asabiyyah

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.)

126 Comments

  1. asabiyyah, then, is the “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” of the clan or the tribe…, the force that divided those societies — and is dividing iraq and syria today”

    But that implies INTRA-Sunni and INTRA-Shia divisions are operating right now, and they clearly are NOT. The Shia were far more divided before ISIS showed up, during the past 6 years, when they were fighting over government posts in Baghdad or over pilgrimmage revenues in Najaf and Karbalah. Right now the Shia have not been this united since Muqtadr al Sadr was fighting the Americans from 2003-8. Likewise in Syria the largely Sunni rebels are currently united against the government. They will surely descend into squabbling if the government is overthrown, but right now clan/tribal divisions are mostly in abeyance.

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  2. the arab states repeatedly fell apart, … 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

    That’s true for Islamic Spain, but not for most of the rest of the Islamic world. If you went down a list of historical Muslim polities you will see that one after another was replaced by an ethnically foreign invader. For example, Egypt after the Arab conquest was ruled for 300 years by 2 different Arab dynasties. These were replaced by the Fatimids who were Berbers, for about 200 years. The Kurdish Ayyubids (think Saladin) ruled Egypt and the Levant for less than a century, and were replaced for 300 years by the Mamluks a Caucasian-Balkan dynasty of slave soldiers, which were replaced by the Ottoman Turks, who would be replaced by a dynasty of Albanian origins whose founder was born in Macedonia. the king of Egypt overthrown in 1952 belonged to this dynasty. the Islamic world is full of this “Norman” pattern of ethnic outsiders intruding and imposing a new dynasty. hell, before Nasser, Egypt hadn’t had a native ruler since like 400 BC. this is to be expected since the Islamic world straddles the pivot of Eurasia and peoples are always moving through that territory to get to east or west.

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  3. “this is to be expected since the Islamic world straddles the pivot of Eurasia and peoples are always moving through that territory to get to east or west.”

    More likely having successive foreign conquerors was due to the Middle East abutting the arid zone — home of the meanest and best warriors. Further from the arid zone meant security from conquest by the arid-zone tribes (e.g. Japan, SE Asia, W Eur.)

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  4. Egypt seems to be an exception from the rule of the clan in Arabia. I would call it a proper nation-state, and has been one for several millennia despite foreign rule.

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  5. @pseudoerasmus – “But that implies INTRA-Sunni and INTRA-Shia divisions are operating right now, and they clearly are NOT.”

    no, they’re mostly not right now, but those divisions are just on hold for the meantime. that’ll aaaalllllll be back once the dust settles (this round). gotta remember the “i against my brother, my brother and i against my cousin, my cousin and i against the stranger” principle.

    asabiyyah or clannishness is a way of being — it’s an attitude. it applies to family first and foremost — so long as a clannish person is brought up in and is around their family — but it can be applied on a wider basis in times of crisis. but not for very long.

    @pseudoerasmus – “If you went down a list of historical Muslim polities you will see that one after another was replaced by an ethnically foreign invader.”

    right. but these various polities never managed to get their sh*t together and fight off the invaders. they were too busy not getting along with each other internally. kinda like the native americans not managing to unite against the invading white man. or the irish or highland scots versus the anglo-normans. no unity. only asabiyyah.

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  6. @pseudoerasmus

    “If you went down a list of historical Muslim polities you will see that one after another was replaced by an ethnically foreign invader.”

    Were any of those transitions mercenary rebellions? I was wondering if asabiyyah might lead to the ruler hiring mercenaries he could trust (or thought he could).

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  7. “right. but these various polities never managed to get their sh*t together and fight off the invaders. they were too busy not getting along with each other internally. kinda like the native americans not managing to unite against the invading white man. or the irish or highland scots versus the anglo-normans. no unity. “

    No.

    First of all, pre-modern wars were socially shallow events for the most part. Did not require some kind of deep national commitment or social cohesion.
    The populace was irrelevant. Few tens of thousands of invaders showed up, laid siege for a few months, won and killed the rulers, but pretty much nothing else changed, most of the time. The new dynasts took over the existing state, spent the next few centuries fucking their harem, and when they became degenerate enough they fell victim to the newest crop of invaders emanating from the steppe or the desert or the mountains. It was this way not only for long settled state societies in Egypt, Mespotamia and Iran but also in India and China.

    the comparison with native Americans in North America is completely inapt. They did not have state societies, and they didn’t even speak the same languages. Why wouldn’t they be divided. Many of them allied with the white man. why wouldn’t they.

    Only the Irish and the Scots actually fit your idea.

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  8. no, they’re mostly not right now, but those divisions are just on hold for the meantime.

    Well, I said that, but if Iraq is ever partitioned into three it would have a much better chance of working. Not as a democracy but at least as a trio of viable states. Kurdistan is just as tribal and they are even highland-tribal, and they squabble, but their de facto state has been functioning ok.

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  9. “Only the Irish and the Scots actually fit your idea.”

    by which I mean they fit the idea of peoples who were conquered because they lacked a complex state structure because they were divided by lineage clans despite being essentially the same ethnolinguistic group. not the case with, say Mamluks Egypt conquered by the Turks, or the Ming conquered by the Manchus.

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  10. remember what happened in 2006-2007. if this is not also happening now, or will be shortly, i’ll eat my hat! inter-clan conflicts are always right under the surface in the arabized world, if not actually above the surface. you need to view the “sunni” and “shia” movements as just large coalitions of numerous clans and tribes that could — and do — break apart at any given moment. (edit: these are attempts at khaldun’s iltiham.) then it’s all more understandable:

    from Armaments, Disarmament and International Security 2008 [pgs. 52=53]:

    The dynamics of violence in Iraq in 2007 were also characterized by a rise in both intra-Sunni and intra-Shia clashes. The widening divisions between the Arab Sunni ‘tribal awakening’ movement and the main Sunni insurgent groups were primarily driven by competition for power rather than by confessional imperatives. Even so, the growing religious extremism of parts of the Sunni insurgency played a role in aggravating intra-Sunni tensions….”

    you think most of the sunni in iraq today are down with isis’ goals and plans? nuh-uh.

    “In October 2006 the Mujahideen Shura Council, the AQI-led coalition of Sunni insurgent groups formed earlier that year, jointly declared with some tribal militias ‘the foundation of the righteous state, the Islamic state’ in Iraq, based on Islamic law (sharia). Council forces went beyond Islamist statements and started to impose strict regulations and norms in areas under their control. This radical version of Islamism was rejected by some tribal groups, who were also attracted by the possibility of support offered by the new US strategy. Nevertheless, the ‘tribal awakening’ has not ‘translated into Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia.’ Abdul al-Rishawi, the USA’s main Sunni tribal ally in Al-Anbar, was killed in a bomb attack on 13 September, allegedly by insurgents, only 10 days after he shook hands with President Bush during the latter’s surprise visit to the area.

    In 2007 intra-Shia clashes intensified in the south of Iraq. In the summer, tensions between JAM and the ISCI-affiliated Badr Corps escalated into fighting between Shia groups in all the main southern cities. Advisers and supporters of the ISCI’s spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, were regularly attacked by rival Shia groups. In mid-August, the Badr-affiliated governors of Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Muthanna were killed, possibly by units close to JAM. At the end of August, more than 50 people were killed in intra-Shia fighting in Karbala, leading JAM’s leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, to announce a six-month suspension of militant operations. The increase in both Shia insurgent activity and intra-Shia fighting in the south was facilitated by the withdrawal of some JAM militants from Baghdad during the surge. Violent competition for power and resources between Shia factions is likely to intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security — in Al-Basrah, violence escalated with the drawdown of British forces, which started in September 2007. However, despite violent clashes between rival Shia militias, for much of 2007 al-Sadr’s movement and the ISCI remained the main components of the Unite Iraqi Alliance, the Shia political coaltion supported by al-Sistani.”

    similar story from the Encyclopedia of Terrorism [entry for IRAQI SECTARIAN ATTACKS]:

    It is important to note that violence was not limited to attacks between Iraq’s two main sects but also took place within these sects. Indeed, both intra-Shi’ite killing and intra-Sunni killing were common in Iraq. In the case of the former, Shi’ite rivals JAM and the Badr Organization (which was backed by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI]) battled frequently in Iraq’s south as they jockeyed for political power and control over different funding streams. Fueled in part by Iran, this conflict raged on unabated until the United States and the al-Maliki government convinced JAM to agree to a cease-fire. In the case of the latter, the Sunni organization QJBR gained notoriety for its violent intimidation tactics, whose victims were often the very same Iraqi Sunnis that were hosting the group. QJBR’s draconian application of sharia law against these Sunnis led to a number of violent punishments. QJBR also carried out assassinations and targeted killings of members of rival Sunni insurgent groups, including both secular nationalist organizations, such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades, and also other like-minded jihadist groups, like Ansar al-Sunnah.”

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  11. “Egypt seems to be an exception from the rule of the clan in Arabia. I would call it a proper nation-state, and has been one for several millennia despite foreign rule.”

    Arabia is a small part of the Arabic-speaking world, most of which have thousands of years of complex state societies.

    But tribalism just didn’t matter in premodern societies, because the only thing the state did, for the most part, was to collect taxes and live off the work of peasants, and wage war to add more taxable peasants to the domain.

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  12. you think most of the sunni in iraq today are down with isis’ goals and plans? nuh-uh.

    no, but then most Sunnis don’t want to live in a Wahhabi-style state.

    the Sunnis clearly dislike the Shia government in Baghdad more.

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  13. remember what happened in 2006-2007. if this is not also happening now, or will be shortly, i’ll eat my hat! inter-clan conflicts are always right under the surface in the arabized world, if not actually above the surface. you need to view the “sunni” and “shia” movements as just large coalitions of numerous clans and

    Tribal societies always settle to some modus operandi amongst themselves. It’s when there’s a power vacuum you have these kinds of conflicts. When there’s a stable equilibrium they have mechanisms for settling disputes. Not even Afghanistan had internal conflict between 1929 and 1978. Tunisia and Egypt did not descend into tribal chaos, unlike Libya where the state was completely deracinated.

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  14. @pseudoerasmus – “First of all, pre-modern wars were socially shallow events for the most part. Did not require some kind of deep national commitment or social cohesion.”

    hmmm. not sure i fully buy that, but if it is true, then i’d ask why was that?

    @pseudoerasmus – “the comparison with native Americans in North America is completely inapt. They did not have state societies, and they didn’t even speak the same languages.”

    states don’t matter here. the irish and the highland scots didn’t have states, either. or barely did. and some of the native american groups did speak the same language or related languages — the huron, for instance, spoke an iroquois language, but they and the iroquois league member nations were forever at war with each other, and each side allied themselves with different european groups. mistake!

    the point is, none of these peoples were “nations” ’cause they were too busy being clannish. just like the people in saudi arabia today. the only reason that country is held together is because the house of saud wields the most power and shares goodies with other tribes/clans. given half a chance, some other tribe/group would oust the saud family if they thought they could. and then all hell’d probably break loose for a number of years while the clans/tribes battled it out with one another. like libya today. and like iraq today.

    @pseudoerasmus – “…because they were divided by lineage clans despite being essentially the same ethnolinguistic group….”

    having actual lineage clans — especially the patrilineal clans that the arabs have — is only one way of being “clannish.” i’m interested in them all. like i’m pretty sure southern italians are more clannish than scandinavians, even though they don’t have clans per se — just extended families.

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  15. @pseudoerasmus – “the Sunnis clearly dislike the Shia government in Baghdad more.”

    exactly! and there’s your bedouin principle right there — “i against my brother, etc.”

    the clans that call themselves sunni will unite for now — kinda, sorta — to get rid of the common enemy in baghdad, but the minute that’s done, they’ll be at each other’s throats again.

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  16. @pseudoerasmus – “Tribal societies always settle to some modus operandi amongst themselves. It’s when there’s a power vacuum you have these kinds of conflicts. When there’s a stable equilibrium they have mechanisms for settling disputes. Not even Afghanistan had internal conflict between 1929 and 1978.”

    oh, sure. but there will still be blood feuds and vengeance killings (not to mention honor killings) during these peaceful times. but, yeah — of course arabized tribal societies manage to arrange themselves. we just need to leave them alone to let them do that. suggesting to them that they take up liberal democracy is NOT a help! =/

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  17. @pseudoerasmus – “But tribalism just didn’t matter in premodern societies, because the only thing the state did, for the most part, was to collect taxes and live off the work of peasants, and wage war to add more taxable peasants to the domain.”

    i think tribalism didn’t matter in pre-islamic middle eastern societies because fbd marriage wasn’t present yet, so they weren’t tribal in the arab sense. there might’ve been some clannish tendencies in some of those populations, though, but i really don’t know. morony seems to think that some clannishness did exist in (what would later become) iraq towards the end of the sasanian period. dunno.

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  18. but if it is true, then i’d ask why was that?

    Nature of peasant societies. Had professional soldier castes. Not enough surplus labour. Couldn’t raise very large armies without creating food shortage.

    . the irish and the highland scots didn’t have states, either. or barely did. and

    but that’s my point. they all fell victim to states because they themselves weren’t state societies.

    native Ameicans and scots/Irish failed to have state societies for different reasons. former : very late to agriculture, latter: tribal

    some of the native american groups did speak the same language or related languages — the huron, for instance, spoke an iroquois language, but they and the iroquois league member nations were forever at war with each other

    Iroquoian is a language family so saying they spoke related languages is like saying spaniards and French speak related languages.

    the point is, none of these peoples were “nations” ’cause they were too busy being clannish.

    No, the Native Americans did not become states because none could conquer enough of the others to create an empire. cochran had a nice post asking why they couldn’t agglomerate like in other continents. How do you think France became a nation-state ? People speaking the Ile de France language slowly conquered other people. Even in 1870 most “French” people didn’t speak French

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  19. @pseudoerasmus – “Well, I said that….”

    yes, you did. (^_^) i just meant to clarify that the inter-clan hostilities have not gone away. clannish/tribal peoples have looooong memories. they’ll start up again if/when the common enemy is gone. and they might even start up again before that happens, like in ’06-’07. and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that’s it’s going on right now — it’s just the msm is clueless about these things, so all the reporting is about sectarianism (which they can sort of get their heads around).

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  20. “i think tribalism didn’t matter in pre-islamic middle eastern societies because fbd marriage wasn’t present yet, so they weren’t tribal in the arab sense.”

    I said tribalism did not matter even in Arab societies, in the premodern period. By “matter” I mean it did not interfere with state formation because premodern states didn’t do anything other than exploit peasants and wage wars.

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  21. @pseudoerasmus:

    “native Ameicans and scots/Irish failed to have state societies for different reasons. former : very late to agriculture, latter: tribal”

    The two things are related.

    There are a lot of attributes that go into what we here are regarding as the paragon of a civilized people: NW (non-Celtic) Euros (and perhaps secondarily other Europeans and East Asians) in the sense of what makes them different from other peoples, like the stateless ones.

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  22. @pseudoerasmus – “Iroquoian is a language family so saying they spoke related languages is like saying spaniards and French speak related languages.”

    but five iroquois nations did manage to join the iroquois league, and they speak (spoke) different iroquois languages. why didn’t all of the iroquois nations (like the huron) manage to join the league?

    @pseudoerasmus – “How do you think France became a nation-state?”

    by enough of them outbreeding for long enough that they began to feel like a nation. haven’t you been reading my posts?! (~_^) europe’s Outbreeding Project pretty much started in the northeast corner of france!

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  23. On the patronage system or sharing the spoils.
    Sounds easy in theory: just spread some patronage and a stable regime results.
    But in practice there’s a dilemma: either (a) spread the spoils to many clans, but each clan gets little (wide but thin) or (b) spread the spoils to a few trusty clans and each clan gets lots (narrow but deep). That’s why being a dictator is a never-ending hassle! Someone somewhere is always ungrateful of their portion of the pie.

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  24. @pseudoerasmus – “By ‘matter’ I mean it did not interfere with state formation because premodern states didn’t do anything other than exploit peasants and wage wars.”

    well, i think that arab tribalism did matter to state formation in arab societies — both the original ones back in the arab peninsula and the later ones that were arabized due to the arab expansion — because it’s very difficult to form any sort of state with arab-style tribalism. fbd marriage societies are just a b*tch when it comes to state formation, premodern or otherwise.

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  25. by enough of them outbreeding for long enough that they began to feel like a nation. haven’t you been reading my posts?! (~_^) europe’s Outbreeding Project pretty much started in the northeast corner of france!

    all the outbreeding must have been very very local until very late because local or regional identities were strong well into the 19th century. and the local nature of marriage patterns is established by demography. emmanuel todd has a whole book on this just on france. Again, the French state had to actually erase other languages and regional identities. I’m not saying anything outlandish here. I once saw misdreavus make the same observation.

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  26. In the Middle East, polygyny is also a factor. If a clan conquers and becomes the ruling clan, thanks to polygyny it can swiftly increase in size over a few generations (this is what’s happening with the House of Saud right now.) But then the ruling clan grows so big members within start having to compete for positions — so we get fratricide and intra-clan contentiousness, which is loss of asabiyya. Result: vulnerable to a new clan takeover.

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  27. “but five iroquois nations did manage to join the iroquois league, and they speak (spoke) different iroquois languages. why didn’t all of the iroquois nations (like the huron) manage to join the league?”

    but why should they have done ? nation-states in Europe are the results of conquests in the past. why should it be different anywhere place ? most of history is about people conquering other people and killing them or assimilating them like the Borg. for some reason that process happened less in North America than most other places.

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  28. “it’s very difficult to form any sort of state with arab-style tribalism. fbd marriage societies are just a b*tch when it comes to state formation, premodern or otherwise.”

    well that’s clearly false because FBD societies have been full of states. the obvious explanation is that premodern societies are nothing like modern societies. they just take a cut of the peasant grain and wage wars.

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  29. “haven’t you been reading my posts?! (~_^) europe’s ”

    Your work addresses why certain peoples FEEL a strong sense of nationhood and civic collectivity. But it does not address how France physically acquired the territory called France or how most French people came to speak French.

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  30. @pseudoerasmus – “all the outbreeding must have been very very local until very late because local or regional identities were strong well into the 19th century.”

    i don’t think the outbreeding was very local in france — in fact, it seems to have been quite widespread in northern and central france and down towards acquitaine (giornde) — but there was some localized inbreeding mostly in mountainous areas [see map in this post]. i think that’s where the regional identities have been the strongest — in regions with a longer history of inbreeding such as brittany and the auvergne. i could be wrong, though — although these are certainly regions where the people seem to behave in the most “clannish” of ways.

    remember that the mind-set of the long-term outbred individual is extremely universalistic. so a northern frenchman of today views a person from somalia as pretty much exactly equivalent to himself, never mind the language or cultural differences. the average auvergnat will not feel the same, i would bet. in fact, the guy from auvergne will probably hate a parisian, never mind the somali!

    outbreeding — i think — gets you a universalistic attitude via which you can unite large swaths of people. you can build nation states, despite some cute local or regional identities. most of the regional identities in 19th century france probably didn’t matter much — the people of the loire valley were probably not regularly going to war with the people in yonne, even though they may have preferred different local cheeses and wines. the more inbred subgroups — well, they were a different story, yes.

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  31. @pseudoerasmus – “well that’s clearly false because FBD societies have been full of states.”

    the original fbd societies — basically the bedouin — did not invent states. they adopted the idea from elsewhere. this is not a marriage system/societal structure that lends itself easily to the formation of states, because the arab-style tribal system is so fissiparous. they can manage strong, top-down states if necessary, but states don’t arise organically from these societies. i don’t think.

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  32. @pseudoerasmus – “Your work addresses why certain peoples FEEL a strong sense of nationhood and civic collectivity. But it does not address how France physically acquired the territory called France or how most French people came to speak French.”

    sure. territory is conquered by force — by whoever happens to be able to wield the most power — and states are often formed by coercion. but to have a well-functioning nation-state, you need a population that wants to belong to it. a population with members who, for some strange reason, feel just as akin to a guy living five hundred miles away as the guy living next door, never mind as to his cousin! you just don’t have that in the arabized world. that’s why those countries are so dysfunctional — or so tyrannical. they require the tyranny (with the patronage system and nepotism) to function. the english or the french or the germans or the swedes don’t need that. those nations just…work!

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  33. I am not talking about Bedouin. And of course they didn’t invent states. Forget the Bedouin. I’m talking about those places you call “Arabised”. All full of states. Sure, states in those places predate Arabisation. But I don’t see that Arabisation had much impact on that. to the contrary.

    Also, I’m pretty sure now bedouin were not originally FBD. I think FBD practices originate in the Levant.

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  34. I think most marriages were within-county even in England until the 20th century. I guess I’ll have to document this.

    “but to have a well-functioning nation-state, you need a population that wants to belong to it”

    But in order to get that outbred population in the first place you have to have a forcibly created state that brings the people within fucking distance.

    which is why you have it backward about native Americans. you should be asking why didn’t they get forced into states in the first place ? it happened (though late) in Mexico, Central America and the Andes, but not in North America.

    “remember that the mind-set of the long-term outbred individual is extremely universalistic.”

    But most people — most outbred people — are clearly more nationalistic than “universalistic”. I mean, 70% of French people consistently say they want to stop or reverse immigation.

    why would national-level outbreeding create universalistic feelings ? I only find those amongst idealistic lefties. Probably both exist on a continuum and “universalism” is the right-tail outlier of the same phenomenon as nationalism. some people take their altruism farther out than others.

    “so a northern frenchman of today views a person from somalia as pretty much exactly equivalent to himself, never mind”

    so why is the vote for the national front the strongest in the northwest along the German-Belgian border AND along the Mediterranean coast ?

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  35. “grey — the Mamluks were literally slave soldiers.”

    yeah that’s the one i knew about. i was just being lazy. i shall googlez.

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  36. Are you specifically speaking about terrorist groups? I’m middle eastern, and I only notice this tribe like mentality among those that are brain washed enough to become suicide bombers.

    Furthermore, I want to let you know that your essay just seems very confusing, since much of what I’m reading seems to be based on far fetched assumptions from misleading papers. The experience I have had, and what you seem to have read, could not be more different.

    It’s also so strange that you would reduce the middle east to having a clan like mentality (???) What are you talking about?? If anything, it’s the mistaken notion that arabs have a clan like mentality that must be controlled by some all mighty and knowing leader that has gotten it where it is today. Egypt is a prime example of this!

    Btw, social cohesion and solidarity is a common trait among countries, in general. To associate one word in arabic to a whole people is bit premature—and wikipedia is NOT authority on information. Good god woman, do your research..and actually SPEAK with an arab before you write such an inane paper.

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  37. @ pseudoerasmus – “I think most marriages were within-county even in England until the 20th century. I guess I’ll have to document this.”

    In ‘Atlas of Industrialising Britain 1780-1914’ [John Langton & R.J.Morris, Methuen 1986] chapter 2 refers to marriage trends. The highest marriage proportions in England in the 1850s were in cities and industrial regions, especially in the midlands and northern England, with large movements of single women into cities being recorded.
    Also: “Pre-census evidence from Poor Law records, apprenticeship registers, local listings and parish marriage registers, together with a comparison of natural increase and actual change, suggests substantial migration to cities. There was considerable long-distance migration not only to metropolitan London and larger provincial cities, but also by skilled workers to new industrial centres.”
    So during this period undoubtedly a high proportion of marriages were between persons living considerable distances from their counties of birth.

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  38. Yeah, I’m limited in my knowledge of this region (so there may be howlers in the following I don’t know of), and I’m sure they’re very tribal in Iraq, but I get this vibe that there’s this idea that, well, all competition is at the extended family level, and you’ll just get violent competition at the extended family level anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what state they’re all in.

    Which feels a bit wrong.

    There are national ethnic faultlines here which were ignored and which contribute to problems. At the very least, Kurdistan.

    And there are national interests here in who initially provided weapons and funding to the ISIS nutcases (and historically all the violent political movements in the region). In the case of ISIS effectively the West via the Syria crisis, specifically to destabilise Assad’s regime, for geopolitical national interest, despite the fact that “we’re” supposedly “against” Islamist regimes and Islamic terrorism.

    Why isn’t ultra clannish Saudi Arabia a failed state? Why is it that public displeasure in Saudi Arabia leads to welfare reform (e.g. goodies / pork for the people, won by presenting a united front against the government) and not state collapse in warring factions?

    It is wealthy and hasn’t been subject to the same kind of interventions and border drawing. It’s not what we’d call an effective state, yet, as they have enough wealth and no one outside is actually arming different factions to take control and there are no major ethnic faultlines so all the family drama cancels out into a smooth layer of nepotism and corruption, it does stay fairly stable.

    In terms of failed states, once we account for the problems of low IQ meaning states in the Middle East region have problems creating and extracting wealth, and once we account for obvious problems from historical interventionism, how much of a role is actually, really left for clannishness?

    States worked in this region in history because they could extract wealth from the peasants’ grain and tossed down military protection in exchange, Pinkerisation was low (so there were plenty of men willing to use coercion rather than persuasion) and no one could really make it worth the state’s while to offer very much more. The peasants’ grain is peanuts in the modern day, and Iraqis can’t make much else, so the wealth differential generally does not favor their states, particularly when outsiders are chucking money at the rebels, and thus they are weak.

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  39. Tribalism in Saudi Arabia is a deeply important issue. The proof is that the Sunni-Shia is now a deeply important issue.

    Those who minimise the importance of the Sunni-Shia divide in the present (not historically, because it was not important in the pre-modern past) by saying clannishness and tribalism are always just hiding beneath the surface, fail to realise how the sectarian divide interacts with the tribal divide.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the sectarian divide is not a theological issue. It’s not theological anywhere else, so why should it be in the Middle East.

    The Sunni-Shia divide is an identity conflict — an ethnic conflict, if you will.

    Tribally divided nation-states, which are usually dominated by a single tribe, routinely deflect attention away from the monotribalism of political power by playing up other kinds of identity conflicts.

    Saudi Arabia has a much bigger population than the other Persian Gulf emirates, so its oil resources per person have been shrinking for decades. Over time the Sauds have had less and less raw financial ability to buy off the loyalty of the other tribes.

    That’s one reason the Sauds support the Wahhabis. Stressing a homegrown ideology, the Sauds hope, will keep the tribes united. That’s why the Sauds let Wahhabi iconoclasm loose in Mecca and Medina ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-destruction-of-mecca-saudi-hardliners-are-wiping-out-their-own-heritage-304029.html ) to the point of allowing them to destroy traditional Islamic shrines. (Mecca and Medina are in the Hejaz, a competitor tribal area.)

    And the attempt to maintain national/tribal unity is also the reason the Sauds play up the Shia threat. The threat is real — the Iranians use Shia identity for similar reasons and there is a Shia-majority province in northeastern Saudi Araiba — but the Sauds are almost lucky to have this threat.

    Deeply tribal societies paper over their internal divisions by constantly emphasising some other force which might unite them — whether religious ideology, extreme ethnic nationalism (think Turkey) or an external threat (e.g., Israel or the Shia).

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  40. How did Sudan, another society deeply divided by tribalism, try to create and maintain a nation-state ? At first, by being “more Arab than the Arabs”. The Sudanese Arabs are essentially Arabic-speaking mulattoes who have oppressed the non-Arabs in the country by forcing Arabisation on them — non-Muslim African blacks in the south of the country and non-Arab Muslims in the east of the country. In the 1960s the Sudanese emphasised Arab nationalism in the first civil war. But in the 1980s, with the second civil war, exactly the same leader (Numeiri) switched tactics from Arab nationalism to pan-Islamist ideology.

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  41. “i don’t think the outbreeding was very local in france”

    I had said “regional” or “county”. But forget that.

    France and England had high rates of within-commune and within-parish marriage, respectively. These marriages were genetically exogamous but geographically very endogamous. How could it have been otherwise ? Geographical mobility was quite limited.

    England, http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3091855?uid=3739704&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104382289983 has several summary charts. All regions of England, north, south, east, west, whatever, had high rates of parochial endogamy. The best predictor of rates of parochial endogamy was not region of England, but size of parish. Again, makes sense.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=itMtxWAe6A4C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=Table%2022&f=false this breaks down parochial endogamy in Norfolk (an East Anglian county) by nonconformist/Anglican. Note that “foreign” here means both spouses came from outside the parish and “exogamous” means one spouse came from outside the parish. Nearly 70% of the 1575 Anglican marriages in 13 Norfolk parishes in 1837-1914 were parochially endogamous. I wager all of the “foreign” and “exogamous” marriages were also pretty much within spitting distance.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=OITlDsCSeMcC&pg=PA99&dq=parish+endogamy&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zqeuU_KlKoiSyASss4H4DQ&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=parish%20endogamy&f=false Parochial endogamy in Durham, in the Northeast. Page 100 is trying to illustrate decline in parochial endogamy between 1810-19 and 1910-19, but it’s still quite high, and highest amongst Anglicans, then Catholics, then Methodists.

    pp 33-35 of http://books.google.com/books?id=qasOWAtLK-EC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=endogamie+cantonale&source=bl&ots=IrZr87TxE_&sig=OCh6tWqY0DFrAL5orUeuxUGjDgs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=H5-uU8CRMc-HyATC94H4CA&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false explains parochial endogamy was very much the norm in most regions of France. In the centuries covered (16th-18th centuries), “in a rural parish of a certain size, at least 1000 inhabitants, 3/4 of new spouses were born and resident in the place of their marriage. Of the remainder, half came from bordering villages and the hardiest travellers did not cover 4 leagues to get married. This strong & stable majority lasted (all the while diminishing of course) until the beginning of the 20th century. The majority of the studies confirm this situation”. Then talks briefly about specific regions. In the countryside of Ile-de-France (the region of Paris) in the 17th century “two-thirds of married couples originated from the same parish, four-fifths from the same parish or from an adjacent parish”. Nantes, which is a border area between Loire and Brittany, has higher rates of parish endogamy, but in Brittany plus Anjou as a whole between 1740 and 1789, 68% were parochially endogamous.

    Mobility was higher in towns. In quintessentially northern Chartres 88% of marriages were from within-Chartres and 8% from the countryside just outside. “On the eve of the Revolution, the mobility of newly weds was more important, even though the majority stayed endogamous…75% amongst them from within Chartres…19% coming from the Chartrian countryside…5% from the rest of France”. And Chartres at the time of the revolution had about 15,000 people. “In the [Norman] town of Meulan between 1690 and 1739, 40% of the men and 60% of the women who got married were born within the town ; only 6.5% of the former and 1% of the latter were born more than 150km away”.

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  42. This is very good. There is a description in St. Symeon the New Theologian about the dangers of family – (that is, for a monk in particular) which if read by an Anglo-Saxon would be a real head scratcher. But given where he was from, asabiyyah had a lot to do with why family could be dangerous – criminal activity on behalf of one’s family was not something only possible if you were a mobster.

    It seems to me a case of where “one thing becomes all” – there must always be a highest good, but it almost seems to reach a point where family becomes the ONLY good. Fortunately this is, in a reasonable timeframe, not possible for us A-S folks even if we began to suddenly value family highly (the inbreeding strategy is not one we practice at any rate.)

    RE: nationalism

    Nationalism is a mechanical approach where people with significant-enough power break down the economic and social structures of society using some scheme/ideology, so that they may, using top-down influence or even control, make use of the mass of people in a unified way. Nationalism thus overrides internal structures by destroying or disabling them (asabiyyah seems unlikely to be destroyed by a couple of generations of bootheels) – the disadvantage being that the system is by definition weakening its own internal structures to try to remove conflictedness between them – which always has negative ramifications later. It’s a helluvah drug.

    So nationalism, instead of forming bonds between the unique structures within a group of groups, pulverizes the groups somehow (there are lots of ways to do it!) so they can be pulled together without resistance.

    The underlying principle of internationalism is actually identical to this, though because it is cosmopolitan it passes the smell test.

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  43. There seems to be a lot of different arguments going on at once.

    Going back to the original point, that a clannish society’s “asabiyyah” works both ways: pulling clan members in and pushing non clan members away, and thus is clearly both a source of unity and division depending on the *scale* you are looking at seems clearly true.

    This seems to have jumped from clannishness will determine what a society is like to a clannish society will always be exactly the same. I think what’s true is the way a clannish society *reacts* to events is determined by the clannishness but as events change so will the reactions.

    For example,

    Would the Iraqi tribes “asibiyyah” be exactly the same if outside forces hadn’t flooded Syria with weapons? Yes.
    Would the Iraqi tribes be having a civil war if outside forces hadn’t flooded Syria with weapons? Possibly no.
    Would the Iraqi tribes have a civil war sooner or later because clannish societies run on nepotism? Probably yes.

    “Asabiyyah” might mean a permanent state of tribal/clan conflict but most of the time that conflict can be in the form of non-violent nepotism.

    Similarly, “asabiyyah” means that if you want unity at a larger scale than the tribe then you need one or more of
    a) a common enemy
    b) a strongman
    c) a post-colonial middle class constructed to become a national scale tribe
    d) an urban middle class developing naturally into a national scale tribe

    This creates a layer over the top of the clannish society underneath.

    It’s a bit like what the Chinese education exams did imo. It took people from the clannish and regional society underneath and turned them into a national caste over the top so you could have an extremely large and complex state even though it was mostly clannish underneath.

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  44. “Why not just use “esprit de corps”? That’s the term the Marines use.”

    There is some similarity there as the greater the esprit de corps of two units in the same army the more likely they are to fight each other in bars.

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  45. @pseudoerasmus – “I had said ‘regional’ or ‘county’. But forget that.”

    well, actually you said local, but it doesn’t matter. (^_^)

    thanks for all those links! that’s awesome! i love links about mating patterns. (^_^) but, to be honest with you, i’ve lost track of the point.

    from the early medieval period onwards, the english (and the french) have been outbreeders, meaning they have largely avoided marrying their first and second cousins (not to mention uncles and aunts). yes, there have been regional differences — there’s been more and longer outbreeding in southeastern and central england and northeastern france than other regions of those countries, and some pockets of rather heavy inbreeding in some locales, especially in france.

    but this is very, very different from the arabized world where they’ve gone in the completely opposite route, focusing on marrying their first and second cousins, and actually practicing fbd marriage which leads to an excess of double-first cousin marriages.

    the county/parish/commune endogamy doesn’t matter so much compared to all that.

    sorry, i have to come back to your other comments tomorrow (sunday). too much going on!

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  46. @chris – “My previous comment is awaiting moderation, not sure why?”

    i dunno either! sorry about that. wordpress comments have been weird lately. been hoping they’ll just get fixed by the wp powers-that-be. (~_^)

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  47. You don’t have to keep contrasting Europeans with Arabs.

    thanks for all those links! that’s awesome! i love links about mating patterns. (^_^) but, to be honest with you, i’ve lost track of the point.

    The point was that France constructed a nation-state by actively effacing very strong local & regional identities. Outbreeding by itself did not lead spontaneously to a national feeling. Outbreeding was certainly a prerequisite — the French could not have done it with inbreeders. So outbreeding was necessary but not sufficient.

    the county/parish/commune endogamy doesn’t matter so much compared to all that

    Of course it matters. If Alsace-Lorrained had ultimately ended up in Germany, or Savoy in Switzerland, or Provence in Italy, then the Alsatians, Savoyards and Provencaux would not “feel” French.

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  48. @pseudoerasmus – “You don’t have to keep contrasting Europeans with Arabs.”

    but i like contrasting europeans and arabs! they’re the two most contrasty groups out there. (~_^)

    @pseudoerasmus – “So outbreeding was necessary but not sufficient.”

    oh, absolutely. i’ve got no arguments with that. but don’t forget about the romantic nationalist movement that sprang up in certain parts of europe in the eighteenth century. that was no accident, i think. and it was no coincidence that the concept appeared in europe and pretty much nowhere else.

    @pseudoerasmus – “If Alsace-Lorrained had ultimately ended up in Germany, or Savoy in Switzerland, or Provence in Italy, then the Alsatians, Savoyards and Provencaux would not ‘feel’ French.”

    no. right. but they’d be inclined to feel like members of some nation, not a tribe or a clan, which is the point.

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  49. @ pseudoerasmus

    I would not say that nation-building (a la France) was the usual road to nationhood. Other nations arose through far less dirigiste methods. French nation-building was unusual, and unusually successful compared to some more recent nation-building efforts.

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  50. Well, maybe we were just talking past each other…

    but don’t forget about the romantic nationalist movement that sprang up in certain parts of europe in the eighteenth century.

    It was fundamentally Franco-German, but it spread to Greece fast enough. Greece’s was the first truly ethnonationalist war of independence. Ask Byron !

    but they’d be inclined to feel like members of some nation, not a tribe or a clan, which is the point.

    Which gets us back to the even more original point. Political consolidation never took place amongst the Native Americans in pre-Columbian North America. For what ever reason no one could come out on top and dominate all the others, even within regions. I’ve always really liked this blogpost by Cochran http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/slow-times-in-the-new-world/

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  51. pseudoerasmus – “I said tribalism did not matter even in Arab societies, in the premodern period. By “matter” I mean it did not interfere with state formation because premodern states didn’t do anything other than exploit peasants and wage wars.”

    That’s true. I’m late to the discussion so somebody may have already said this, but we need to distinguish between political states and modern liberal Western-style democracies. It is the latter which are impossible in clannish, multi-tribal societies, where ultimate loyalty is to kin not to the society as a whole. A state is not the same as a nation and a nation is not the same as a liberal democratic society with the rule of law and the rights of the individual.

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  52. I agree with speudoerasmus in this sense: history is little more than a story of warring states in a relentless competition for power. Out of this competition empires arose.

    I’m not aware of independent states existing within empires however (in the sense of possessing a monopoly of power) so I don’t understand what he means when he says that the Arab world was “full of states” after the Muslim conquest, unless he is referring to periods of imperial dissolution.

    Also, about out-breeding: it can exist at the local level (within a radius of miles) as long as you don’t marry your first and second cousins. Universal” feelings can be a matter of degree also, in terms of geographical extent. Take 19th century Germany for example.

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  53. Gosh, it’s obvious I am late to the party. Please disregard all my points that have already been made. But since pseudoerasmus in a contrarian after my own heart, let me disagree with this statement of his:

    “Political consolidation never took place amongst the Native Americans in pre-Columbian North America”

    What he means is that no permanent consolidations took place. Look up Mississipian.

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  54. @pseudoerasmus

    “The point was that France constructed a nation-state by actively effacing very strong local & regional identities. Outbreeding by itself did not lead spontaneously to a national feeling. Outbreeding was certainly a prerequisite — the French could not have done it with inbreeders. So outbreeding was necessary but not sufficient.”

    I think this is necessarily so as the out breeding project started local. As you say, people were still marrying people who lived close by just not their closest relatives so their relatedness and sense of identity shifted to the next highest scale.

    So if for the sake of argument we say the scales of identity are:
    1) clan
    2) tribe
    3) region
    4) nation
    then as the cousin ban broke down clans and tribes average relatedness and identity shifted to the regional level.

    It was at this point i.e. before national identity had developed, that nation-states started to be formed by the strongest regions using force to incorporate other regions into a single state. The development of national scale identity lagged behind the forced historical process even if it caught up later.

    So i think you’re right on the historical detail but as hubchik’s focus is more on the tectonic forces *underneath* the history there’s an element of talking past each other.

    The question from the tectonics point of view is was the Ile de France region-state bashing Provencals and Bretons into being French or the Prussian region-state bashing the other German region-states into being German still a function of the out breeding tectonics even if coercion pre-dated acceptance.

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  55. Greying Wanderer – “So i think you’re right on the historical detail but as hubchik’s focus is more on the tectonic forces *underneath*

    More specifically, the genetic forces. Does pseudoerasmus dismiss entirely the importance of Hamilton’s idea of inclusive fitness?

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  56. @lukelea

    Does pseudoerasmus dismiss entirely the importance of Hamilton’s idea of inclusive fitness?

    I do not question it even slightly. I did not express any disagreement with the concepts of outbreeding, reciprocal altruism and inclusive fitness.

    Outbreeding wrung out clannish & tribal feeling out of the outbreeders and created in them the general ability to form social bonds with people based on non-kin affinities, such as common language or shared history (which might have been invented).

    One of the commonplaces of premodern history is that people did not have even an ethnic consciousness. For example, in 1800, the “Turkish” identity literally did not exist amongst Turks. Turks knew there was a language called Turkish, but no “Turk” thought it was a criterion by which to identify himself. In a village in the middle of deep central Anatolia, “Turks” and “Greeks” living side by side in that village did not regard each other as Turks and Greeks, as they would later, but simply as Muslims and Christians, respectively. Their sense of self was not just local and clan-based but also devoid of ethnic feeling. In fact many of the Turkish-speakers were Christians and many of the Greek speakers were Muslims, and their descendants 120 years later would end up in different countries later according to religious affiliation, as Greece and Turkey “exchanged” populations.

    (Greece had much less trouble becoming a nation than Turkey — just to keep up with theme of oubreeding.)

    @greying wanderer :

    “The question from the tectonics point of view is was the Ile de France region-state bashing Provencals and Bretons into being French or the Prussian region-state bashing the other German region-states into being German still a function of the out breeding tectonics even if coercion pre-dated acceptance.”

    Depends on the country. But in the case of France, the incorporation of most of the provinces into the empire of Paris long preceded the construction of the French identity — which only started happening with the French Revolution. There’s a book called “The Discovery of France” which might have had a title like “Parisians Explore the Deep Darkest Unmapped France”, the history of (literally) anthropologists and cartographers from Paris fanning out across the country to “discover” the provinces and document their curious & exotic habits of life, as though the provincials were Africans. In the 19th century, Paris imposed mandatory state education and denied local control of schools, so that the curriculum was set in Paris, teachers were often sent from Paris or approved in Paris, and regional languages were banned at school. Many older Frenchmen can tell you about their grandparents having bitter memories of being punished for speaking some local dialect or language at school.

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  57. I said “Outbreeding wrung out clannish & tribal feeling out of the outbreeders and created in them the general ability to form social bonds with people based on non-kin affinities”

    That “general ability” still needs to be filled with content, which is where nation-builders come in — whether Paris bureaucrats with respect to villagers in the Dordogne, or whatever.

    But as we here all know, every ability conceivable varies in its innate frequency by ethnicity and population.

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  58. @Luke Lea

    “More specifically, the genetic forces.”

    Yeah

    “Does pseudoerasmus dismiss entirely the importance of Hamilton’s idea of inclusive fitness?”

    Well to be fair i don’t think it’s common yet to extend the idea past close relatives

    “I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight [1st] cousins”.

    or 32 2nd cousins or 128 3rd cousins or 512 4th cousins etc.

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  59. “still a function of the out breeding tectonics even if coercion pre-dated acceptance.”

    I wasn’t very clear.

    What I mean is, were the strong region-states that led to the European nation-states a product of the out breeding project and was their ability to successfully create cohesive nation-states out of a collection of region-states a product of the out breeding project.

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  60. “I would not say that nation-building (a la France) was the usual road to nationhood. Other nations arose through far less dirigiste methods. French nation-building was unusual, and unusually successful compared to some more recent nation-building efforts.”

    Speaking of just Western Europe, I would say France looks very dirigiste only because France was more backward in education/literacy, urbanisation, geographical mobility, industrialisation, etc. compard with England, the Netherlands or western Germany. Since a French peasant in 1789 was less likely to be able to read than most people in Protestant countries, his head simply lacked the informational content of the romantic-nationalist propaganda coming out in the late 18th century. A Burgundian just didn’t know he was the ancestor of an ancient Gallo-Roman race, in common with those funny folks with the funny customs and funny languages from Languedoc, as their grandchildren would be told at schools by propagandist-teachers spouting a curriculum set in Paris. By contrast, some burgher from the Rhineland had frequently heard that there was this great dormant German Volk speaking that strange but beautiful language contained in Luther’s Bible (*) and they kept trying to create it in Frankfurt or Cologne but arseholes like Napoleon or that c*#t in Vienna kept preventing it. (In fact, of course, Napoleon helped out a lot with German nationalism.)

    “…but we need to distinguish between political states and modern liberal Western-style democracies. It is the latter which are impossible in clannish, multi-tribal societies…”

    Exactly !

    States are easy, at least for people with a long history of agriculture. Consensual or social-contract participation in states that do more than wage war and extract surpluses from agricultural labour, however, is more difficult.
    I’m not aware of independent states existing within empires however (in the sense of possessing a monopoly of power) so I don’t understand what he means when he says that the Arab world was “full of states” after the Muslim conquest, unless he is referring to periods of imperial dissolution.”

    The Muslim world is/was a big place. It always accomodated many empires and polities. The period of the initial imperial unity under the Umayyads and the Abbasids was just a fluke. It never attained such levels of consolidation ever again. Not even under the Ottomans. And I don’t know why anyone should expect to see such consolidations endure. The amount of space where the Islamic religion holds sway was bigger than the Roman empire or China. So the fact that the Muslim world contained so many polities is simply natural and normal, nothing unusual. The fact that pan-Islamists have caliphal expectations should not guide you, however.

    What he means is that no permanent consolidations took place. Look up Mississipian.”

    Mississipian was an archaeological culture complex, with many small-scale chieftancies — not an imperial state consolidation like the Carolingians or the Ming dynasty or the Mughals.

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  61. “What I mean is, were the strong region-states that led to the European nation-states a product of the out breeding project and was their ability to successfully create cohesive nation-states out of a collection of region-states a product of the out breeding project”

    You are conflating two things. France was politically united very very early. Certainly far earlier than Germany. But the cultural unification/(relative) homogenisation of France took place much later — waay later — than its political unification. So France never had strong regional states, but regional identities were strong because before 1789 governments in Paris mostly didn’t care about local customs or languages as long as they paid their taxes and didn’t interfere with the king’s powers.

    But Germany did have lots of region-states until the 19th century, some of them quite large. And even the small ones — such as the numerous “free imperial cities” — were fairly advanced and “modern” in their republican and proto-parliamentary political organisation. In these cases, I would say, yes, these were the product of outbred citizens.

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  62. correction : “Burgundian just didn’t know he was the ancestor of an ancient Gallo-Roman race” — DESCENDANT.

    This “Gallo-Roman race” business is one of those 19th century national myth-creations being crammed down children’s throats at school, as part of the nation-building project.

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  63. @Luke Lea “Universal” feelings can be a matter of degree also, in terms of geographical extent “

    I think I expressed the same thought earlier and had said :

    ” why would national-level outbreeding create universalistic feelings ? I only find those amongst idealistic lefties. Probably both exist on a continuum and “universalism” is the right-tail outlier of the same phenomenon as nationalism. some people take their altruism farther out than others ”

    I think of potential affinities as concentric circles ranging from the very concrete individual & nuclear family, all the way to the very abstract level of humanity. ( Or in the case of my outbred but lookist consort, to the level of all cute mammals. I keep asking her, what happened with the great unity of the terran biome ? )

    Inbred peoples are less capable of abstract allegiances than outbred people. But allegiance must have a mean value, so it has a probability distribution. Where the most important affinity falls within those concentric rings is normally distributed and varies across societies. So if, in outbred societies, the average allegiance is toward the nation-state, then you can think of lesser and higher scales of allegiances in terms of standard deviation. Those who think there’s no reason to be particularly proud of an accident like the country of your birth so your allegiance should really be toward universal humanity (a sentiment which I think exists more in the UK than in the USA) would be an outlier.

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  64. @pseudoerasmus

    “You are conflating two things.”

    I’m failing then as I was trying to separate two things :)

    1) the pattern of relatedness as the tectonics of the story, bottom-up and foundational
    2) the more or less standard and universal human power dynamics as the top-down part of the story

    so the outcome in any region is the interplay between the two.

    however although i’m saying (2) is more or less standard and universal that doesn’t mean (1) is the sole driver because to a large extent (1) is inert and requires (2) to create the superstructure suited to it.

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  65. “the more or less standard and universal human power dynamics as the top-down part of the story”

    i.e. gangs of sociopaths wanting to be in charge of everybody

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  66. “Well to be fair i don’t think it’s common yet to extend the idea past close relatives”

    Well, to be honest I really don’t care whether (1) a lot of inbreeding leads to clannishness & tribalism (kin selection & inclusive fitness) ; or (2) clannish/tribal behaviour is caused by something else but leads to inbreeding, and inbreeding depression causes cognitive & other behavioural deficiencies which result in all manner of social dysfunction.

    I don’t care, either way, because all I’m interested in is that high degrees of inbreeding are associated with serious social dysfunctions.

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  67. “But allegiance must have a mean value, so it has a probability distribution.”

    Yes, not everyone has to be at the same point, for example

    in a double clannish society the people might be: 84% clannish, 13% tribal, 2% regional, 1% national
    in a clannish society the people might be: 50% clannish, 34% tribal, 13% regional, 2% national, 1% universal


    in a very out bred society the people might be: 1% clannish, 2% tribal, 13% regional, 68% national, 16% universal

    with a number of possible stages in between

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  68. @marian – “Are you specifically speaking about terrorist groups?”

    no, i am not.

    @marian – “Furthermore, I want to let you know that your essay just seems very confusing, since much of what I’m reading seems to be based on far fetched assumptions from misleading papers.”

    well, i didn’t actually base this post on any papers, but on several academic books (if you follow the links in the post, you will see this for yourself)…

    Metaphysics as Rhetoric: Alfarabi’s Summary of Plato’s “Laws”
    The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia
    The Arab State
    Modern Middle East Authoritarianism: Roots, Ramifications, and Crisis
    Modern Political Economics: Making Sense of the Post-2008 World
    Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East

    …including ibn khaldun’s Muqaddimah itself (a translated version).

    @marian – It’s also so strange that you would reduce the middle east to having a clan like mentality (???) What are you talking about??”

    it’s well known that the middle eastern/arab family type is based on the extended family/clan/tribe. i’m not making that up. that is well established and well researched, and has been under research since probably the 1800s. that middle eastern society is based on clans is nothing new. see, for example, the sociologist emmanuel todd on this.

    actual tribes are more important in places like saudi arabia and other countries on the arab peninsula than egypt — except, of course, for the bedouin tribes in egypt. extended families and, for some groups (more so in the south than the north), clans are important in egypt.

    these family structures simply don’t exist in northwestern europe.

    the interesting question to me — or one interesting question, anyway — is why? why the difference? i think that the mating patterns (cousin marriage versus no cousin marriage) make the difference. europeans used to marry their cousins, and they used to have tribes as well. they stopped marrying their cousins in the middle ages (cousin marriage was forbidden by the church), and the tribes disappeared. i don’t think that’s a coincidence, but, of course, i could be wrong.

    @marian – “Btw, social cohesion and solidarity is a common trait among countries, in general.”

    i disagree. some nations seem to have more social cohesion and solidarity across the whole nation than others. contrast, for example, sweden versus syria.

    @marian – “…and wikipedia is NOT authority on information.”

    i didn’t use wikipedia at all for any of the info in my post. i only gave it as a handy reference for readers at the beginning of the post. once again, for the references that i did use, see above in this comment (or the links in the post).

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  69. @matt – “Why isn’t ultra clannish Saudi Arabia a failed state? Why is it that public displeasure in Saudi Arabia leads to welfare reform (e.g. goodies / pork for the people, won by presenting a united front against the government) and not state collapse in warring factions?”

    ’cause the house of saud is smart and runs the country in a traditional arab way — the only way to successfully run such a tribal society. saudi arabia is really a good model for the region, i think. not that i’d want to live in such a society, but i’m not a tribal arab.

    @matt – “In terms of failed states, once we account for the problems of low IQ meaning states in the Middle East region have problems creating and extracting wealth, and once we account for obvious problems from historical interventionism, how much of a role is actually, really left for clannishness?”

    oh, yeah — i agree. western intervention is f*cking up the place entirely, and for the sake of the people who live there, i wish we’d get out.

    having said that, i think the clannishness would still very much affect the outcome of arabized countries. they can’t have liberal democracy — it just won’t work there. (not that i think that they should adopt liberal democracy.) they will have corruption and nepotism going forward. those things are inevitable given the degree of clannish there. they will have to structure their governments in some other way than how we do in the west.

    and i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

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  70. @e. antony – “There is a description in St. Symeon the New Theologian about the dangers of family – (that is, for a monk in particular) which if read by an Anglo-Saxon would be a real head scratcher. But given where he was from, asabiyyah had a lot to do with why family could be dangerous”

    oh, interesting! thanks!

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  71. @grey – “a clannish society’s ‘asabiyyah’ works both ways: pulling clan members in and pushing non clan members away, and thus is clearly both a source of unity and division depending on the *scale* you are looking at seems clearly true…. I think what’s true is the way a clannish society *reacts* to events is determined by the clannishness but as events change so will the reactions.”

    yes! that’s it. (^_^)

    edit: i tweeted about this comment. (^_^)

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  72. @luke – “[W]e need to distinguish between political states and modern liberal Western-style democracies. It is the latter which are impossible in clannish, multi-tribal societies, where ultimate loyalty is to kin not to the society as a whole. A state is not the same as a nation and a nation is not the same as a liberal democratic society with the rule of law and the rights of the individual.”

    yes! exactly!

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  73. @pseudoerasmus – “There’s a book called ‘The Discovery of France’ which might have had a title like ‘Parisians Explore the Deep Darkest Unmapped France’, the history of (literally) anthropologists and cartographers from Paris fanning out across the country to ‘discover’ the provinces and document their curious & exotic habits of life, as though the provincials were Africans. In the 19th century, Paris imposed mandatory state education and denied local control of schools, so that the curriculum was set in Paris, teachers were often sent from Paris or approved in Paris, and regional languages were banned at school.”

    yes, but i don’t think an operation like this would be possible — definitely not successful — in the arabized (or any other inbred) world. i don’t even think it would be conceived of!

    The Discovery of France << i am totally going to read that! thanks!

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  74. @pseudoerasmus – “Well, maybe we were just talking past each other…”

    yes, we’re just talking past each other. i was going to say that very thing!

    here…i’m just going to cut-and-paste all (or lots) of the things you said that i agree with (rather than try to repeat/reword what you’ve said):

    “But in order to get that outbred population in the first place you have to have a forcibly created state that brings the people within fucking distance. which is why you have it backward about native Americans. you should be asking why didn’t they get forced into states in the first place ? it happened (though late) in Mexico, Central America and the Andes, but not in North America.”

    yes. and that is what happened in early medieval europe, of course — the franks and the various anglo-saxon kingdoms, etc., all banned cousin marriage in secular laws in addition to the ecclesiastical regulations that were there.

    my point was not that outbreeding creates states, but that outbreeding led to nation-states — to the possibility of them — to the concept of such an animal. if i didn’t spell that out properly, that’s because i assume most people can read my mind by now. (~_^)

    “Those who minimise the importance of the Sunni-Shia divide in the present (not historically, because it was not important in the pre-modern past) by saying clannishness and tribalism are always just hiding beneath the surface, fail to realise how the sectarian divide interacts with the tribal divide. As I’ve said elsewhere, the sectarian divide is not a theological issue. It’s not theological anywhere else, so why should it be in the Middle East. The Sunni-Shia divide is an identity conflict — an ethnic conflict, if you will.”

    yes, absolutely. i said the same thing in this post — the sunni-shia divide is NOT a theological one.

    “The point was that France constructed a nation-state by actively effacing very strong local & regional identities. Outbreeding by itself did not lead spontaneously to a national feeling. Outbreeding was certainly a prerequisite — the French could not have done it with inbreeders. So outbreeding was necessary but not sufficient.”

    but, again, i think the fact that the concept of a nation-state even arising in nw europe is connected to the outbreeding. that the idea should have come up at all — that could only happen in an outbred (or, at least, a not extremely inbred) society.

    “Outbreeding wrung out clannish & tribal feeling out of the outbreeders and created in them the general ability to form social bonds with people based on non-kin affinities, such as common language or shared history (which might have been invented).”

    yes.

    “Inbred peoples are less capable of abstract allegiances than outbred people.”

    yes, again.

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  75. @pseudoerasmus – “But tribalism just didn’t matter in premodern societies, because the only thing the state did, for the most part, was to collect taxes and live off the work of peasants, and wage war to add more taxable peasants to the domain.”

    which premodern states are you thinking of? ’cause i’m not 100% sure about that. it certainly wasn’t the case in ancient athens where they had problems with clans (not tribes) — which is what cleisthenes’ reforms were all about, i.e. trying to deal with all the clannishness.

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  76. @pseudoerasmus – “Also, I’m pretty sure now bedouin were not originally FBD. I think FBD practices originate in the Levant.”

    oh! have you been persuaded by the korotayev et al. argument then?

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  77. @pseudoerasmus – “All regions of England, north, south, east, west, whatever, had high rates of parochial endogamy.”

    re. that article (which i had read before, btw) — that showed an interesting increase in parochial endogamy over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. there was a similar, parallel increase in cousin marriage throughout europe in the nineteenth century — see second half of this post. not to any huge levels like the arab world, of course — but the rates did go up — which is interesting in and of itself, i think — but also it could suggest that there had been less parochial endogamy in earlier centuries. maybe. in some places there definitely was. for instance, fifty percent of marriages in a town in fourteenth century england were town exogamous — while 75% of marriages in rural northern italy in the same period were parish exogamous. so mating patterns do fluctuate.

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  78. @pseudoerasmus – “why would national-level outbreeding create universalistic feelings?”

    no, no. not national-level outbreeding — just outbreeding.

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  79. @pseudoerasmus – “It was fundamentally Franco-German, but it spread to Greece fast enough. Greece’s was the first truly ethnonationalist war of independence. Ask Byron!”

    yes, but the greeks have had some amount of outbreeding. not as much as the nw europeans, afaict. but much more than some other groups on the planet…who shall remain nameless. (~_^)

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  80. @pseudoerasmus – “Political consolidation never took place amongst the Native Americans in pre-Columbian North America. For what ever reason no one could come out on top and dominate all the others, even within regions. I’ve always really liked this blogpost by Cochran….”

    yes. population density is no doubt a key. no one’s going to bother forming a state of any sort if the populace is just too diffuse.

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  81. How to explain Iraq’s relative peacefulness during the Ottoman rule (15-19th century) ? It looks like it was more stable than Europe.

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  82. OK, so I’m going to leave my thoughts here. The JayMan Smackdown:

    1. Agriculture appears to be a sure-fire prerequisite for the formation of states (and possibly pastoralism will sometimes do; e.g., Mongols, Arabs, etc.). You don’t even need outbreeding (e.g., China) or even high IQ (e.g., West African empires). But you do need some kind of settlement. The reason? Even in a clannish society, farming leads to highish population density and hence specialization. People are free to diversify into different social niches. This often leads to the developments of elites. And elites that impose their will upon the rest of the people is the essence of a state.

    So broadly, yes, even highly clannish groups can exist in states. It’s a consequence of settled living. Note that after the fall of Caliphate, state control disappeared in much of Arabia. The state continued in the parts that had long histories of states: in Persia, Egypt, Iraq, and parts of the coastal Maghreb.

    2. There was some close breeding in “core” Europe, even in the most “outbred” parts by modern standards, but that was a consequence of the fact long range travel was difficult. This is why the different European groups form recognizable genetic clusters today. That said, there was considerable population mobility and the degree of close mating was nothing compared to the rest of the world (you actually avoided cousins on both sides).

    Razib Khan often notes that the cousin marriage ban was relaxed during the Protestant Reformation. But does that matter? Today, most NW Euros find the idea of mating with close relatives revolting (those is why you get the incessant inbreeding jokes about certain peoples). By that time, you had populations who had spent centuries avoiding close marriages. It seems questionable they were eager to resume it.

    3. “If Alsace-Lorrained had ultimately ended up in Germany, or Savoy in Switzerland, or Provence in Italy, then the Alsatians, Savoyards and Provencaux would not ‘feel’ French.”

    Maybe if parts of New Brunswick or parts of Maine ended up on either side of the U.S.- Canadian border (both parts today containing the same mix of Yankees, Highland Scots, Acadians, and Quebecois) – which it could have easily have – each side would feel “American” instead of “Canadian” or vice versa (though maybe that’s a bad example, because national loyalty is questionable on both sides here – then again, maybe it’s not). When you have certain outbred groups, national borders can create some variation on allegiances because perhaps the trait of importance is not necessarily loyalty to a particular team, but loyalty to a team. Then again, that’s North Korea/South Korea territory. Who knows? My suspicion is that historical circumstances can lead to some flexibility on that, but there isn’t unlimited leeway on that.

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  83. I think ‘chick is seriously misreading Ibn Khaldun’s thought.

    About four years ago I had the luck to find the 3-volume Rosenthal translation of the entire Muqaddihmah in the library. I slogged through the whole thing (and then read the Issawi translation excerpts on top it) before the month was over. I copied down a lot of interesting passages into a ms word document so that I might use them later, and that is what I will be citing in this discussion. I cannot recheck the context for all these statements, as I am several thousand miles away from the library in question, but I believe they will serve for the purpose at hand. Unless stated otherwise, all quotations that follow are from vol I of Rosenthal’s translations.

    The first thing to remember is the context in which the book was written. Do not forget that Ibn Khaldun met Tamerlane face to face! His theories of decline and fall were not merely designed to explain the shifting fates of Berber tribes on Mediterranean shores, but *all* of human history, up to and including the greatest conqueror of his day! Seljuqs, Mongols, and Timurids had just as much to do with his theories as Berbers and Arabs, including those outside conquerors wh came from less inbred realms.

    I have found that Khaldun’s theories fit well to most nomadic state formation, even those in East Asia, with the Mongol Empire being a compelling example. But lets back up and look at what the theory was.

    Ibn Khaldun introduces asabiyahh in familial terms:

    “Their [Bedouins] defense and protection are successful only if they are a closely knit group of common descent. This strengthens their stamina and makes them feared, since everybody’s affection for his family and his group is more important (than anything else). Compassion and affection for one’s blood relations and relatives exists in human nature as something God put into the hearts of men. It makes for mutual support and air, and increase the fear felt by the enemy.
    …[Those without their own lineage] cannot live in the desert, because they would fall prey to any nation that might want to swallow them up” (vol I, p. 25)

    Mutual reliance and kinship among these clans will naturally lead to a strong asabiyah. But Khaldun also states there is nothing inherent in common descent itself that makes asabiyah possible. In the wilds families exist because if they did not then men would be soon be overwhelmed and destroyed by circumstance and danger. Feasibly other groups (for example, the tight-knit communities of ‘social bandits,’ which in places like China have routinely taken their asabiyah and transformed it into armies, kingdoms, and dynasties) could gender the same sense of loyalty if placed in similar circumstances. Thus Khaldun notes:

    “The consequences of common descent, though natural, still are something imaginary. The real thing to bring about the feeling of close contact is social intercourse, friendly association, long familiarity, and the companionship that results from growing up together having the same wet nurse, and sharing the other circumstances of life and death. If close contact is established in such a manner, the result will be affection and cooperation.” (p. 374)

    The simplest and clearest description of asabiyah’s requirements is given by Lenn Evan Goodman in his essay “Ibn Khaldun and Thucydides”:

    “The tragic fact of history, however, which Ibn Khaldun insists on bringing before us, is that in politics whatever can be demanded will be demanded. Thus ‘asabiyya, whether in the nation or the tribe, becomes a matter of willingness to die.’ It is because this is so that nations and tribes, and the families, states or dynasties which rule them, have finite lifespans. Unlesss individuals are prepared to die for their group, the group itself will die.” (p. 260).

    (This essay is still by far the best commentary on/exposition of Ibn Khaldun’s thought written in the English language. I strongly recommend it to everyone)

    These requirements start with the clan and by necessity define the clannish life. But asabiyah does not end there:

    “Once group feeling [Rosenthal’s translation for ‘asabiyah’] has established superiority over the people who share in that particular group feeling, it will, by its very nature, seek superiority over people of other group feelings unrelated to the first. If the one group feeling is the equal of the other or is able to stave off its challenge, the competing people are even with and equal to each other. Each group feeling maintains its own domain and people, as is the case with tribes and nations all over the Earth. However, if the one group feeling overpowers the other and makes it subservient to itself, the two groups feelings enter into close contact, and the defeated group feeling gives added power to the victorious group feeling, which, as a result, sets it goal of domination and superiority higher than at first”

    Now Khaldun is never really too explicit on what exact mechanism allows one ‘group feeling to overpower another.’ He is quite empathetic that religion is not this mechanism, and goes to great lengths to point out how the early Arab conquests and the consolidation of the Arab tribes by Muhammad and the early Caliphs are anomalies that his theory can not explain. He views that period in human history as singular, a direct product of God’s will and interference, not the natural product of the laws God devised to regulate the universe.

    In Khaldun’s thought, conquest itself seems to be the driving force behind the consolidation of two asabiyahs into one. Once a weaker tribal group is defeated, its leaders removed and men of valor killed, pacified, or subsumed under a new organization so utterly that the ‘tit for tat’ vengeance schemes so common to nomadic society (which Khaldun sees as the root cause of war) are no longer possible, then their asabiyah can be swallowed up in the larger group’s. What is key here is that the other groups – after their initial defeat – are not coerced into having the same feeling of asabiyah as the main group. Asabiyah that must be coerced it is not asabiyah at all (this is a theme Khaldun touches on often and we will return to it in more detail when we talk about why asabyah declines in civilized states). Instead, those who have been allowed to join the main clan’s host slowly start to feel its asabiyah as the two groups “enter into close contact,” sharing the same trials, foods, circumstances, and becoming acquainted with the other’s customs, but just as importantly, sharing the same set of incentives. Once the losers are are forced together with the winners, defeat for the main clan is defeat for all; glory for the main clan is glory for all; booty gained by the main clan’s conquests becomes booty to be shared with all. Once people from a subordinate group begin to feel like the rise and fall of their own fortunes is inextricably linked to the fate of the group that overpowered them then they become willing to sacrifice and die for the sake of this group, for it has become their group.

    If you study the formation of steppe confederacies in Inner Asia, such as the Xiongnu, Turks, Keraits, and the later Mongols (and to an extent Chhingis’ Empire, thought that one followed a slightly different path) it is not easy difficult to see this exact process in action progressing almost exactly as described.

    So what happens after the nomads unite under one leader and one asabiyah and begin to take over or from real states?

    Well, the first step is to establish mulk. Rosenthal translates the word as “royal authority,” Isawii translates its as “sovereignty,” Baali uses “state,” and Goodman uses “kingdom.” Khladun notes that this kind of power was not the same kind most clan chieftains or nomadic leaders possess:

    According to their nature, human beings need someone to act as a restraining influence and mediator in every social organization, in order to keep members from fighting with each other. That person must, by necessity, have superiority over the others in the matter of group feeling…. Such superiority is royal authority (mulk). It is more than leadership. Leadership means being a chieftain, and the leader is obeyed, but he has no power to force others to accept his rulings. Royal authority means superiority and the power to rule by force. (p. 284)

    .

    Such authority springs from asabiyah but it is not asabiyah. Asabiyah is a corporate possession, a shared loyalty and partisanship possessed by entire clans or peoples. Sovereignty, on the other hand, cannot be divided. It can only be possessed by one man. In the end it is to him, not to his clan or to his people, the kingdom belongs.

    Khaldun makes the distinction between the two in the following terms:

    It is difficult for them [Arabs] to subordinate themselves to each other, because they are used to (no control) and because they are in a state of savagery. Their leader needs them mostly for the group spirit [asabiyah] that is necessary for the purposes of defense. He is, therefore, forced to rule them kindly and to avoid antagonizing them. Otherwise, he would have trouble with the group spirit, and such trouble would be his undoing and theirs. Royal leadership [mulk] and government, on the other hand, require the leader to exercise a restraining influence by force. If not, his leadership would not last. (p. 306)

    Royal Authority is impersonal. It is deliberate and planned. It is upheld by the realm of bureaucrats and officials; it is enforced by law and the force of arms. It is, in simplest terms, coercion used to bring peace to the ruler’s realm and ensure that the ruler’s will is done inside it.

    As the power of royal authority increases the incentives his warriors, clansmen, and followers face begin to change:

    First, as we have stated, the royal authority, by its very nature, must claim all glory for itself. As long as glory was the common property of the group, and all members of the group made an identical effort (to obtain glory), their aspirations to gain the upper hand over others and to defend their own possessions were expressed in exemplary unruliness and lack of restraint. They all aimed at fame. Therefore, they considered death encountered in pursuit of glory, sweet, and they preferred annihilation to the loss of (glory). Now, however, when one claims all glory for himself, he treats the others severely and holds them in check. Further, he excludes them from possessing property and appropriates it for himself. People become too lazy to care for fame. They become dispirited and come to love humbleness and servitude.
    (p. 339)

    This is the root of the ‘asabiyah cycle’ Khaldun talks about and on it rests the rise and decline of empires .

    (NOTE: Khaldun actually talks about two cycles and they are not the same. One is the ‘four generations from rags to riches and back’ cycle, which he believes affects individual lines of the royal house. He does not equate this with the rise and fall of kingdoms themselves, suggesting that once generation four comes around and screws things up enough, the ruling dynasty’s kinsmen will depose him and put another member of the clan with more sense on the throne, starting that cycle over. The kingdom collapses when the dynasty’s kinsmen themselves are no longer willing to fight for the ruling line at all – in essence, when they (and everyone else) has lost their asabiyah for it. [see p. 280 for more on this]. This broader cycle, in which asabiyah waxes and wanes, in the one that transforms barbarians into kings and nomads into emperors. It is important not to confuse these two).

    Thus in Khaldun’s view, asabiyah does dwindle away. The process can take generations, but the reason is always the same: “They have lost the sweetness of fame and group feeling, because they are dominated by force (p. 374).” To use a rather rough analogy: a large group of people can agree that it is a good thing to give alms to the poor. But once a government steps in and decides that they will tax the community in order to provide for the poor, the nature of giving to the poor changes from a deed done in a spirit of charity done of free will to a deed compelled by force, tolerated or resented by the givers. The spirit gives way when the law is in place—moreover, in the case of asabiyah, the party spirit that leads to conquest does not strengthen the ruler when the conquest is over. Khaldun sketches the process out in the following terms:

    It should be known that, as we have stated, a ruler can achieve power only with the help of his people. They are his group and his helpers in his enterprise. He uses them to fight against those who revolt against his dynasty. It is they whom fills the administrative offices, whom he appoints as Wazirs and tax collectors. They help him to achieve superiority. They participate in the government. They share in all of his other important affairs.

    This applies as long as the first stage of a dynasty lasts, as we have stated. With the approach of the second state, the ruler shows himself independent of his people, claims all the glory for himself, and pushes people away from him with the palms of his hands. As a result, his own people become, in fact, his enemies. In order to prevent them from participation (in power) the ruler needs other friends, not of his own kin, while he can use against his own people and who will be his friends in their place. These new friends become closer to him than anyone else. They deserve better than anyone else to be close to him and to be his followers, as well as to be preferred and to be given high positions, because they war willing to give their lives for him, preventing his own people from regaining the power that had been theirs and from occupying with him the rank to which they had not been used.(p. 372)

    For the societies of the Middle East “new friends” could be of two types—the first are the civilized urbanites and advisors who were never part of the ruling clan but, possessing institutional knowledge and familiarity with the cities know ruled, prove useful to the ruling clan (their mandarin counterparts in premodern China, whose influence can be seen clearly in the Liao, Jin, Yuan, and Qing courts, are another excellent example of the type). The second are mercenaries – or as was the case in the medieval Middle East, the slave armies. For Khaldun the reliance on slave armies and Turkic warriors by Arab dynasts was a sure sign of the dynasties’ decline, vivid proof that the clan in question no longer commanded asabiyah to preserve itself. When only those compelled or paid to fight will die in your name the end is near.

    Part of the reason the ruling line loses this capacity is the corrupting nature of urban civilization itself:

    “By its nature, royal authority demands peace. When people grow used to being at peace and at ease, such ways, like any habit, become part of their nature and character. The new generations grow up in comfort, in a life of tranquility and ease. The old savagery is transformed. The ways of the desert which made them rulers, their violence, rapacity, skill at finding their way in the desert and travelling across wastes, are lost. They now differ from city folk only in their manner and dress. Gradually their prowess is lost, their vigor is eroded, their power undermined…. As men adopt each new luxury and refinement, sinking deeper and deeper into comfort, softness, and peace, they grow more and more estranged from the life of the desert and the desert toughness. They forget the bravery which was their defense. Finally, they come to rely for their protection on some armed force other than their own (341-342)

    But the problem with urban civilization is not just that it makes me people soft. It also affects their conception of asabiyah. Goodman explains:

    Sublimated ‘asabiyya, the “identification” of individuals with the group such that they effectively sub- ordinate their atomic interests not to one another, simpliciter, but to one another as office holders, as possessors of various special and general rights which arise in a diversified, money economy and a more or less peaceful, legalized civil society, is necessary qua social bond for the maintenance of such a society; but qua sublimated, it bears within it the seeds of its own destruction….. : In the tribe it does not much matter how one feels about one’s obligations; the painful and immediate consequences of dissociation from the group are all too evident and pressing. But in civilization obligations have proliferated and grown complex; multiple substitutions of doer and recipient are possible (for the relation, not the identity of its participants is what counts); a thick cushion against the consequences of neglect is provided by the built-up institutions of society itself; and above all, the rise of wealth, the products of industry, including leisure (which is at once the most precious and most dangerous product of human industry) have opened the door to the most convincing enemies of duty (for sublimated ‘asabiyya in the most general sense is duty), namely personal ease, personal safety, personal pleasure.” –(“Ibn Khaldun and Thucydides,” p. 261)

    .

    Asabiyah, then, amounts to the feeling among those dying that they are dying for their own. As soon as they begin to feel that they are not dying for their own, but are dying for the king, or for someone’s clan, or for some obscure institution that is not them — well, that is when asabiyah is gone and the kingdom is in danger. Civilization shrinks asabiyah that once united people of different peoples, tribes, and occupations until people only feel a sense of loyalty to themselves, of if you are lucky, people of their immediate clan (at which point it is not really asabyah at all, but narrow self interest!). This leaves them open to attack to the next round of nomadic tribesmen united by charismatic leaders into one indivisible asabiyah driven force.

    Thus when HBDchick says ” 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” we have to conclude that Khaldun would disagree with her. His model collapse is not the 21st century partition of Iraq on sectarian lines and there is something a little askew of trying to map his model onto it. His case studies are the Almoravid conquest of Al-Andalus, the Indrisid and Almohad conquests of the Mahgreb, the Fatamid and Bahri conquests of Egypt, the Seljuq conquest of the Ghaznavids and Abbasids, the Timurid conquest of Delhi, and the Mongol conquest of everything. He is not interested in why some kingdoms disintegrated, but why some kingdoms could not muster the strength to defeat desert hordes and why these hordes were so powerful in the first place

    Likewise, when HBDchick says, “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” we can be sure Khaldun would disagree with her. Indeed, he is quite explicit on this point:

    Group feeling is something composite that results from (the amalgamation of) many groups, one of which is stronger than the others. This group feeling is able to overcome and gain power over (all the others) and eventually brings them all under its sway, (p. 336).

    Now just ‘cuz Khaldun said it does not make it so, and it is possible chick’s model of human society is more accurate than Ibn Khaldun’s.However, the term asabiyah, as used and recognized today in both the academic literature and in more common discourse, follows Khaldun’s definition, not hers. What she is describing is not asabiyah, but something else entirely.

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  84. @t.greer – “Likewise, when HBDchick says, ‘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’ we can be sure Khaldun would disagree with her.”

    oh, yes. and i disagee with khaldun on this matter. i think that al-farabi was closer to the mark (although parens thinks that khaldun pretty much meant what al-farabi said about asabiyyah).

    @t.greer – “About four years ago I had the luck to find the 3-volume Rosenthal translation of the entire Muqaddihmah in the library.”

    that’s the version i’ve read, too, although i only read the first volume.

    and i think that this…

    “Group feeling is something composite that results from (the amalgamation of) many groups, one of which is stronger than the others. This group feeling is able to overcome and gain power over (all the others) and eventually brings them all under its sway, (p. 336).”

    …actually refers to iltiham — a supra-asabiyyah — rather than asabiyyah. that’s my understanding from teitelbaum and luciani (links in post). rosenthal was a bit free and easy with using the phrase “group solidarity” i think. he used it for both asabiyyah and iltiham, which is confusing (to say the least).

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  85. “However, the term asabiyah, as used and recognized today in both the academic literature and in more common discourse, follows Khaldun’s definition, not hers. What she is describing is not asabiyah, but something else entirely.”

    I disagree. I think all these different people are trying to explain the same phenomenon without including the genetic component.

    It’s a bit like the story of two blindfolded men describing an elephant when one is holding the trunk and the other holding the tail.

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  86. @Cplusk

    “How to explain Iraq’s relative peacefulness during the Ottoman rule (15-19th century) ? It looks like it was more stable than Europe.”

    If the only aim is to keep the peace then as long as the economy was mostly local and agrarian and the rulers went with the grain of the system and knew all the clan chiefs and tribal chiefs etc I don’t think it would be impossible (among long-time farmers, maybe not herders). It becomes much more difficult if/when the rulers try to force the population into functioning like a nation, for example because they want a *modern* style army to fight other countries with.

    (I think they’d be more successful if they adapted the western model to the local tectonics rather than copy it directly.)

    Also Iraq has oil now and that leads to people fighting to get access to the oil revenues. No oil and it would go back to little clan skirmishes over a water source.

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  87. (1)
    I think HBDchick and I have overcome most of our “talking past each other” issue. Now, if only every comment of mine about the French not bathing enough or the Ache of Paraguay eating their own snot were not always followed with the rejoinder “Yes, but the Arabs…”….

    (2)
    I find Jayman’s comments reasonable. Only one comment. Provence and Alsace-Lorraine still have conspicuous elements of non-French identity. Until recently most Alsatians were bilingual (French and German) and a significant number were trilingual (F., G. and Alasatian). The Occitan language still has many more speakers than Irish let alone Scots Gaelic, although most Occitan speakers are now pretty old. But just like the Irish who make an elaborate show of the Irish language even though very few of them speak it — so in Provence the people still live off memories of a distinct culture, based on the “language of the Troubadours”. Anyway, if outbreeding implies a general ability to form abstract bonds with strangers — which I think is true — then the national allegiance of any outbred person should be the function of where he was born and grew up.

    (3)
    “cause the house of saud is smart and runs the country in a traditional arab way — the only way to successfully run such a tribal society. saudi arabia is really a good model for the region, i think. not that i’d want to live in such a society, but i’m not a tribal arab “

    The Sauds are not that smart. What they do only works if you have money to throw at problems. Most Arab countries don’t have oil, or not enough per capita to emulate the Sauds.

    (4)
    western intervention is f*cking up the place entirely…

    In the short run. But in the long run the Iraqis are better off as three countries than as one. The British made Iraq long-term unworkable even in the minimal sense, without a far more brutal dictatorship than the one the Sauds practise. As three independent countries, Iraq can revert to what it had been more like under the Ottomans — three separate loosely governed vilayets. Which also answers Cplusk’s question. A three-state solution won’t turn them into democracies, but it would reduce the internal divisions at least by a one factor.

    (5)
    oh! have you been persuaded by the korotayev et al. argument then?

    No change since we last talked about it. Agree with him on the location, but not on the causes of the adoption.



    (6)
    “…showed an interesting increase in parochial endogamy over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. there was a similar, parallel increase in cousin marriage throughout europe in the nineteenth century….but also it could suggest that there had been less parochial endogamy in earlier centuries. maybe. in some places there definitely was. for instance, fifty percent of marriages in a town in fourteenth century england were town exogamous — while 75% of marriages in rural northern italy in the same period were parish exogamous. so mating patterns do fluctuate.”

    A lot of the fluctuation in geographical endogamy must be a statistical artefact of measuring marriage rates by parish, rather than by physical distance travelled to find a mate. Smaller parishes mean you must go outside the parish more often to find an unrelated mate than bigger parishes. In England, population peaked in 1310, fell by ~60% by 1440, and did not recover to the 1310 level until about 1650. After that it’s semi-stagnant until the 18th century, when population finally started trending up.

    French scholars seem to publish choice-of-mate by distance more than British scholars. For example, see page 178 in http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27889788?uid=3739704&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104391305533

    (7)
    Athenian democracy is overhyped. For its time, it was an accomplishment that a state with 30,000 to 40,000 free male citizens could establish a popular governing assembly of 500 or so people. That was a big population compared with other Greek city-states. But in the scheme of things that achievement ranks somewhere between, say, the Waziristan jirga and the Kurdistan parliament. Besides, we know how stable Athenian democracy was. Under the stresses of the Pelopponesian Wars with Sparta, Athens kept reducing the qualified electorate so it became more oligarchical over time.

    In fact, ancient Greece in general illustrates many of the issues under discussion. Those quarrelsome city-states would unite only when faced with external threats (e.g., the Persians). After the Persian Wars were over, most Greek city-states were forced to choose between Athens and Sparta. Sparta won (ironically with Persian support, something which never gets mentioned in the romantic burbling over the “300”) ; and Greece was temporarily united under Spartan hegemony. But all that soon disintegrated until the Macedonians arrive on the scene and incorporated Greece into a true empire — not based on any democratic principles, by the way. My point : the ancient Greeks were unable to scale up their hyperlocal political system and just like anybody else at the time, when they did create a large empire it was based on autocracy.

    Likewise, Rome. When all is said and done, what does the fall of Republican Rome imply ? The inability of republican institutions to cope with the explosive growth in empire. The senatorial-equestrian system was just fine for a small city-state, when most of the patriciate knew each other and their power was balanced. But once you began having conquests, then the balance of power within the senatorial order was disturbed from within by ambitious men who wanted to add huge numbers of new citizens “to shore up their base”, to use American parlance ; allow the landless to become soldiers for the time ; and pander to the masses with booty from conquests. So once you did have a sizeable territorial empire then citizenship became much more abstract and the state was now full of anonoymous strangers. Thus, the transition from the republic to the principate. No ancient society was equipped to handle a large, complex, anonymous society via any kind of consensual politics.

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  88. @pseudoerasmus – “Athenian democracy is overhyped.”

    no, man. you completely missed my point about democracy in ancient athens. i wasn’t trying to hype it. i was pointing out that the reason they (cleisthenes) instituted it in the first place was to deal with the clannishness in athenian society/politics.

    you had said…

    “But tribalism just didn’t matter in premodern societies, because the only thing the state did, for the most part, was to collect taxes and live off the work of peasants, and wage war to add more taxable peasants to the domain.”

    …and i wondered (am still wondering) how you know that, because i can think of one example — ancient athens — that was “tribal.” well, it wasn’t exactly tribal, but it was clannish. that was the problem that cleisthenes and others were trying to deal with. see this post: demokratia.

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  89. @pseudoerasmus – “Now, if only every comment of mine about the French not bathing enough or the Ache of Paraguay eating their own snot were not always followed with the rejoinder ‘Yes, but the Arabs…’….”

    yes, but the arabs the post was about asabiyyah! =P

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  90. @pseudoerasmus – “The Sauds are not that smart. What they do only works if you have money to throw at problems. Most Arab countries don’t have oil, or not enough per capita to emulate the Sauds.”

    they’re pretty smart. all of the oil $$$ helps, of course, but the marriage alliances are smart. they build alliances like it was done back in the day — and that works for them given their societal structures/the underlying biology.

    what they get up to in mecca seems a bit draconian, though. i have a bad feeling that’s going to blow up in their faces someday.

    Reply

  91. @pseudoerasmus – “But in the long run the Iraqis are better off as three countries than as one.”

    i agree. there needs to be a lot of map redrawing throughout the middle east.

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  92. @pseudoerasmus – “A lot of the fluctuation in geographical endogamy must be a statistical artefact of measuring marriage rates by parish, rather than by physical distance travelled to find a mate.”

    yup. although the ely data relate to the town, not the parish.

    in the end, though, i think the most important thing is consanguineous marriage versus not and not so much village/parish endogamy versus exogamy.

    Reply

  93. “…and i wondered (am still wondering) how you know [tribalism just didn’t matter in premodern societies], because i can think of one example — ancient athens — that was “tribal.” well, it wasn’t exactly tribal, but it was clannish. that was the problem that cleisthenes and others were trying to deal with.”

    First, I had been talking about multi-territorial empires ( https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/asabiyyah/#comment-96171 ). You’re comparing a city-state with empires.

    But, just to appease you, let’s say tribalism mattered a lot. But, how ever it might have mattered, in the actual outcomes of territorial consolidation and fragmentation in the Middle East and North Africa, I don’t see much difference between that region and Europe or any other region for that matter. — in the premodern period. Which region in Eurasia was not subject to repeated cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation ? In the major population centres of the Middle East (Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Iranian plateau) the state endured while dynasties came and went. How is that different from Europe ? So your whole statement, “the arab states repeatedly fell apart” is questionable and seems valid only for Spain. In my Egyptian example, all of those were changes in dynasty, little different from the change from the House of Stuart to the House of Orange (which took place after a small, superficial military conflict). And the changes in size of territory followed the normal ebb and flow of military conflicts, just as anywhere else in the world. So if you believe that one dynasty in Egypt gave way to another because it was weakened by tribal divisions, then that is an idiosyncratic take and it’s your burden to show it.

    The Abbasid Caliphate, which endured in Baghdad from 750 to 1258, started out big in the 8th century but by the time it fell to the Mongols it had basically been reduced to the Tigris & Euphrates valley. That’s because foreign dynasties came to gradually pick away at the periphery of the empire. I’m not saying there weren’t internal divisions that might have weakened the Abbasid hold on power. But there’s no evidence these divisions were tribal. The Abbasid Caliphs had to continuously stamp out ambitions of local governors, opposition from Shia, ethnically Turkish and Iranian vassals on the outer edges of the empire trying to break away to form their own little empires, etc. Again, how is that different from Europe or India or China ? I don’t understand why there is this expectation that the Middle East should have been a politically united region, when dynasties came and went all the time in history ? Empires are hard to maintain and there are always centrifugal forces.

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  94. The only example of an “Arab state” actually falling apart is the Abbasid Caliphate at the hands of the Mongols in 1258. But the state tends to disappear when someone kills hundreds of thousands in your in mediaeval capital city.

    Reply

  95. Some American Indians had a state. It would be interesting to find out what sort of marriage patterns the Purépecha people had before the Spanish conquest.

    Sailer has pointed out that there is some “community” feeling towards potential marriage partners (for oneself or one’s kin, particularly one’s children). So if the custom doesn’t push strongly towards first-cousin marriage, there are lots of overlapping circles of potential kinship. In places with bans on cousin marriage, even though most marriages were very local, there was always a possibility of having to go to the next village for a bride (or being sent to the next village for a husband); that creates lots of little overlapping circles, until some boundary is hit – religious differences, language differences – where it would be much less likely that one would marry across that boundary.

    The big push for linguistic unity within European countries helped expand the circles of potential mates – one’s marriage pool is larger if there are more people speaking mutually intelligible dialects (which matters a lot when you’ve moved to the Big City for work). It also makes mass armies possible.

    Reply

  96. To illustrate what i mean about tectonics and a lot of the problems maybe being caused by trying to graft a western model wholesale onto different tectonics…

    If i was an Arab dictator building an army instead of trying to recreate the western model i’d base the bulk of it on the tribes as mounted-infantry, providing the vehicles, training etc but otherwise self-organised and recruit the more technical arms: engineers, artillery, tankers, air force from the urban artisan/middle class where the tribal thing has diluted somewhat.

    You could extrapolate that to politics also.

    Reply

  97. “How to explain Iraq’s relative peacefulness during the Ottoman rule (15-19th century) ? It looks like it was more stable than Europe.”

    Another thought on this. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan you have traditional councils called shura, jirga etc where the clan chiefs gather to settle issues.

    They operate on consensus.

    In an environment where nepotism is the norm decisions must be made by consensus because in that kind of environment a winner takes all system results in the winner literally taking all and dividing it up among his relatives and allies.

    In the West you can (or could) have a winner takes all system because the winner *doesn’t* literally take all.

    So it seems to me the tectonics of clannishness requires a different national scale democratic model built around consensus and not the western model. The western winner takes all democratic model on clannish tectonics is simply a recipe for civil strife.

    Reply

  98. @grey – “In the West you can (or could) have a winner takes all system because the winner *doesn’t* literally take all. So it seems to me the tectonics of clannishness requires a different national scale democratic model built around consensus and not the western model. The western winner takes all democratic model on clannish tectonics is simply a recipe for civil strife.”

    i’ve been planning (heh, “planning” (~_^) ) to write a post on consensus democracy and clannish societies and why liberal democracy just doesn’t work in those societies for about half a year now, but now you just wrote it for me in five succinct, easy-to-read paragraphs. thanks!!! (^_^)

    serisously. this is IT in a nutshell.

    robin fox got to this, too, in The Tribal Imagination (altho he doesn’t seem to understand that biology/genetics is driving it all). i quoted part of this from TTI [pgs. 60-63] in this post:

    “Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions would compete for votes and, most amazingly, the losers would *vountarily cede power*. This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps….

    “But far from being a fact of human nature, this voluntary ceding of power after elections, this basic feature of liberal democracy, actually flies in the face of nature. It is self-evidently absurd. Our political opponents are always disreputable, and their accession to power will be the ruin of the country. Listen to the rhetoric of campaigns: it almost amounts to criminal malfeasance to allow the opponents to take over. Yet that is what we do after a mere counting of heads: cede control to the villains and incompetents.

    “The cynic will say that the only reason we allow this to happen is because we know that in truth there is no real difference between political parties in these systems, and so we join in a conspiracy of the willing to take turn and turn about. Even so, this willingness that we take so for granted is an amazing and unusual and a fragile thing. Ajami quotes an Arab proverb, min al-qasr ila al-qabr: ‘from the palace to the grave.’ Once you have power, in the name of God and the good of the people, you keep it, and the voluntary relinquishment of power is simply seen as weakness or stupidity….

    “And our Western democracies still struggle with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism, whose energetic persistence should tell us something…. How could we believe, then, that we could walk into a country like Iraq and do in a few months, or even a few years, or even several decades, what millennia had failed to evolve spontaneously? Because ‘the Iraqi People,’ like everyone else, ‘loved freedom’?

    “Ajami’s book [The Foreigner’s Gift], subtle, intelligent, and moving as it is, makes almost painful reading. He is supportive of the removal of Saddam and the potential shake-up of the region as its bullyboy dictators quail at the sight of one of their number on trial (and now hanged) for sins that are commonplace among them. At the same time his intimate knowledge of the country and region shows how ill-equipped it is to fact the task of governing itself according to the foreigner’s model. He paints a vivid picture of the earnestness and sincerity of the attempt by American commanders, especially General Petraeus, to understand and help in ‘reconstruction.’ At the same time he sums up their situation a ‘bewilderment’ in the face of the intransigence, as they see it, of the ungrateful natives. The old colonial administrators could have told him a few things about ungrateful natives.

    “For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunnis, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the region, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own system, is relatively foreign.”

    i’m with you, grey. i think the peoples of the arabized world need to be allowed to set up their own political system(s). i’d be glad enough to help them avoid having completely tyrranical rulers, but we should stop insisting upon them imitating liberal, parliamentary democracies. that system will just not work well in those societies. (not that there’s anything wrong with that! (~_^) )

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  99. Except “consensus democracy” is meaningless which is why it has failed to spontaneously emerge despite the imprimatur just given it. what you can decide whilst squatting around a camp fire, cannot be scaled up to national levels. That’s why at national levels you tend to have tyrannies in clannish or tribal societieis. Nothing would ever get done otherwise. Or you could have a system like Pakistan where two ethnicity-based parties alternate in power stealing, until one stays in power too long and the other contrives to have it “legally” overthrown.

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  100. One of the things you notice immediately about people from the Middle East is they are really into conspiracy theories. Apparent explanations are never trusted, because that requires trusting information from strangers, like the press. Information acquired firsthand or conveyed by people you personally know, is highly prized over “anonymous” sources. I find this also true of low-IQ people in general — what you can’t see, feel, touch yourself, is less real and more abstract.

    Anyway, that’s why jirgas “work”. Tribal elders, who have known each other even as rivals, can make deals face-to-face. Stare into each others’ eye, and so on. But once you remove the element of the direct personal contact, and make interactions more anonymous, suspicion and mistrust obstruct cooperation and societal coordination.

    You can’t scale up “jirgas” to national levels.

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  101. @hubchik

    “i’ve been planning (heh, “planning” (~_^) ) to write a post on consensus democracy and clannish societies and why liberal democracy just doesn’t work”

    yeah, the idea came from here

    .

    “@grey – i tweeted your comment. (^_^)”

    shucks :)

    .

    @pseudoerasmus

    “You can’t scale up “jirgas” to national levels”

    Maybe so but *trying* to do so might still be an improvement on simply grafting a “winner takes all” system onto the wrong tectonics.

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  102. History is a story of warring states in a relentless competition for power. State A conquers State B. State B does not cease to exist. State A conquers States B,C,D,E, etc.. creating an empire. When that empire crumbles you have states A’, B’, C’, D’, etc. where B’ may or may not be identical to B, etc. The only things all these states have in common is peasants and ruling classes (and taxes). The peasants throughout the region are always subject to some state, maybe not the same state as last year, and they are always ruled over by some nobility, maybe not the same one as last year. Etcetera, ectcetera, etcetera.

    Does Pseudoerasmus or anyone else disagree with this general statement?

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  103. Correction: When State A conquers State B I guess you should say that State B ceases to exist, at least for as long as it continues be to conquered.

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  104. Minor point about Dune: “no, you cannot just go to the desert, either literally or figuratively, in order for your group to acquire asabiyyah” — this is correct, but irrelevant because Paul Atreides is not a group. He does not need to acquire asabiyyah. He just takes over on the strength of a supremely suitable religion (plus his being perceived as a prophet and messiah thanks to Missionaria Protectiva) and of his own abilities and personality. In particular, as an Atreides, he knows a lot about building up loyalty, asabiyyah and inter-clan structures.

    Reply

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