Who is Charlie?: Xenophobia and the New Middle Class
September 2015, Polity
In this probing new book, Emmanuel Todd investigates the cartography and sociology of the three to four million who marched in Paris and across France and draws some unsettling conclusions. For while they claimed to support liberal, republican values, the real middle classes who marched on that day of indignant protest also had a quite different programme in mind, one that was far removed from their proclaimed ideal. Their deep values were in fact more reminiscent of the most depressing aspects of France’s national history: conservatism, selfishness, domination and inequality.
By identifying the anthropological, religious, economic and political forces that brought France to the edge of the abyss, Todd reveals the real dangers posed to all western societies when the interests of privileged middle classes work against marginalised and immigrant groups. Should we really continue to mistreat young people, force the children of immigrants to live on the outskirts of our cities, consign the poorer classes to the remoter parts of the country, demonise Islam, and allow the growth of an ever more menacing anti-Semitism? While asking uncomfortable questions and offering no easy solutions, Todd points to the difficult and uncertain path that might lead to an accommodation with Islam rather than a deepening and divisive confrontation.
CHAPTER ONE: A religious crisis
The terminal crisis in Catholicism
Religious decline and the rise of xenophobia
Catholic France and secular France: 1750-1960
The two Frances and equality
From the One God to the single currency
François Hollande, the Left, and zombie Catholicism
2005: a missed opportunity in class struggle?
CHAPTER TWO: Charlie
Charlie: middle class and zombie Catholics
1992-2015: from pro-Europeanism to neo-republicanism
The neo-republican reality: the ‘social state’ of the middle classes
Charlie is anxious
Secularism versus the Left
Catholicism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
CHAPTER THREE: When equality fails
The difficulties of secular, egalitarian France
The anthropology of a capitalism in crisis
The Europe of inequality
France, the Germans and the Arabs
Germany and circumcision
The great pro-European happening of 11 January 2015
Russia: an exceptional case
The mystery of Paris
The memory of places
The four stages of the crisis
CHAPTER IV: The French of the Far Right
The slow march of the National Front towards the centre ground in France
A perversion of universalism
Le Pen, Sarkozy and equality
The Socialist Party and inequality: the concept of objective xenophobia
Mélenchon and inequality
The insignificance of human beings and the violence of ideologies
CHAPTER FIVE: The French Muslims
The disintegration of North African cultures
Mixed marriages: Jews and Muslims
Ideologues and exogamy
The crushing of young people and the jihad factory
Moving beyond the fear of religion
Islam and equality
The inequality of the sexes
The anti-Semitism of the suburbs
The real republican past
The neo-republican present
Future 1: Confrontation
Future 2: the return to the Republic: an accommodation with Islam
A foreseeable deterioration
The secret weapon of the republican revival
"Todd s highly contrarian analysis of the Charlie movement and his strident tone have drawn widespread criticism. But the very boldness of his claims, backed up by hard data, commands attention. No student of the marches can ignore this deeply unconventional book."
Times Literary Supplement
"The value of Todd s book lies in the persuasive counter-narrative that debunks the Manichean interpretation of events that has thus far prevailed in media and political circles."
Times Higher Education
"The book offers a deeply reflective analysis of the Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris, and uses it brilliantly to explore and criticise the inner tensions and selective historical amnesia of French society that are taken to be responsible for its current Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. It shows with great insight and wisdom how to deal with these disturbing trends."
Bhikhu Parekh, House of Lords
"Who Is Charlie? stands out from all that has been written on the two massacres that took place in Paris in January 2015. It is an impressive analysis and a gripping read - I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. Emmanuel Todd's concern is not merely to trace the cause of these crimes but to reflect on them as a way of understanding the structural contradictions of contemporary France - a nation that continually invokes its Jacobin legacy (liberty, equality, fraternity) and yet allows that legacy to be undermined. This book is a brilliantly argued polemic and essential reading for understanding Islamophobia as a symptom of neo-Republican France in crisis."
Talal Asad, CUNY Graduate Center
"Who is Charlie? is an important little book, timely and pertinent, and not just for what it says about France. In all Western societies it is the middle classes who enjoy what globalization has created and it is the middle classes who would keep the dispossessed excluded by means of wage inequality and control of education. At the same time, no longer buttressed by the metaphysics of religion, an anxiety haunts the vacuum of the hollow culture that has replaced Catholicism and Protestantism. Charlie seeks a scapegoat, needs one, and the kind of hysteria that gripped France after the events of 7th January is capable of manifesting itself in countries outside of France."
Irish Left Review
"Perceptive and chilling"
London Review of Books