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David Ronfeldt: Readings on tribes & tribalism

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a catch-up post ]
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Despite his modest comments to the contrary, David Ronfeldt has in fact been posting up a storm on his Materials for Two Theories blog, bringing us up to date with his readings on tribalism as the key aspect of his TIMN (tribes, hierarchical institutions, markets, and networks) theory.

Just as I keep harping on the significance of — and our tendency to overlook — religious and particularly apocalyptic drivers across a range of problematic issues, so David relentlessly points to the significance of — and our tendency to overlook — tribalism as a key form in understanding many of those same issues.

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Most recent:

David’s two most recent posts are of particular interest.

#14: Richard Landes’s “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015)

Richard Landes, in addition to his encyclopedic work on apocalyptic matters, is the proponent of a game theoretical approach to the Israeli-Pakestinian question with considerable overlap with David’s focus on tribalism — regarding the core issue as that of a clash between zero-sum and win-win players, in which concessions made by the win-win player, in expectation of reciprocal concessions, are taken as victories, requiring no re ciprocation, by the zero-sum player.

I hope I got that right, albeit in very simplified / condensed form

#15: Mark Weiner’s “The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics” (2013)

Mark Weiner‘s entry is the one which comes closest to David’s TIMN work, and David accordingly uses parallels as a means of outside confirmation of certain of his own insights.

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The full monte:

Here, for your convenience, are David’s recent tribalism posts — some items deal specifically with America, one with Britain, and others are more general, but I have grouped them all together in the order of posting since David issued them as a numbered series:

  • Intro and #1: Sabrina Tavernise, “One country, two tribes” (2017)
  • #2: David Roberts, “Donald Trump and the rise of tribal epistemology” (2017
  • #3: Daniel Shapiro, “Modern tribes – the new lines of loyalty” (2008)
  • #4: Charlie Sykes, “Where the Right Went Wrong” (2016)
  • #5: Ben Shapiro, “The Revenge of Tribalism” (2016)
  • #6: Robert Reich, “The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State” (2014)
  • #7: Glenn Harlan Reynolds, “Politicians benefit from American tribal warfare” (2014)
  • #8: Jonathan Haidt & Ravi Iyer, “How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics” (2016)
  • #9: Deepak Chopra, “After Trump, What Will It Take To Heal?” (2016)
  • #10: Jalaja Bonheim, “Why We Love Trump” (2016)
  • #11: NeoTribes, “NeoTribal Emergence” (2016)
  • #12: Ross Douthat, “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016)
  • #13: Kenan Malik, “Britain’s Dangerous New Tribalism” (2015)
  • #14: Richard Landes’s “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015)
  • #15: Mark Weiner’s “The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics” (2013)
  • Central Standard Time, Issue # 2

    Saturday, August 6th, 2016

    [Mark Safranski / “zen”]

    Professor Totorici has the second issue of Central Standard Time up.

    My contribution for this issue comes from the ZP archives – in keeping with the cultural spirit of CST I decided on a book review, the one on American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson, but with an updated prologue:

    American Spartan

    If even the simplest things in war are difficult, as Clausewitz claimed, counterinsurgency wars are also dirty, dark and dysfunctional. This is so partly because counterinsurgency wars are as much about politics as they are combat, the clarity of victory usually proves elusive. The other reason is that the few “rules” that govern warfare, rules followed even by the Wehrmacht on the battlefield, are routinely ignored by guerrillas, insurgents and terrorists who try to swim among the people as fish in the sea. That is if we assume the fish are piranhas engaged in a contest against sharks.

    ….I reviewed Gant’s story, American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson, two years ago at my home blog zenpundit.com and elsewhere online. The book, like Jim Gant himself and his approach to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, remains highly controversial in military circles and outside of it to this day. To be blunt, I am an admirer of Jim Gant; he did everything as a soldier that the U.S. Army asked of him as an officer and more at great personal cost and the Afghan tribesmen with whom he worked considered Gant to be one of them, part of the tribe. This is not to say Gant was without flaws or error – they were perhaps as significant as his strengths. But Jim Gant’s story is also America’s story; I can think of no better book at the human level to explain America’s rise and fall in Afghanistan than American Spartan.

    Read the rest here.

    Announcing ! BLOOD SACRIFICES

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities edited by Robert J. Bunker

    I’m very pleased to announce the publication of Blood Sacrifices, edited by Robert J. Bunker, to which Charles Cameron and I have both contributed chapters. Dr. Bunker has done a herculean job of shepherding this controversial book, where thirteen authors explore the dreadful and totemic cultural forces operating just beneath the surface of irregular warfare and religiously motivated extreme violence.

    We are proud to have been included in such a select group of authors and I’m confident that many readers of ZP will find the book to their liking . If you study criminal insurgency, terrorism, hybrid warfare, 4GW, apocalyptic sects, irregular conflict or religious extremism, then the 334 pages of Blood Sacrifices has much in store for you.

    Available for order at Amazon

    Turner on Cultural Understanding and Influence In The Arena

    Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

       

    Pete Turner (Right)                                                       Anthony Iannarino

    “Alcohol and hand grenades” is always the mark of a great interview.

    Some ZP readers are familiar with business strategist and sales expert S. Anthony Iannarino due to his highly regarded and widely read The Sales BlogAnthony also has a podcast, In the Arena and in this week’s episode he interviews another friend of ZP, Pete Turner of The Break it Down Show.

    Pete and Anthony discuss HUMINT, cultural understanding, John Boyd, Afghanistan, 4GW, trust building, relationships, organizational cultures and making connections through respect, analogs to the business world, institutional “tribes”, cross-cultural interactions, books and much more.

    Give it a listen here. Strongest recommendation.

    Review: The Rule of the Clan

    Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Rule of the Clan by Mark Weiner

    I often review good books. Sometimes I review great ones. The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals about the Future of Individual Freedom  by Mark S. Weiner gets the highest compliment of all: it is an academic book that is clearly and engagingly written so as to be broadly useful.

    Weiner is Professor of Law and Sidney I. Reitman Scholar at Rutgers University whose research interests gravitate to societal evolution of constitutional orders and legal anthropology. Weiner has put his talents to use in examining the constitutional nature of a global phenomena that has plagued IR scholars, COIN theorists, diplomats, counterterrorism experts, unconventional warfare officers, strategists, politicians and judges. The problem they wrestle with goes by many names that capture some aspect of its nature – black globalization, failed states, rogue states, 4GW, hybrid war, non-state actors, criminal insurgency, terrorism and many other terms. What Weiner does in The Rule of the Clan is lay out a historical hypothesis of tension between the models of Societies of Contract – that is Western, liberal democratic, states based upon the rule of law – and the ancient Societies of Status based upon kinship networks from which the modern world emerged and now in places has begun to regress.

    Weiner deftly weaves the practical problems of intervention in Libya or counterterrorism against al Qaida with political philosophy, intellectual and legal history, anthropology, sociology and economics. In smooth prose, Weiner illustrates the commonalities and endurance of the values of clan and kinship network lineage systems in societies as diverse as Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, India and the Scottish highlands, even as the modern state arose around them. The problem of personal security and the dynamic of the feud/vendetta as a social regulator of conduct is examined along with the political difficulties of shifting from systems of socially sanctioned collective vengeance to individual rights based justice systems. Weiner implores liberals (broadly, Westerners) not to underestimate (and ultimately undermine) the degree of delicacy and strategic patience required for non-western states transitioning between Societies of Status to Societies of Contract. The relationship between the state and individualism is complicated because it is inherently paradoxical, argues Weiner: only a state with strong, if limited, powers creates the security and legal structure for individualism and contract to flourish free of the threat of organized private violence and the tyranny of collectivistic identities.

    Weiner’s argument is elegant, well supported and concise (258 pages inc. endnotes and index) and he bends over backwards in The Rule of the Clan to stress the universal nature of clannism in the evolution of human societies, however distant that memory may be for a Frenchman, American or Norwegian. If the mores of clan life are still very real and present for a Palestinian supporter (or enemy) of HAMAS in Gaza, they were once equally real to Saxons, Scots and Franks. This posture can also take the rough edges off the crueler aspects of, say, life for a widow and her children in a Pushtun village by glossing over the negative cultural behaviors that Westerners find antagonizing and so difficult to ignore on humanitarian grounds. This is not to argue that Weiner is wrong, I think he is largely correct, but this approach minimizes the friction involved in the domestic politics of foreign policy-making in Western societies which contain elite constituencies for the spread of liberal values by the force of arms.

    Strongest recommendation.


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