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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.

Dawn and Decadence, Innovation, & The Face of Battle — top 3

Friday, October 4th, 2013

[by J. Scott Shipman]

From Dawn to Decadence, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, by Jacques Barzun

In a year where I’ve not been able to read as much as normal and with 89 days remaining in 2013, these three titles are the best so far. I’m not finished with Dawn, but it seems like the late Professor Barzun is an old friend (here is a video from 2010). Barzun’s opus was published when he was 93 and was almost ten years in the making. Dawn has been sitting on my shelves for four or five years and I’d started it two or three times only to get bogged down and lose interest. Well over half way finished and I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading this title for years to come (co-blogger Lynn Rees reports he’s read it four times). Barzun’s scope covers the gamut: religion, literature, poetry, theater, painting, sculpture, philosophy, and the aristocracy/life at court. Since many of these topics are interconnected he uses an ingenious method to assist the reader in keeping up. He uses this: (<page number)(page number>) to direct the reader to something previously discussed or something he will cover later. In the text, he will recommend “the book to read is” “the book to browse is” in brackets. I’ve found this method distracting as I’ve read three books he referenced since I started… Barzun also provides generous lift quotes in the margins to give the reader a flavor for a particular writer or idea/example. If the book had a traditional bibliography, I dare say it would cover a couple hundred pages–at least. Dawn has been a pleasure I’ve been taking in small doses and am in no hurry to finish. This is the best book of the genre that I’ve read.

Men, Machines and Modern Times, by Elting Morison

Elting Morison’s Men, Machines is reviewed at Amazon by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as “purely and simply one of the best books ever written on the process of innovation and the interaction of technology, culture, systems, and individual personalities.” I could not agree more. Morison’s book is a collection of essays dealing with change and man’s inherit but paradoxical reaction to it:

Yet, if human beings are attached to the known, to the realm of things as they are, they also, regrettably for their peace of mind, are incessantly attracted to the unknown and things as they might be. As Ecclesiastes glumly pointed out, men persist in disordering their settled ways and beliefs by seeing out many inventions…Change has always been a constant in human affairs…

From gunnery at sea to 19th Century railroads, Morison provides illustration after illustration of man, his institutions, and the almost universal resistance of both to change. Morison observes of inventors (real “disruptive thinkers’) [this was written in the early 1950’s]:

I once collected evidence on the lives of about thirty of these men who flourished in the nineteenth century. A surprising number turned out to be people with little formal education, who drank a good deal, who were careless with money, and who had trouble with wives or other women.

Morison devotes one essay to the characteristics and ills of a “bureau.” He describes the difficulty of getting anything accomplished within an average bureaucracy—largely because bureaucrats live for process and harmony. He says:

Taken together, a set of regulations provides a pattern of behavior for the energies bureaus are set up to regulate….Regulations are a way of keeping a system of energies working in harmony and balance…First it is easier to make a regulation than to abolish it.

Morison’s eighth and concluding essay provide Some Proposals for dealing with change and newness—in a word, solutions to many of the problems identified earlier. That said, only the most dedicated reader will complete the seventh (and longest) chapter, according the Morison, originally intended to be a book about the history of 19th Century American railroad innovation. Overall, I concur with Speaker Gingrich and highly recommend this title.

The Face of Battle, by John Keegan

A title needing no introduction at Zenpundit, I’ll only offer this title as one of the best books of the genre I’ve read. Keegan covers three battles across 500 years of history, Agincourt, Waterloo, and The Somme. In each, he brings alive the battlefield and provides the conditions faced by combatants—often up close and personal. Keegan’s scholarship, insight, and importantly, his humility in addressing a topic he admittedly had no first hand experience make this a must read for anyone in the profession of arms, and recommended for anyone seeking more insight into how we fight.

That’s a wrap, be back soon! 

Twitter mixology

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — bemused by all you young people ]
.

Kim Kierkegaardashian is exactly the right amount of Kardashian for me to allow into my life. It’s a twitterstream consisting entirely of combination authentic Kardashian soundbites and Kierkegaard quotes, and it’s usually hilarious.

JM Berger‘s tweet, by contrast, sets out one version of an aesthetic principle which seems to underlie much of today’s culture: mixing pop-reference in with serious culture, for serio-popular effect.

Bashar al-Assad‘s supporters do this, aligning their man with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Salafi jihadists likewise, borrowing footage from the Lord of the Rings. Dan Drezner does it — using zombies to discuss international politics — and wins an Association of American Publishers honorable mention for the 2011 PROSE Award in Government & Politics. Kim Kierkegaardashian does nothing else…

**

Has this sort of hi-lo-brow mixing always happened?

L’homme armé was a French pop song from the 14th or 15th century, its melody used as the basis for Masses by composers from Dufay and Okeghem to Palestrina — and thence to Peter Maxwell Davies in our own times:

The man, the man, the armed man,
The armed man
The armed man should be feared, should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.

It must be noted that some believe the “armed man” in question is the Archangel Michael. His fight, unlike Kierkegaardashian’s, is neither with God nor man, but directly with the Devil.

**

DoubleQuotes Sources:

  • Kim Kierkegaardashian
  • JM Berger
  • Update on America 3.0 Book Events – Bennett and Lotus

    Friday, May 31st, 2013

    America 3.0 

    From Chicago Boyz:

    America 3.0: Mike Lotus on The Bob Dutko Show

    Mike Lotus will be on the Bob Dutko radio show tomorrow, May 31, 2013 at 12:40 p.m. EST. Bob hosts Detroit’s #1 Christian Talk Radio Show on WMUZS 103.5 FM.

    Please listen in if you can!

    Many thanks to the Bob Dutko Show for having me on.

    This weekend we will post an updated list of upcoming appearances by Jim Bennett, Mike Lotus, and occasionally both of us together, talking about America 3.0.

    Thanks to The Takeaway, the The Armstrong & Getty Show, and The Janet Mefferd show for interviewing Jim Bennett — all yesterday. It was a Bennett Threefer! 

    And Author Appearances:

    Upcoming appearances for Jim Bennett and Mike Lotus discussing America 3.0

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013
    Lou Dobbs Tonight (James and Michael)
    We will be on about 7:45 p.m. EST.

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013
    Armstrong & Getty (James)
    11:15 am EST

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013 
    Janet Mefferd Show (James)
    3:30 pm EST

    Friday, May 31, 2013 
    Bob Dutko Show (Michael)
    1:40 pm EST

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013
    Talk to Adam Smith Society, Booth School of Business (Michael)
    Noon

    Thursday, June 6, 2013
    Mornings with Nick Reed (Michael)

    Saturday, June 7, 2013
    Marc Bernier Show (James & Michael)
    4:25 pm EST

    Monday, June 17, 2013
    Western Conservative Summit, “Envisioning America 3.0” (James)

    And their maiden TV appearance with Lou Dobbs:

    Jottings 3: Espionage on the chess board

    Friday, May 3rd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — playing the two great games, from Caxton to Le Carré ]
    .

    .

    Karla, the Russian spymaster in John Le Carré‘s Smiley novels, is represented as the white queen in the 2011 Tomas Alfredson / Gary Oldman film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (lower panel, above).

    In chess terms, that’s quite a step up for spies — pawn promoted to queen.

    **

    Before the digital age, in the early years of printing, way back in 1474, Thomas Caxton‘s press issued the second book ever printed in England — his Game and Playe of the Chesse — and things were subtly different. The eight pawns, for instance, differed one from another, each representing a different human type or craft, and named accordingly: “Labourer, Smith, Clerk, Merchant, Physician, Taverner, Guard and Ribald.”

    It’s the Ribald (in the upper panel, above) who interests us here — for he’s the spy on the chessboard, as surely as Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh were spies in the land of milk and honey. Caxton describes the Ribald, stationing him in front of the Rook, thus:

    The rybaulders, players of dyse and of messagers and corrours ought to be sette to fore the rook/ For hit apperteyneth to the rook whiche is vicayre & lieutenant of the kynge to haue men couenable for to renne here and there for tenquyre & espie the place and cytees that myght be contrarye to the kynge/ And thys pawn that representeth thys peple ought to be formed in this maner/ he must haue the forme of a man that hath longe heeris and black and holdeth in his ryght hand a lityll monoye And in his lyfte hande thre Dyse And aboute hym a corde in stede of a gyrdell/ and ought to haue a boxe full o lettres

    And what should be the appearance of such a one?

    And thys pawn that representeth thys peple ought to be formed in this maner/ he must haue the forme of a man that hath longe heeris and black and holdeth in his ryght hand a lityll monoye And in his lyfte hande thre Dyse And aboute hym a corde in stede of a gyrdell/ and ought to haue a boxe full o lettres

    Let’s go over that first part one more time, and make sure we understand it:

    It pertains to the Rook, which is vicar and lieutenant of the King, to have men available to run hither and yon to make inquiries and spy out the place and cities that might be contrary to the King.

    **

    And isn’t that precisely what Moses sent Joshua and Caleb out to do, when he instructed them in Numbers 13.17-20:

    Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.

    **

    Espionage has been around longer than chess: some things never change — and some things have changed significantly.

    Today, you can’t tell one pawn from the next…


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