Cardijn’s influence as tracked in Google Books

Let’s track Cardijn’s influence over the years as measured by the frequency with which his name appears in published literature during his lifetime and up to the present.

Google Books has an excellent tool to do this, namely the Ngram Viewer, which allows you to track and compare the frequency of selected phrases over the years. Here’s Google’s explanation of what the Ngram Viewer does:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/info

A little more background here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Ngram_Viewer

Evidently a powerful tool but let’s start simply.

Let’s look first at the frequency with which Cardijn’s name appears in French:

It’s certainly not surprising to see a first peak in the number of appearances during the late 1940s, i.e. just after World War II, when the YCW was establishing itself as an organised international movement.

It’s a little surprising, however, to see how quickly the number drops away during the 1950s, only rising again in the 1970s after his 1967 death.

Also interesting that the number of references to Cardijn has continued to grow (with ups and downs) from the 1980s until around 2000 when it began to drop again, although still remaining high.

Now let’s look at the same graph for English language books:

As we can see, this graph is quite different from the French one, with a huge unmatched popularity peak during the 1950s, which also coincides with the peaks of the YCW movements in Australia, the UK, the USA and other English speaking regions.

It’s very striking though to observe how quickly and steeply the number of references to Cardijn drops during the 1960s, bottoming out in the early 1970s, before rising again and plateauing somewhat from the 1980s, with a new upward curve visible from the beginning of this century.

You can also compare frequencies in British English and American English. However, the curves are similar so I won’t include them here.

The Spanish chart differs again from the French and English ones. Here I have used both José Cardijn and Joseph Cardijn as search terms:

Significant peaks during the 1950s, followed by a massive peak during the late 1960s, which corresponds with the Medellin Conference of Latin American bishops (CELAM)), the rise of liberation theology, and perhaps also the peak period of the YCW movement in the Spanish speaking world.

In German, the number of references to Joseph or Josef Cardijn first peaked just after Vatican II in the late 1960s, followed by a steep decline during the 1970s. Since the 1980s, Cardijn has been on a significantly upward trend again.

Unfortunately, there is no equivalent graph available for Dutch/Flemish.

Interestingly, the Ngraph Viewer gives no results for either Joseph or Giuseppe Cardijn in Italian. This certainly reflects the difficulties Cardijn had in making an impact in the face of the influence of Italian style Catholic Action.

Summing up, no surprise to see Cardijn dropping off the scales in every language during the 1970s.

I am pleasantly surprised, however, to see the extent to which references to Cardijn have multiplied since the 1980s. This certainly seems to indicate a strong latent interest in his work.

Update: I should add that I am not surprised to see Cardijn dropping off the scales during the 1970s because that’s what I expected to see, based on what I already know.

On another level, however, it is quite stunning to observe how quickly his work was forgotten. That is a much bigger and more intriguing question!

Stefan Gigacz


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