The Deulofeu metaphor.

El Punt. Friday, 11th November 2005. Viewpoint. Page 25.

The «Deulofeu metaphor».

In order to calculate life spans and transitions of the different stages of a civilization, Alexandre Deulofeu used to apply mathematical methods. According to these calculations, every civilization would last for a period of about six and a half centuries1.

Xavier Díez. Tribune. Historian.

Homenatge a Alexandre Deulofeu, pensador i exalcalde de Figueres. / Manuel Llado.
Homage to Alexandre Deulofeu, intellectual and former mayor. / Manuel Lladó.

Quite recently, historian Enric Pujol coordinated an interesting book which recalls and popularizes the historiographic thought of Alexandre Deulofeu, a citizen of Figueres (1903-1978). This man from Empordà, companion and participant in social gatherings with Francesc Pujols or Salvador Dalí, with a rock hard scientific training, worked out a complex, cyclical theory of history, which now Enric Pujol, together with Jordi Casassas, Francesc Roca and the grandchild of the man, Juli Gutièrrez Deulofeu, have rescued from the oblivion and the indifference of the University circles. The cyclical theories of history start from a basic principle which is consubstantial with western culture. This establishes that human societies go through phases of ascension, plenitude and decline, just as any other natural body. Even if this basic idea would be easily consistent with the majority of social beliefs, today it has no academical endorsement. Perhaps through the influence of Hegel’s and Marx’s principles of an illimited progress, or through the discredited Fukuyama’s idea of the end of history, the great formulators of these theories, such as Oswald Spengler or Arnold Toynbee, are being studied in the faculties of history more as oddities in the matter than as influential intellectuals.

Alexandre Deulofeu, on the contrary, the author of works which, for numbers and quality, can be compared with those of the German and the English authors, has been underestimated by those who manage the academic correction, and sent into exile far from the Olympus of recognized historians. Before we synthesize his complex thought, it must be explained that a historiographic theory is not a theological system, a stiff method to explain with precision any social phenomenon, which is the mistake many historians make. It is rather a system of intellectual structures which will help us to take our own approach when the past must be interpreted.

The above having been said, Deulofeu’s thought appears iconoclastic, especially through his obsession to apply mathematical methods to calculate times and transitions of social, political and especially cultural factors. According to this, every civilization would last for about six and a half centuries2, going through different phases: equality-bondage, federalism-empire, inspiration-mannerism, until the process starts all over again. These ideas, which are really surprising, could be perfectly ignored less for the fact that some of his predictions, against all odds, have been fulfilled. So, in the fifties of the last century, he foretold the recovery of Germany (which today only suffers an assimilation crisis of the East and the revolt of her élites against the Rhenish capitalism), the British decline and the fall of the Soviet empire. He also prophesied the deconstruction process of the working class conscience and the progressive erosion of their rights, as it is happening today. Finally, as a prophecy not yet accomplished, he announced the year 2029 as a date for a hypothetical Catalan independence from a Spain in decadence. In any case, beyond the contents of this little great book, La matemàtica de la història (Mathematics of History), the authors encourage us to analyse all that surrounds this character, unknown and fascinating.

Deulofeu, an inspired scientist (the Empordà must be one of the world areas with the greatest density of this sort of characters), even if peripheral. His self-taught historiographic training, and his republican condition, pushed him to the French exile first, and the domestic exile later, in a life shut away in the outskirts of the cultural and political world. Far from the power circles, writing his ambitious theory sheltered in the back room of his chemist’s shop, he outlined his huge work, which he published at his own expense. Underrated by the university people, ignored by the politicians at the time in which the mineral water Vichy Catalan extolled Vicens Vives who praised the Catalan collaborating élites, Deulofeu carried on without fainting, with his controversial and original theses.

This scholar, unawares of it, became the metaphor of the nation of exile, of the resisting spirit of catacombs, sacrificed during the transition to ensure the power exchange without any interference. If there is a lesson to be learnt here, it is that a country and its culture cannot live without the protection of a state and its institutions, neither can it rest on secret voluntary organizations, confined in a permanent complex of belonging to a national anomaly, unable to make itself heard and respected. Because the best ideas, even if very brilliant, without the support of an actual power to endorse them, may end up confined into oblivion.

1, 2. Note of the editor of the web page: Here there is an error. According to Alexandre Deulofeu, every civilization cycle, of the three which a culture may develop, lasts about seventeen centuries, of which the first six and a half century belong to the period called fragmentation, and the remaining ten centuries and a half to the stage of great unification.