Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #16 (first of two supplements to #15): Interview by Deven Desai, "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013)

Weiner's analysis of clans is so pertinent to this series of readings that I'm adding two supplements to post #15, in order to present passages from the two other articles mentioned in post #15. The three articles have overlaps, but I'm hoping that posting these two as supplements will help make his points sink in, even if they seem redundant.
First is this interview by Deven Desai, titled "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013). Weiner's answers provide additional insightful observations about what he means by "clans", why he decided to study them, and why they have modern as well as traditional significance.
• Here again is what Weiner means by clans:
"…In my book, I consider clans both in their traditional form, as a subset of tribes, but also as a synecdoche for a pattern by which humans structure their social and lhegal lives: “the rule of the clan.” Clans are a natural form of social and legal organization. They certainly are more explicable in human terms than the modern liberal state and the liberal rule of law. Because of the natural fact of blood relationships, people end to organize their communities on the basis of extended kinship in the absence of strong alternatives."
• Here’s why Weiner decided to study clans now:
"Two reasons. First, the United States is involved militarily in parts of the world in which traditional tribal and clan relationships are critical, and if we don’t understand how those relationships work, including in legal terms, we have a major problem.
"The second reason to study clans, and ultimately for me even more important than the first reason, has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies — that is, attacks on government. By this I mean not simply efforts to reduce the size of government or to make it more efficient. Instead, I mean broadside criticisms of the state itself, or efforts to starve government and render it anemic."
• Here's why rule by government improves and protects individual freedom, more than does rule by clan:
“It’s often said that individual freedom exists most powerfully in the absence of government. But I believe that studying the rule of the clan shows us that the reverse is true. Liberal personal freedom is inconceivable without the existence of a robust state dedicated to vindicating the public interest. That’s because the liberal state, at least in theory, treats persons as individuals rather than as members of ineluctable status or clan groups. So studying clans can help us imagine what our social and legal life would become if we allow the state to deteriorate through a lack of political will.”
• Finally, here is why it’s beneficial for societies to evolve from clans to clubs, and from kinship to social networks:
"But clans are local power brokers, and the development of central authority diminishes their autonomy. One of the objects of constitutional reform in countries with strong clan identities is to provide national incentives for people to cede local power — and, more generally, for people to give their loyalty to a larger public identity that rises well above kinship structures. The ultimate goal of this process is the transformation of clans from hard institutions with legal and political significance to purely soft institutions with cultural and psychological importance. From clan to club. From kinship to social networks. …
"For clan societies to modernize, the economic, social, and political significance of extended kinship needs to be replaced by relationships based especially on individual choice. Societies need to undergo a change “from kinship to social networks” as part of the transformation of the clan from a hard, legal institution to a soft, cultural one."

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 27.]

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