I found this a fascinating book, in spite of some over-generalizations. We all know that something is wrong with Europe, and with France in particular, but what? The argument starts with this:
We need to take religion seriously, especially when it starts to disappear.
…we gave the name ‘zombie Catholicism’ to the anthropological and social force that emerged from the final disintegration of the Church in its traditional bastions…This cultural survival is probably the most important social phenomenon of the years from 1965 to 2015. It eventually led France into a multifaceted ideological venture, including the rise of a new kind of socialism, decentralization, a surge of pro-European feeling, a masochistic monetary policy, a deformation of the nature of the Republic, and, as we shall later see, a particularly shifty form of Islamophobia and, probably, of anti-Semitism.
It’s hard to unpack this following sentence in a blog post, but it gives you an indication of where the book is heading:
The demonization of Islam is a response to the intrinsic need of a completely de-Christianized society.
Todd notes that the vote share of the National Front is higher in “egalitarian territory” than in inegalitarian territory (pp.125-126). And yet there is more:
We have been obliged to admit that there is a zombie Catholicism, and a zombie Protestantism too. We should not shy away from postulating that there is a zombie Islam.
Ross Douthat, telephone!
I ordered my copy from Amazon.uk. Here is a useful article on the French controversies surrounding this book. It’s making my list for one of the most interesting of the year.