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Who is Charlie?: Xenophobia and the New Middle Class

Hardback By Emmanuel Todd
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In the wake of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January 2015, millions took to the streets to demonstrate their revulsion, expressing a desire to reaffirm the ideals of the French Republic: liberté, égalité, fraternité. But who were the millions of demonstrators who were suddenly united under the single cry of ‘Je suis Charlie’?

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.

Product Details

Format: Hardback, 220 pages Language: English
Dimension: 21.84cm x 14.99cm x 2.29cm ISBN10: 1509505776
Weight: 390g ISBN13: 9781509505777
Publication Date: 18 Aug 2015 Publisher: Polity Press

About Author

Emmanuel Todd is an historian and sociologist at the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), Paris.

Product Reviews


"ToddÂs 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 ToddÂs 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


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