here’s an excerpt from ed west‘s latest kindle single, Asabiyyah: What Ibn Khaldun, the Islamic father of social science, can teach us about the world today (u.k. link) [kindle locations 256-286]:

“As a rule, the English are not a very family-orientated people. Social life lacks the warmth of the Mediterranean world with its joyful and welcoming extended families. In contrast, many English people don’t especially like their relatives or are apathetic towards them. My father never took much interest in his relations, many of whom are fascinating, lovely people, and it was largely left to my Irish mother to maintain a connection. Meanwhile her family have always been close and this extends to first and second cousins in the more traditional west of Ireland. To the English, although family connections do count, they matter less, and associations with a school, club or other institution define them more.

“Yet despite there being no big fat English weddings with lots of relations called Nigel or Rupert, there are great advantages to a society with weak family connections. It is not a total coincidence that it was in England that clubs first took off in the 17th century, playing an important role in the country’s political and economic growth; in specific cases clubs allowed inventors to meet investors, but they also helped expand the general levels of trust. Countries that are not clannish tend to have far more clubs, institutions and other organizations that are collectively called ‘civil society’. In contrast societies with strong families tend towards low civic capital and in consequence higher corruption. This is reflected in the political cultures of different states.

“Asabiyyah, therefore, can work in two ways; the group feeling can lie at the nationwide level, or it can exist within tribes, clans or religious communities, and this has a profound effect on a state’s institutions and how well a democracy can function.

“At the other end of the spectrum to the English are the Bedouin, whose famous phrase ‘me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the world’ reflects concentric circles of trust, one limited to family members.

“Mark Weiner wrote in The Rule of the Clan about countries governed by ‘clannism’ that: ‘These societies possess the outward trappings of a modern state but are founded on informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship, and traditional ideals of patriarchal family authority. In nations pervaded by clannism, government is co-opted for purely factional purposes.’

“In these societies, especially in the Middle East and Africa, ‘the nuclear family, with its revolutionary, individuating power, has yet to replace the extended lineage group as the principle framework for kinship or household organization’.

“Clannish states have little sense of wider civic asabiyyah and therefore civic responsibility. Indeed, as social anthropologist Stanley Kurtz wrote, tribes were used to preying on others: ‘Once a particularly powerful tribe or tribal coalition actually captured a state, they simply routinized their predation under official guise. (Saddam and his Sunni tribal allies fit the bill.) The state, such as in the Middle East, offers but a thin alternative to ‘the war of all against all’. Too weak to provide public utilities, policing, or impartial justice, most Middle Eastern states are just reincarnations of the predatory, winner-take-all tribal coalitions of old. Why exchange the protection of your family, tribe, or sect for submission to a weak or predatory state?’

“The relationship between this type of state and the tribal peasant, wrote Philip Carl Salzman of McGill University in Canada, ‘is that of the shepherd to his flock: the state fleeces the peasants, making a living off of them, and protects them from other predators, so that they may be fleeced again’. Salzman describes such clan-based states as ‘cliques determined to impose their power for the pleasure of dominance and the profit of extortion’. The inevitable result of clannism is kin-based corruption whereby resources, positions and other rewards are monopolised within family groups. Nepotism is found wherever humans are, but is far more widespread in clannish societies, and this affects both a country’s corruption levels and its ability to sustain democracy.”


see also: The Islamic historian who can explain why some states fail and others succeed from ed west, Ed West’s Kindle Single on ibn Khaldun and Asabiyyah from steve sailer, and Introducing: Asabiyah from t.greer.

previously: asabiyyah

(note: comments do not require an email. ibn khaldun.)