Füredi, Frank 1947-
FÜREDI, Frank 1947-
PERSONAL: Born May 3, 1947, in Budapest, Hungary; son of Laszlo (a watchmaker) and Klara (a homemaker; maiden name, Taub) Füredi; married, 1981; wife's name Ann (a social services manager); children: Jacob. Education: McGill University, B.A. (with honors), 1969; School of Oriental and African Studies, M.A., 1970; University of Kent/Canterbury, Ph.D., 1987.
ADDRESSES: Office—School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, Cornwallis NE, The University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NY, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London, England, research fellow, 1973; University of Kent, Canterbury, England, lecturer, 1974, became senior lecturer, 1992, reader in sociology, 1997–2001, professor of sociology, 2001–.
The Soviet Union Demystified: A Materialist Analysis, Junius (London, England), 1986.
The Mau Mau War in Perspective, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1989.
Mythical Past, Elusive Future: History and Society in an Anxious Age, Pluto Press (Concord, MA), 1992.
The New Ideology of Imperialism: Renewing the Moral Imperative, Pluto Press (Boulder, CO), 1994.
Population and Development: A Critical Introduction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation, Cassell (Washington, DC), 1997, revised edition, Continuum Press (New York, NY), 2002.
The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1998.
Courting Mistrust: The Hidden Growth of a Culture of Litigation in Britain, Centre for Policy Studies (London, England), 1999.
Paranoid Parenting: Abandon Your Anxieties and Be a Good Parent, Penguin/Alan Lane (London, England), 2001, published as Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May Be the Best for Your Child, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.
Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.
Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism, Continuum Press (New York, NY), 2004.
The Politics of Fear, Continuum Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Work represented in compilations, including Themes in Contemporary History, edited by A. Gorst and S. Lucas, Francis Pinter, 1991; Emergencies and Disorders in the European Empires after 1945, edited by R. Holland, Frank Cass, 1994; Has History Ended? Fukuyama, Marx, Modernity, edited by C. Bertram and A. Chitty, Avebury, 1994; International Encyclopaedia of Business and Management, Thomson Business Press, 1996; New Perspectives on International Relations, edited by C. Thomas, Macmillan, 1997; Environmental Health: Third World Problems, First World Preoccupations, edited by L. Mooney and R. Bates, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999; Health Promotion: Multi-Discipline or New Discipline, edited by C. Kelleher and R. Edmondson, Irish Academic Press, 2001; Rethinking "Race Mixing," edited by D. Parker and M. Song, Pluto Press, 2001; The Cross-National Diffusion of Social Problems Claims, edited by J. Best, Aldine de Gruyter, 2001.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including New Scientist, Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Wall Street Journal, Independent on Sunday, Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, Times Higher Education Supplement, Times Literary Supplement, and Die Zeit.
SIDELIGHTS: Sociologist Frank Füredi's research interests focus on the construction of contemporary social problems (risk, social panics, race, and demography) and on the sociology of identity and belonging (litigation, race mixing, and morality). In The Mau Mau War in Perspective, he draws on his research in Kenya and England to focus on the struggle between the Kikuyu squatters in the White Highlands and the European settlers. R. Hyam maintained in the English Historical Review that "for those who want to know about the squatter movement in Mau Mau this study can be recommended. What is not so good is that here we have yet another book which whitewashes Mau Mau." Choice reviewer P.F. Barty noted that Füredi makes comparisons to movements in Ireland during the 1800s and in West Africa and Malaya during the twentieth century. Barty called the book "a valuable addition to the literature on Mau Mau."
New Statesman & Society contributor Stephen Howe wrote that the argument of Mythical Past, Elusive Future: History and Society in an Anxious Age "is the pure milk of Enlightenment Marxism." Howe declared that in reviewing recent debates about history's political meanings, Füredi "finds in them all evidence of a common surrender to irrationalist, usually nationalistic, and even racist pessimism. The past is celebrated and mythologised because confidence in the future has been lost. Conservatives celebrate an upper-case History because taking refuge in legends of tradition, usually national tradition, is their only remaining defence against an all-pervading sense of crisis symbolised by the still-threatening legacy of the 1960s and the insurgent Third World."
Fred Weinstein complained in the American Historical Review that "to lend a sense of urgency to his argument, Füredi must claim that everyday life in Western societies following the collapse of communism is more chaotic than ever before, a difficult proposition to defend. In attempting to defend it, however, the author uses the language of anxiety, conflict, crisis, exhaustion, fear, and unease more often than Sigmund Freud did in his most pessimistic work, and more obsessively than can possibly be justified."
A reviewer in the Journal of Economic Literature thought that The New Ideology of Imperialism: Renewing the Moral Imperative "explores how and why the phenomenon of third world nationalism has been manipulated and demonized by the West and how imperialism has been defended." Foreign Affairs contributor Francis Fukuyama claimed that Füredi makes the case that Imperialist ideology defines Third World nationalism "as 'tribalism,' 'wardlordism,' 'the Islamic threat,' 'terrorism,' and so on." However, Choice reviewer P. Rutland called the short book "a sustained polemic" and wrote that Füredi's argument is "one-sided."
Howe reviewed The New Ideology of Imperialism and Colonial Wars and the Politics of Third World Nationalism, in New Statesman & Society and felt that the two books are connected by one argument with two main strands. The first uncovers "a mass of fear and contempt towards anti-colonial nationalist movements among British and U.S. policymakers from the 1940s onwards." According to Howe, the second strand "seeks to uncover not just denigration but manipulation. British policymakers, in the cases of Kenya, Malaysia, and Guyana examined in Colonial Wars, set out to 'divide and rule': to engineer splits in nationalist movements and isolate, then crush, their more radical wings." Howe claimed Füredi "has done a careful job of research: this is neither a purely propagandistic nor a dishonest book."
Howe wrote that The New Ideology of Imperialism "is a more argumentative, present-minded book," and noted that for this work Füredi relied primarily on opinion pieces and other newspaper articles that often portrayed the people of Third World countries as being at fault for their problems. Howe felt that the author fails to discuss calls for action on democratic or humanitarian grounds and that the voices of radical Arab, Asian, and African writers "are sadly absent" from the books.
Economic Journal reviewer Robert Read called Population and Development: A Critical Introduction "a politically correct post-modern development text … which … attempts to demonstrate that the West's concern with reducing global … population growth is little more than disguised eugenics." Füredi argues that population numbers are often cited to influence political action. Sara Curran wrote in Contemporary Sociology that "the driving force of the analysis is found in the noted hypocrisy of the European obsession with falling birth rates in Europe and with Euro U.S. policies to promote family planning in former colonies and protectorates." Curran pointed out that United States and European national security concerns "drive a competitive fertility game."
Curran noted the three points made by Füredi in examining whether population growth matters. "First, evidence and theory point to positive, negative, and neutral statements about the impact of population growth upon society. Second, 'phenomenal' growth in population cannot be viewed in isolation from the 'phenomenal' growth in population movement, technology, food production, and so on…. Third, demographic research and population policy have isolated the individual (woman) as the place for social change and population control." Choice reviewer J.R. McDonald called Population and Development an "impressive study" and "an important contribution to the population versus development debate."
Claire Rayner wrote in New Statesman & Society that in Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation, Füredi "argues that we have become a namby-pamby species rather than the up-and-at-'em lot our ancestors were; that we need to challenge fear-mongers lest we destroy the human spirit and, with it, the risk-taking that leads to bigger and better things." "Füredi reasons that the public misperceptions of risk can be traced to the pervasive belief that society is fundamentally out of control," stated W. James Potter in the Journal of Communication. "Without order, risk is perceived to be random—that is, we are all susceptible to risk, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. Füredi points out that this is a misperception, because risk is not random. The reality is that we can control risk to a large degree through our behaviors and choices."
Nature contributor John Galloway noted that Füredi "seems angered by the fact that small events use up more of people's emotional energy than large ones." The media often creates public concern, and single accidents, natural disasters, crimes, and research findings can escalate to become causes. "All this begs the question of whether the public are really consumed with anxiety about the state of the world," continued Galloway. "Or are we merely entertained by the passing show, experiencing emotion briefly and superficially?"
The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race is a study of Anglo-American approaches to racism in international affairs from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s. Füredi uses examples such as President Woodrow Wilson's successful effort to help kill a racial equality amendment in the draft of the League of Nations Covenant and subsequent avoidance of the issue of race in foreign policy. World War II saw racist propaganda against the Japanese, while Western countries that practiced racism called on their minorities and colonists to serve in the war. This eventually forced these countries to acknowledge and deal with their own race relations. "Füredi argues that the war helped 'discredit racism,'" declared Carol Ann Traut in the MultiCultural Review. "Füredi's efforts at describing the role of race in Anglo-American foreign policy before the 1960s provide a useful historical overview."
Füredi once told CA: "In recent years my work has been devoted to an exploration of the question of risk consciousness and its impact on contemporary society. Although my work is strongly influenced by the insights of social constructionist sociology, my past training in field work and history bring to the study of social problems a historical and empirical dimension. Elements of this approach are outlined in my previous three books: Population and Development, The Silent War, and in particular in The Culture of Fear. These three texts examine the problematisation of different forms of social anxieties (race, population and risk) and have provided me with an opportunity to elaborate a sociological approach that synthesises the methods of historical inquiry with the insights of sociological investigation…. Paranoid Parenting, develops this approach in relation to social anxieties about childhood."
Füredi's Paranoid Parenting: Abandon Your Anxieties and Be a Good Parent (title of the 2002 U.S. edition is Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May Be the Best for Your Child) takes as its premise that parents are made anxious by too much advice from child-care specialists. According to a contributor for Publishers Weekly, the book "outlines how parents have become victims of scare tactics about everything from breast vs. bottle to whether to let their kids play outside." Füredi's solution is a return to a trust in parents' intuition and judgment, for parents know their children best. The Publishers Weekly contributor found Paranoid Parenting both "unsettling and insightful." Similarly, Vanessa Bush, reviewing the same work in Booklist, called it a "thoughtful book [that] should help parents balance paranoia and appropriate concerns about child safety." Antoinette Brinkman, writing in the Library Journal, added to the praise, dubbing Paranoid Parenting "provocative, well argued, and clearly written."
With Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, Füredi tackles another of modern society's experts, the therapist and psychoanalyst, arguing that "the language and sentiment of psychotherapy have now spread outside the confines of the clinic, widely infecting society at large," as Raj Persaud noted in the British Medical Journal. This in turn has led, as Füredi asserts, to a sense of victimhood, vulnerability, and powerlessness on the part of a vast segment of the population. While questioning some of the less-than-academic sources quoted in the book and taking issue also with some of Füredi's sweeping generalizations, Persaud went on to note that this "does not mean that there aren't some significant ideas here." Similarly, Darian Leader, writing in the New Statesman, noted that the author's "gloomy portrait of the contemporary psyche is both valuable and confused." As in Paranoid Parenting, Füredi argues that we should trust our instincts and personal insights more. Leader noted, Füredi advises that "instead of consulting the experts, we ought to learn from experience." For Leader, this "naive view blinds [Füredi] to many of the positive effects of therapy" However, writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Allan V. Horwitz felt that "one of the more interesting aspects of Füredi's argument is his turning on their head traditional interpretations of therapeutic culture as enhancing the power and autonomy of the self." As Horwitz and other reviewers pointed out, Füredi "convincingly argues that therapeutic culture has actually opened the sphere of private life to far greater amounts of professional management than ever before." Though Horwitz also complained of over-simplification and often "anecdotal" arguments in the book, he found the author "provides a stimulating, provocative, and original perspective on a widely discussed trend."
Füredi takes on another trend, the death of intellectual culture, in his 2004 title, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism. Here Füredi's thesis is that in the modern world the intelligentsia is ever shrinking, as is the intellectual domain, victim, as Füredi sees it, of a school curriculum that puts personal experience at the center of things and that narrows the educational horizon. The modern spirit of inclusivism in Western cultures is not truly democratic, the author maintains, because it means a leveling of knowledge instead of an opening of possibilities. True intellectuals have been turned into experts and theorists focusing on one subject rather than taking a more global perspective as intellectuals once did. Writing in the Spectator, Theodore Dalrymple called Füredi's book an "attack on cultural populism." For Dalrymple, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? "deals, for the most part, bracingly and astringently with a vitally important question." Terry Eagleton, writing in the New Statesman, also found Füredi's book "vitally important." As Eagleton noted, "With the decline of the critical intellectual, the thinker gives way to the expert, politics yields to technocracy, and culture and education lapse into forms of social therapy." For Eagleton, Füredi's book is "a courageous intervention, not least because it risks being mistaken for yet another right-wing jeremiad."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1994, Fred Weinstein, review of Mythical Past, Elusive Future, pp. 518-519.
Booklist, September 1, 2002, Vanessa Bush, review of Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May Be Best for Your Child, p. 35.
British Medical Journal, November 29, 2003, Raj Persaud, review of Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, p. 1293.
Choice, July, 1990, P. F. Barty, review of The Mau Mau War in Perspective, p. 1870; October, 1994, P. Rutland, review of The New Ideology of Imperialism: Renewing the Moral Imperative, p. 361; February, 1995, review of The New Ideology of Imperialism, p. 901; December, 1997, J.R. McDonald, review of Population and Development, pp. 679-680.
Contemporary Sociology, March, 1999, Sara Curran, review of Population and Development, pp. 201-202.
Economic Journal, July, 1998, Robert Read, review of Population and Development, p. 1258.
English Historical Review, April, 1993, R. Hyam, review of The Mau Mau War in Perspective, pp. 538-539.
Foreign Affairs, September-October, 1994, Francis Fukuyama, review of The New Ideology of Imperialism, p. 144.
Journal of Communication, autumn, 1998, W. James Potter, "Misperceptions of Risk," pp. 162-167.
Journal of Developing Areas, spring, 1998, Lee L. Bean, review of Population and Development, p. 404.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 1994, review of The New Ideology of Imperialism, p. 2013.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Child Psychiatry, March, 2005, Allan V. Horwitz, review of Therapy Culture, p. 301.
Library Journal, October 15, 2002, Antoinette Brinkman, review of Paranoid Parenting, p. 87.
MultiCultural Review, September, 1999, Carol Ann Traut, review of The Silent War, p. 82.
Nature, January 22, 1998, John Galloway, "Worried to Death," p. 350.
New Statesman, November 3, 2003, Darian Leader, "The Curse of the Talking Cure," review of Therapy Culture, p. 48; September 13, 2004, Terry Eagleton, "Too Clever by Half," review of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism, p. 48.
New Statesman & Society, January 10, 1992, Stephen Howe, "Marxism Resuscitated," pp. 39-40; March 25, 1994; Stephen Howe, review of The New Ideology of Imperialism and Colonial Wars and the Politics of Third World Nationalism, p. 52; November 21, 1997, Claire Rayner, review of Culture of Fear, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2002, review of Paranoid Parenting, p. 85.
Spectator, October 2, 2004, Theodore Dalrymple, review of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, p. 47.
Wilson Quarterly, spring, 2003, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, "Bringing Up Baby," review of Paranoid Parenting, p. 109.
Frank Füredi Home Page, http://www.frankfuredi.com (August 22, 2005).
University of Kent Web site, http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ (August 22, 2005), "Frank Füredi, Professor of Sociology."