Excerpts from an interview of Emmanuel Todd for the New York City Tribune
A few years ago, a young French sociologist, Emmanuel Todd, made some very interesting studies about the links between various types of family structures and the political, religious and cultural environment. Todd became first known in France when, still in his twenties he published a book in 1976 entitled " The Final Fall " in which he accurately predicted that the Soviet Union would not survive in the 1980's. In his studies on the family, he identified many types of families (nuclear, extended, matriarchate, partriarchate) but with four basic categories which are combined in various ways. These categories are unequal type families with no equality between brothers and sisters, in particular concerning inheritance and often a birthright for the eldest son, egalitarian type families with all children on the same level, authoritarian type with children depending from their parents even after reaching adulthood and freedom-centered families where children freely leave the family and marry outside when they reach adulthood. He contended that a big historical event such as the French Revolution with its conflict between the values of freedom and equality which found some temporary solution with Napoleon and an authoritarian type regime granting some basic equality before the law among citizens with the Napoleonic Code of Laws, was a reflection of a struggle within families around the question of birthright, equality among brothers, authority and freedom from family ties.
Todd focused his studies first on family structures in France, then in Europe and finally throughout the world gathering an impressive quantity of data on this topic (see his book entitled La Troisième Planète, Publisher Seuil).
What is interesting with Todd's studies, is that it is the type of family, not the socioeconomic environment, not even religion, which is the most fundamental and important factor in defining a culture or a society. For example, to say that a society belongs to the Islamic world will give certain very general traits of this society but you can find key differences between Muslim societies in monogamous Bosnia or Malaysia with those in polygamous black Africa. In his study, he showed that differences in family structures do not coincide with racial differences, language barriers, nationalities or other traditional ways of distinguishing groups of people.
As a Christian (Unificationist), I was a bit shocked by his work because I felt he downplayed the role of religion. So I met him and interviewed him for a US newspaper, the now defunct New York City Tribune. He is not dogmatic and does not pretend the family structure explains all but he questioned Max Weber's view that religious changes such as the Protestant reform were the cause for other social or economic changes, saying instead that some types of societies and family structures were more receptive to some types of religious changes and were adapting these changes according to the prevailing type of family in these societies.
Even if his work is not the work of a moralist but of a sociologist, he is not at all enthusiastic for free sex. He said " in country with authoritarian type families, free sex is leading to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World " and more generally, free sex is leading to a reinforcement of the role of the state. One important criteria in Todd's work is the age of marriage.
Anyway, Todd's studies run counter the common modern view which insists on economic and social factors as decisive in children's education and development. Sure, if a family lives in extreme poverty, it is difficult if not impossible to educate children properly. But it seems that some cultures generate poverty while others generate wealth and this has much to do with the quality of family life in these cultures.