Archives for posts with tag: peter turchin

inigo montoya sm

asabiyyah. it’s a word that was used by ibn khaldun in his work on history entitled Muqaddimah or Prolegomena (“Introduction” — here’s a version on google books).

asabiyyah often gets translated simply as “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” or “group feeling” which has led many a westerner to think that it can be applied to any old group, but that is just not so. this “group feeling” that khaldun was writing about was specifically the solidarity found in arab or arabized clans and tribes. other thinkers of the islamic golden age, such as al-farabi, also discussed the concept of asabiyyah. al-farabi, however, used the word more in its (apparently) original sense — clannishness. i kid you not! [pg. 171]:

“According to Muhsin Mahdi in his authoritative work, ‘Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History’ (London: George Allen and Unwin, 195), 263 n. 1, Ibn Khaldun’s use of ‘asabiyyah differs from Alfarabi’s. The former views ‘asabiyyah both as a source of division *and* as a source of unity; the latter views it merely as a source of division. Thus, Mahdi translates ‘asabiyyah in his book on Ibn Khaldun as ‘social solidarity’ rather than as ‘clannishness.’

“But perhaps Iban Khaldun has not departed from Alfarabi in the respect Mahdi suggests. For Alfarabi, although ‘asabiyyah is a source of division between different clans, it is certainly a source of unity within the clan (or *dunasteia*). The common purpose of fighting common enemies unites the members of the clan. Once the law has unified clans into a city, the city’s common fighting purpose still derives from the ‘asabiyyah of its citizens, especially of its leading clan. Is ‘asabiyyah really a greater source of unity than this in the ‘Muqaddimah’? As Mahdi himself notes, Ibn Khaldun never identifies what he calls the ‘natural rule or governance (*mulk tabi’i*) in which one clan rules a group of other clans by virtue of its superior ‘asabiyyah without the assistance of a law (divine or ‘rational’) as a ‘regime’ (ibid., 264-265). The reason why he does not refer to it as a regime is obvious: The result of this kind of rule is not the minimum of internal peace necessary for political life but ‘constant war [i.e., civil war] and confusion’ (ibid., 265).”

asabiyyah, then, is the “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” of the clan or the tribe. it is not the social cohesion that held medieval arab/arabized societies together. asabiyyah was, in fact, the force that divided those societies — and is dividing iraq and syria today. the problem for arabized societies is not having too little asabiyyah, it’s that they have too much.

according to khaldun, part of the trick to maintaining a state full of independent clans each with their own asabiyyah is for the ruling clan to develop some sort of supra-asabiyyah and in that way reach a state of iltiham or coalesence [pg. 285 and pg. 32 here]. this is easier said than done, since each of the clans/tribes at least theoretically wants to be the one on top — if they can get there. islam itself was an excellent uniting force early on for arab tribes. until mohammed died and the infighting over who’d be in charge started (i.e. the origin of the sunni-shia split). maybe some form of radical islam will work today — perhaps whatever al-qaeda or isis has on offer. the problem is, all of the asabiyyah in arab societies is always pulling it apart.

another trick to running a country full of clans while maintaining your own clan on the top is to give enough favors to other clans to keep them happy in their subordinate positions. these are just patron-client systems writ large. this is exactly what the ruling clans did when the arabs first invaded iraq. i wrote in my last post on the arabs in iraq how the clans and tribes set themselves up in separate streets in separate neighborhoods. well, most of these newly relocated clans received stipends from the clans in charge to compensate them for their services during the invasion. this was their booty, in other words. and the financing for these stipends came from taxes — in part from the jizya payed by the non-muslims in iraq. you may have heard about jizya. [see morony on all of this.]

the patronage system — with nepotism to boot — is how arabized states are still run today. it’s the only way, because otherwise the asabiyyahs of all the different clans would tear these countries apart [pgs. 3-4]:

“Ibn Khaldun claims that power (*mulk*) is not based in the [arab] city as was the case in Greek tradition, but is instead based on an essential regroup of key ‘asabiyyah concepts. These are emotional links and blood relationships (*silat-ar-rahem*) — both tribal and familial — driven by sociological narrative rather than citizenship in public space. The roles of brothers, sons, uncles, half-brothers, wives, daughters, and mothers of the leader are defined via ‘asabiyyah in Arab political systems. These elements of analysis, beyond their anecdotal dimensions, introduce us to the heart of how authoritarian dynastical rule functions. ‘Asabiyyah acquires an incomparable force by controlling the state apparatus and carrying out public politics.

“This type of ‘asabiyyah was particularly visible in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, mainly within the security and intelligence apparatuses. It is obvious today in the republican-style authoritarian regime of Asad. We also find ‘asabiyyah applied in the Arab Gulf countries, led by large families who dominate ‘departments of sovereignty’ (*wizarat as-seyadah*), meaning all key positions in the state. Saudi Arabia could be cited as the singular example in which dynastic succession functions through internal cooptation of the al-Saud clan, but it can also be understood as a rotation of the top matrilineages — the clans of origin of the princes’ mothers.

“The princes that belong to the first circle of power and lead departments of sovereignty or hold the governorates of important provinces tend to enter exogamous marriages (which is contrary to the norms established for preferential Arab unions). The women of the al-Saud clan typically enter endogamous marital unions. The clan is therefore a taker, rather than a giver, of women, which both expresses and helps perpetuate the dominant position it holds. Here, matrimonial strategies ensure the clientelism of other clans in the country. In a tribalized and a poorly integrated society, such as that of Saudi Arabia, the paternal clan’s grip on power ensures the cohesion and stability of the ruling group.”

…by keeping subordinate clans happy by sharing with them some of the “spoils” (in the case of saudi arabia or the uae or qatar — oil money!).

some of the confusion some (many!) westerners have about what asabiyyah refers to comes, i think, from the fact that they overlook which populations khaldun was talking about. he specifically looked at the arab states in spain and north africa [pg. 214] and contrasted them with kurdish and bedouin and berber tribal populations [pg. 45]. by the time that khaldun was writing in the fourteenth century, all of these groups were well-arabized and probably had been practicing father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage for several hundred years and, so, would’ve been very clannish [see, for example, the previous post on iraq]. the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states. the invading groups — the kurds, bedouin, and berbers — of course held together by the promise of riches if and when they succeeded in conquering the settled arabs.

most importantly, though, the lessons learned from these populations can’t be applied most other places, because different peoples are different. so, for instance, i think peter turchin’s got two out of three right: 1) yes, you need a charismatic leader to unite clans/tribes (think: mohammed); 2) yes, you need some sort of ideology to create that iltiham (islam worked great back in the day) — even better if you can throw in some spoils; but 3) no, you cannot just go to the desert, either literally or figuratively, in order for your group to acquire asabiyyah. (although dune is an awesome novel/movie! so turchin’s actually got three out of four things right….) you need to be a real clan to do that with real (close) genetic ties and enough time to allow natural selection to select for asabiyyah. the problem is, what to do with it once you’ve got it?

update: see also asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate

(note: comments do not require an email. asabiyyah.)

A Genetic Code for Genius? – more on the bgi project.

Genetic components of political preference“[I]ndividuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. That in-group orientation can translate into preferences on political issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, and war, as well as political behaviors such as voting behavior and political participation.”

Baby-making among non-whites by political orientation over time – from the awesome epigone.

Higher Levels of Neanderthal Ancestry in East Asians Than in Europeans (Wall et al. 2013) – @dienekes’.

Gildea (1992): A lost IQ study of transracially adopted Koreans – from jason malloy.

Unchanging Essence“Shea says that no anthropologist in his right mind would think that existing cultural variation among humans had anything to do with genetic differences between existing populations. It will be interesting to discover the alleles that made him say that.” – heh. – from greg cochran.

Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain“The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.” – via steve sailer.

Peter Turchin on the Big Picture – (on “cycles of inequality”) – from steve sailer.

Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’

Why Almost Everyone in Russia Has a Dash Cam“The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists. ‘You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,’ Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year.”

Why Children Must Inherit Their Last Names from Their Father, Not Their Mother – from kanazawa.

Bacteria boost fixes symptoms of autism in mice“[I]nfecting pregnant mice with molecules from a flu virus caused autism-like symptoms in their offspring. The pups were less social, squeaked less and displayed repetitive behaviours. They also had a ‘leaky’ gastrointestinal tract that allowed bacteria to move in and out of the lining. In addition, the bacteria present in their gut were significantly different from that found in mice without autism-like behaviour. Studies in humans have also identified links between gut bacteria and autism. For example, a 2011 study identified a significant lack of Bacteroides in children with autism.”

How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist“He spent much of the past decade working on a memoir instead’ ‘Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists,’ which comes out this month.” – heh.

The Weird Irony at the Heart of the Napoleon Chagnon Affair – definitely all very weird.

bonus: The Pilgrims as Illegal Aliens“Letting in immigrants means letting in your future rulers.”

bonus bonus: Illegal Immigrations and Black Unemployment“It’s peculiar … that those who can usually be counted on to highlight any disparity between blacks and whites — whatever the reason and no matter how slight the disparity – have said not a word about the effect of illegal immigration on blacks.”

bonus bonus bonus: Sea slug loses penis after sex but grows another the next day“Invertebrate may discard organ like a dirty needle to avoid carrying competitors’ sperm.” – ouch!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Bronze Age beads that are worth their weight in gold: 4,000-year-old burial chest unearthed on Dartmoor ‘one of most significant historical finds in a century’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Could the sea be conscious? Research reveals how tiny plankton behave like a marine ‘megamind’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Debate Continues: Did Your Seafood Feel Pain?“Scientists disagree on whether your seafood suffered.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Norway jails Rwandan for 21 years over role in 1994 genocide“Similar cases against Rwandans have been brought in neighbouring Sweden, Finland and Denmark.” — nordic countries’ jurisdictions extend globally (perhaps even throughout the entire solar system?) — just thought you should know.

(note: comments do not require an email. two sea slugs, two penises … say no more!)

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