invade in 1066, but I suspect that it is because of reasons that have nothing to do with England’s physical separation, but rather it’s eventual political unification.

    I think it was really more the physical separation. For most of the last 1000 years, most rivals that wanted to invade England weren’t really in a position to do so successfully due to various economic / demographic / military / transport factors that made it extremely difficult if not impossible to launch and maintain a successful sea-borne invasion (especially after the 16th century, when the English (later the British) Navy was able to secure the Channel and became a more potent force than any comparable navy).

    Remember, there were many many periods of political weakness and disunity in England when a foreign rival, had they been able to launch a land army directly over the border, could have taken the throne. But the technological and economic difficulty of transporting (and more importably, outfitting and supplying) an army by sea prevented that.

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  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    If the North Sea was such an impediment to invaders, why was it not equally an impediment to Dutch maritime?

    The North Sea wasn’t really an impediment to invaders – it was more the case that no one ever bothered to invade via the North Sea, since it was cold and stormy and there was already a land route to the Netherlands (but again, many invaders didn’t bother because it (a) wasn’t on a major trade route and (b) was swampy and non-fertile.

    But that’s equally why the Dutch, given their limited prospects on land, became sailors and merchants. They turned their weakness into their strength.

    (I’m super-simplyifying here, but that’s basically a five cent summary of a $50,000 topic).

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  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Also, you are correct that the Normans were the last to successfully invade in 1066, but I suspect that it is because of reasons that have nothing to do with England’s physical separation, but rather it’s eventual political unification.

    I believe that if there had been a fifty mile wide land-bridge linking Britain to the European mainland, French, Spanish, Habsburg and other armies would have been tromping up and down the length of that country for a thousand years….England’s entire security depended on the seas and the navy, on its so-called “walls of oak.”

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  18. Dave D says:

    Except for the France having the higher birthrate than the UK, and the only reason Britain’s population is set to grow is based on immigration. I’m not sure I buy the argument that the UK is doomed by being in the EU since all comparable demographic measures places it pretty much around most of the countries on the mainland. As of 2014, Ireland, Norway and Luxembourg are the only three European countries with positive population growth. But Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all have better population growth than England, so the elderly pulling down the continent is also a problem for the UK.

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  19. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    that made it extremely difficult if not impossible to launch and maintain a successful sea-borne invasion (especially after the 16th century, when the English (later the British) Navy was able to secure the Channel and became a more potent force than any comparable navy).

    This is a crucial historical/geographic fact which also helped establish the Anglosphere. Because it was an Island nation (or a “nation” of Islands), Britain cultivated naval and shipping infrastructure. The only nation that rivaled it in this area was Spain.

    And not only did that naval power lead to Britannia ruling the waves, but it created the necessary infrastructure for colonization. That coupled with a fundamentally different colonization strategy from the Spanish, led to the development of the various colonies that would grow into today’s Anglosphere.

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  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders: While this is true, it seems to me that it was the political unification that made the “walls of oak” strong enuf to withstand invasion. Here’s the thing I see in my overly simplified view:

    The channel did not get any wider. The difficulties of invasion in 1066 and before would have been at least as difficult as afterward. It has also been argued (or so I have read but have no idea if those stating such are credible) that the English got lucky with the Spanish Armada, but luck or not it would not have been possible if England was not a country.

    I really need to go read some of the period between 1066 and 15838. There are many layers of complexity to that period that I am way too ignorant of.

    Anyway, time for me to go get busy.

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  21. PD Shaw says:

    I’ve not read any of Todd, but it has long been a point of conventional wisdom that the English were relatively unique in that they settled with families. I think Diamond mentions this in Guns, Germs and Steel, with an emphasis on the role of germs.

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  22. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think Britain is not a periphery country because of trade routes. For most of history, and to some extent still true today, trade by water is far more efficient.

    This is an interesting simulator of movement in the Roman era. To get from Rome to London took 26 days (sailing to/from Gaul and crossing Gaul at its narrowest point). 17 days on the ocean covered 2600 km, while 9 days on land covered 400 km. This is why Britain was “closer” to Rome than most of the German frontier areas or interior Gaul.

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  23. Stonetools says:

    I think that British exceptionalism is kind of like American exceptionalism. It’s an excuse to claim that they shouldn’t follow general rules that they insist others should follow. These days, the UK just isn’t that exceptional a European country any more and it should stop pretending it is. It may or may not be a good idea for the UK to join the EU. But let’s put aside the idea that it’s because the UK is currently “exceptional”.
    Oh and I’m in full agreement with Rafers rant. Todd’s theories are so much jibber jabber.

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  24. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I have not read Emmanuel Todd’s work, so I’m not in a complete position to defend it, but I’d caution about judging the quality of his thought/theory from a one sentence gloss deployed in the middle of another man’s polemic.

    Exactly. Rafer isn’t refuting the man’s career and research; he’s refuting a sentence about it. And hey, maybe he’s studied Todd’s work and is providing great insights. My bet is no, he’s not. For example: I bet that Todd is aware that England is on an island. I’ve never read Todd’s work, but if he simply collects anecdotes, he probably picked up that one somewhere along the way. Is it more likely that Todd never considered the impact of England being on an island, or that Rafer doesn’t know the whole content of Todd’s work? As for the comment about Japan, (a) capitalism has been broadly accepted there, (b) it’s had a great run, considering people were dying of starvation in the late 1940′s, and (c) the relationship between the individual and the community is very different there than it is in England. And (d), the Anglosphere has had a lot of influence on Japan in the past 150 years.

    I don’t know if Todd’s theory is full of holes. I don’t know Todd’s theory. Does Rafer think he does?

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  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: Rafer is responding to James’ blog post, not writing a master’s thesis.

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  26. Tillman says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The North Sea wasn’t really an impediment to invaders – it was more the case that no one ever bothered to invade via the North Sea, since it was cold and stormy and there was already a land route to the Netherlands (but again, many invaders didn’t bother because it (a) wasn’t on a major trade route and (b) was swampy and non-fertile.

    And that the Dutch going back to William of Orange could just flood their country at will to ward off invasions. They did so against the Spanish in the Eighty Years’ War. Not quite as good as being an island but nearly as effective.

    Presuming Todd’s argument hinges on family structure, I don’t buy it either.

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  27. Rob in CT says:

    The UK will be fine so long as it keeps the Pound. :)

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  28. Ron Beasley says:

    You could easily make the same argument that the United States is not really one country. The deep South has little in common with The Northeast and the west coast. Even my own small state of Oregon could be seen as two or three states based on culture and politics and I’m sure that’s true of nearly every state. The same can be said for Texas where the city states of Houston and Dallas have little in common with the rest of the state.

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  29. PD Shaw says:

    Britain and Scandinavia enjoy better demographic prospects than do most Continental countries.

    I don’t think he is necessarily referring only to birthrates. His English is not terribly good, but as I understand the tape above, he is saying that Britain, Scandinavia and France have traditionally been individualistic countries, and countries that place a relatively high status on women, and have birth rates of around 2.0 to 2.1 (like the U.S.). Many other parts of Europe have authoritarian traditions and less female respect, and low birth rates (I think he means Germany in particular)

    It is an interesting division he draws, since high birth rates in many developing countries are associated with very patriarchal cultures. He may be making a point I’ve heard about Japanese society — that access to contraception is a reality in First World economies, but if the culture doesn’t fully embrace women’s various aspirations, she will likely avoid having children.

    In any event, I think his larger point is that Great Britain has more cultural affinities with a growing Anglo-sphere that provide it an opportunity to avoid combination with less liberal European countries, which France does not.

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  30. PD Shaw says:

    @Tillman: “Presuming Todd’s argument hinges on family structure, I don’t buy it either.”

    I think it does. This page has a very lengthy review of one of Todd’s books. You can either scroll down to the map of Traditional Family Systems, or click here.

    He seems to be arguing that family organization with large interdependent multi-generational members increases the comfort with more centralized systems, while more radical nuclear families encourage a child to leave home as soon as they reach adulthood, a step which encourages parents to encourage learning.

    The map is interesting.

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  31. Pinky says:

    @PD Shaw:

    He may be making a point I’ve heard about Japanese society — that access to contraception is a reality in First World economies, but if the culture doesn’t fully embrace women’s various aspirations, she will likely avoid having children.

    That’s really interesting.

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  32. michael reynolds says:

    The English Channel didn’t get any wider, but yes England became more united, and of course over time the nature of a possible cross-channel invasion changed. Better roads meant troops could be moved more easily to confront a landing. The rise of the Royal Navy kept Napoleon at bay. And by the time Hitler was eyeballing Britain technology had changed the playing field – invasion required dominance of the air as well as of the sea. That’s why the reverse (UK/US to Normandy 1944) worked. So the channel didn’t change, but everything around it did.

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  33. Pinky says:

    @Ron Beasley: The question becomes one of definition: country, culture, civilization, whatever. I think we underrate the connection within the Anglosphere – and I’d include the Indian subcontinent in that as well. Oregon is Canada is Houston is Sydney in a way that Geneva isn’t.

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  34. Grewgills says:

    @Tillman:
    I lived in Leiden for a bit and they celebrate flooding the polders and drowning the Spanish every 3 October.

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  35. Grewgills says:

    French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd argues “There is no such thing as Europe” because the English-speaking and Scandinavian countries are so culturally different from the rest of the Continent.

    Similarly there is no Asia, Africa, South or North America, the only continents are Australia* and Antarctica**.

    * Technically a continent
    ** If I could speak penguin I might have to cross them off the list.

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  36. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:

    I think we underrate the connection within the Anglosphere – and I’d include the Indian subcontinent in that as well.

    Gotta push back on that. Read how the next comment scans as to why:

    Oregon is Canada is Houston is Sydney is Banglor

    The key difference is that in the case of the US, Canada, and Australia, English settlers (and those from outside European Countries who mainstreamed into “Anglo” culture) displaced the indigenous populations.

    In the case of India, the native population endured and Anglosized enough to “beat the British at their own game*.” However, large amount of the population remained culturally Indian.

    * – There’s a reason why Cricket is so popular in India. No better way to beat your colonizers than to dominate them in their national sport.

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  37. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Do you really think London has more in common with Mumbai than Paris or Munich?

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  38. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius: You’re right, the people of the Indian subcontinent are not fully Anglicized, and some parts were barely affected. I think that India as a national unit shows a lot of British influence. Also, I was thinking about how Egypt didn’t absorb the British influence.

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  39. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:
    Colonization always runs two ways (in that the British also became more Indian in some respects). But the key thing is that the Angloshpere is also, by and large, the British Diaspora grown up.

    India, Pakistan (to a lesser degree), Afghanistan, Egypt, and other locations in Africa are all example of a fundamentally different process. Each was an example of the British trying to transform existing external cultures. That process never has gone smoothly or worked particularly well.

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  40. Ron Beasley says:

    @Pinky: I disagree- I lived in Europe for several years, southern Bavaria and Munich to be exact and I felt very comfortable there. I might agree with you on Geneva although even the Germans didn’t feel comfortable in Switzerland – it is it’s own universe sometimes, I also lived in Japan for a couple of years and since WWII it has morphed into a totally western country. I felt very comfortable in Japan as well. I have traveled to Texas on business many times and must admit that outside of Houston or Dallas I did not feel comfortable. I once went for a job interview in Springfield, Missouri and knew that was not a place I wanted to live.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Yep. I’d be a lot more comfortable living in France than in the mountain west or the old south.

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  42. PD Shaw says:

    @Pinky: In India, the British educated a native elite over the period of several generations and that elite ended up taking over the country. And when this native gentlemanly-elite took over the country they fought to preserve British institutions.

    India was the crown jewel, worthy of substantial investment. Egypt was a debtor-nation, placed under receivership until its finances were straightened and debts repaid.

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  43. grumpy realist says:

    Well, I guess it’s better than the typical French intellectual blather, which usually ends up expounding about the superlative aspects of French culture, either connected to the use of French as a language or the fantastic goodness of French law (none of that icky Roman stuff.)

    Where in the heck does Todd get the idea that England has “a peculiar emphasis on liberty and property”? The only peculiarity that comes to my mind is the existence of trust law in the English system (formed in the courts of equity because the normal English law was so effed up), and England’s weird form of property laws, basically a tax kludge because a whole bunch of Norman barons didn’t want to pay inheritance taxes.

    Somehow hinging your case on the incompetence of English action law and the Rule Against Perpetuities doesn’t seem to be that great of an argument.

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  44. PD Shaw says:

    @grumpy realist: Todd’s main emphasis on property rights appears to be alienability, particularly through wills. I think this was Tocqueville’s observation on America as well, that liberal inheritance meant that an estate would eventually split, while France protected the estate through restrictions that entrenched aristocracy.

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  45. Lounsbury says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    Very good. That entire thesis is incoherent bollocks. Nevermind that UK deciding to pretend EU doesn’t exist and engage in some uneconomic fuzzy minded reorientation to ‘anglosphere’ would be like Quebec deciding to pretend USA doesn’t exist….

    It’s sheer and utter bollocks.

    @Pinky: Egypt didn’t absorb English influence? That is nonsense. Lesser extent than India? Yes, but then the Egyptians were under English indirect rule for mere decades contra centuries in India, so one would rather expect a difference, eh?

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  46. grumpy realist says:

    @PD Shaw: I guess Todd has never run across the concept of the entailed estate….?

    Man, someone send that guy some Jane Austen!

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  47. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: “Well, I guess it’s better than the typical French intellectual blather, which usually ends up expounding about the superlative aspects of French culture, either connected to the use of French as a language or the fantastic goodness of French law”

    Well, thank God no one in America would ever expound about the superlative aspects of American culture. And that’s just one more thing that makes us the Greatest Country In The History Of The Universe!!!!!!

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  48. DrDaveT says:

    Addressing only the title of this article… The last time I was in Europe, all of the young people (and many middle-aged people) that I spoke with had two primary allegiances: their region, and Europe. In Bavaria, the flags we saw flying were Bayern and EU — not Germany. In Galicia, we saw Galicia and EU — not Spain. In Corsica, it was Corse and EU — not France.

    If Europe is a delusion, it’s a mass delusion.

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  49. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Yep. I’ve had the same experience. Not with Brits, of course, but of course with Catalans, Florentines, and even Frenchman.

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  50. Dave Schuler says:

    Is there a lot more to the hypothesis than that institutions matter in how societies develop? That would seem obvious enough.

    I also think it’s obvious that we, the British, and the Dutch have certain similarities which would stand to reason given the geography, history, and institutions. The Dutch invented modern finance which rapidly spread to England and its colonies but was slower to be adopted elsewhere. The Danish, Swedes, and Norse, too? I don’t know enough about their history or culture to decide.

    That some societies are more like each other than they are others would also appear to be obvious. How you go about quantifying that is another matter altogether and I would think inevitably highly subjective.

    That the absolute nuclear family is the singular institution that has dispositively produced these societal differences within Europe sounds like a stretch to me.

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  51. Mikey says:

    @DrDaveT:

    In Bavaria, the flags we saw flying were Bayern and EU — not Germany.

    Given that Bayern is the Texas of Germany, I’m not too surprised…

    I bet you’d have seen a whole lot of German flags on Sunday, though.

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  52. Pinky says:

    @DrDaveT: You and Michael are supporting the notion that continental Europe feels more unified with each other than the British Isles feel unified with continental Europe.

    Looking at it that way, I have to wonder if there’s something in the state/superstate loyalty that’s worth looking at. US citizens are citizens of their states and the country. Brits, Scots, and Welshmen have their nationality and their collective Great identity. Does that make us less likely to imagine another (super-)superstate over top of us? I dunno. Scandinavia has a long-standing history of war; now they’re functionally unified. The Netherlands is a superstate, in a way. But then again, so are Germany and Italy, and fairly recent. But, the German post-war psyche is understandably bruised. I’ll have to think about this more.

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    I bet you’d have seen a whole lot of German flags on Sunday, though.

    Absolutely. In fact, I had one delightful teen in Regensburg tell me “I’m only German for the Olympics and World Cup.”

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  54. grumpy realist says:

    @wr: Oh, c’mon. The French themselves poke fun at the stuffiness of L’Academie Francaise and its doomed attempts to keep foreign loanwords out.

    I was also making a very obscure joke about Hotman’s history of French law (which I still haven’t managed to track down a Latin edition of.) It was chest-thumping about how the French should get rid of Roman law and go back to the purer Frankish law. Part of the reason why Napoleon was able to ruthlessly run over everything with his Civil Code.

    About the only place in the world that has anything left from Roman Law is South Africa, actually. It turns out that the Dutch settlers had brought over enough of their old legal system as settlers before Napoleon started rampaging through Europe like a hyperactive housewife.

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  55. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Considering that Scotland is just about to have its referendum on splitting from the UK, you may want to rethink your concepts….

    I think we’re going to see individual chunks of countries in Europe quasi-split off and be held together in a loose federalism under an overarching aegis called “Europe.” There’s certainly enough history for this sort of stuff–the nation-state is actually a pretty recent concept.

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  56. @Rafer Janders: You should look at Todd’s books before you are so dismissive. His older books, which Jim Bennett and I relied on in America 3.0, are The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems (1985) and The Causes of Progress: Culture, Authority and Change (1987). Todd has recently published the first of two volumes entitled L’origine des systèmes familiaux (The Origins of Family Systems) (2011), which is currently available only in French.

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  57. @Michael J. Lotus: While you are waiting for Todd’s books from interlibrary loan, take a look at this: “Family Types and the Persistence of Regional Disparities in Europe,” Gilles Duranton, Andrés Rodríguez-Poseb, and Richard Sandall, Bruges European Economic Research Paper No. 10 (2010), which is available online.

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  58. Matt Bernius says:

    @Michael J. Lotus:
    Thanks for joining the conversation! Would you be willing to either unpack the foundations of Todd’s argument or suggest an online reference that does that work?

    I think that will help things tremendously.

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  59. @Michael J. Lotus: Mistake. The Duranton article is from 2007.

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  60. @Matt Bernius:

    Matt, this essay, by Duranton, et al., applies Todd’s approach.

    The very, very short version is that historical patterns of family structure have strong predictive power with regard to the type of political and economic order which arises in those communities, and on how well those communities perform economic and politically. The periphery of the North Sea has a particular type of family structure, the Absolute Nuclear Family, including Englandwhich has certain distinct characteristics, which include an unusually high focus on liberty versus equality, for one example. This ANF background is part of why modern democratic capitalism emerged in England, for example, though of course it has spread to other communities and taken on a local coloration based on the local culture.

    Take a look at the Todd-related posts on the blog of the America 3.0 Institute, for more details.

    Bennett and I apply a partly “Toddean” analysis in our essay America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ?

    They may be of interest.

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  61. This post has a chart of family types, with maps. Scroll to the bottom.

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  62. Here is America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ? — the link above did not work.

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  63. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Scotland will vote to stay with the UK. The “yes” team is stuck at 40% and going nowhere.

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