Thursday, August 17, 2017

What TIMN is good for — #3: explaining systemic corruption (TIMN vs. CEIP’s framework)

Corruption keeps thriving around the world, constantly hindering  social, economic, political, and military modernization, while also interfering with U.S. policy and strategy abroad. TIMN offers a way to look at corruption that is different from (better than?) the ways it is usually viewed. I’ll argue this by comparing what TIMN implies about systemic corruption to what is currently considered the best framework for analyzing systemic corruption — the one under development by Sarah Chayes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). 


From a TIMN perspective, corruption is largely a function of what’s happened to the T/tribal form. Systemic corruption is most likely to arise and endure in societies where dark sides of the T (tribal) form, broadly-defined, are tenaciously strong, and the TIMN forms as a whole are not well separated and shielded from each other. The stronger that dark T-type forces and actors are, and the more they can subvert the other TIMN forms and sectors of activity, then the more prone that society will be to systemic corruption. Indeed, many societies that are systemically corrupt — e.g., Iraq, Mexico, and Russia, not to mention dozens of other societies that remain historically unable to resist corruption — are societies where T-type actors can willfully penetrate and collude with particular +I government and +M business sectors for predatory purposes. Analysts of corruption should look for explanations not simply in a society’s government, business, or civil-society sectors but rather, and above all, in what TIMN treats as its “tribal” (for want of a better term) sectors and practices.
By T-type forces, I refer in this instance to practices of patronage, nepotism, cronyism, personalism, clientelism, favoritism, clannism, clubby old-boy networks, and the like, all based on some notion of mutual kinship and identity — as well as to related practices of clan intermarriage, sweetheart deals, insider deals, kickback schemes, compromised gifting, shady dealings, etc. Such practices are often standard in cultures that rest on extended family and clan systems, more than on nuclear families. Such practices tend to strengthen tribe- and clan-oriented priorities, and to keep the other TIMN forms from arising and developing in the separate professional rule-based ways that best suit them (as I've discussed before elsewhere). 
This TIMN contention may seem like saying "it's the culture" — indeed, that's what's often said about corruption. That's OK with me, so long as the sayer goes on to see that the cultural factors at stake mainly pertain to the T/tribal form; that each TIMN form favors a particular kind of culture, just as a particular culture may favor one or another TIMN form; that it is best for social evolution if the bright sides of a form prevail over the dark sides; and that if any one form (and its culture) is too strong, it will subvert, distort, and unbalance the other TIMN forms. The more a believer in “culture” understands this, the more he or she will see that TIMN helps explain systemic corruption by nesting it in a framework about social evolution that emphasizes the enduring “tribal” bases of all societies. TIMN can take analysis farther than old it's-the-culture lines of reasoning, which haven't gotten analysis very far.
But can it take analysis farther than CEIP’s recent turn to network analysis? Indeed, the limitations of prior analyses about corruption, including cultural analyses, is one of the reasons CEIP’s researchers turned to network analysis.


For years, the best studies of systemic corruption have come from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and its senior analyst Sarah Chayes. So I’m using them as reference points for this post — though most everything I've read about corruption provides further evidence for my TIMN contention.
CEIP and Chayes are on the cutting-edge of analysis because they’ve come to view corruption as a functional system operated by kleptocratic networks, and because Chayes has turned to network science as a method of analysis. This is an advance over older views  of corruption that treated it as a pathological dysfunctional system run by individuals and groups determined to exploit a permissive environment.
A seminal study showing this is the landmark CEIP working-group study titled Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security (2014). It appears to be written mostly by Chayes. 
• The following passages lay out CEIP’s then-innovative approach:
"Acute corruption should be understood not as a failure or distortion of government but as a functioning system in which ruling networks use selected levers of power to capture specific revenue streams. This effort often overshadows activities connected with running a state." 
"Corruption is typically seen as a pathology, a fraying at the edges of a system or, at worst, a sign of system failure. Consequently, much of the work to devise remedies is entrusted to aid agencies and local civil society actors, whose hard-fought efforts strive for small-scale, concrete successes. These interventions tend to be focused on remedying technical deficiencies or building capacity.
"But in a range of countries around the globe, corruption is the system. Governments have been repurposed to serve an objective that has little to do with public administration: the personal enrichment of ruling networks. And they achieve this aim quite effectively. Capacity deficits and other weaknesses may be part of the way the system functions, rather than reflecting a breakdown."
• The CEIP study then distinguishes between two types of "acutely corrupt countries” — and subsequent case studies focus mostly on the first:
"… The first consists of those whose corruption is relatively structured, whose governing systems have been bent to benefit one or a very few cliques, best thought of as networks. States may have one or multiple kleptocratic networks, which often coexist only uneasily. …
"The second category of severely corrupt states is somewhat different. It includes those that may experience pervasive corruption, but without the same degree of consolidation at the top of the pyramid."
• Despite the utility of drawing such distinctions among types and degrees of systemic corruption, the CEIP study sagely observes that making too many typological distinctions — disaggregating to an excessive degree — can turn out to be analytically misleading. For “different types of corruption … [often] prove to be interconnected elements of a fairly unified system whose structure and vertical integration such descriptions underestimate.” A good example comes from Chayes field work in Afghanistan:
“Similarly, emphasis on different “types” of corruption within a single country can also be misleading. When the U.S. government was developing anti-corruption policy for Afghanistan in late 2010, the underlying analysis made a sharp distinction between “grand corruption,” perpetrated by political leaders, “petty corruption,” which was seen as greasing the wheels of public administration and therefore not a concern, and “predatory corruption” — largely defined as police shakedowns — which was described as most offensive to ordinary people. Usually, however, different types of corruption like these prove to be interconnected elements of a fairly unified system whose structure and vertical integration such descriptions underestimate. To entirely disaggregate them is akin to describing the steering and brakes of a car as two entirely separate machines."
• Against this background, CEIP calls for new and better methods of analysis — i.e., network analysis:
"A better understanding of the [networked] nature of acute corruption and its implications for international security — as well as systematic analysis of the costs of not addressing it and the availability of “least bad” alternatives — would contribute to improved policy and practice in government, civil society, and business."
To my disappointment, this CEIP study didn't specify how to apply network analysis; but at least it found that "networks" are a choice optic for viewing the problem. This is an advance over saying that corruption is a function of “bad-apples” and other isolates — e.g., particular individuals, families, groups, clans, gangs, etc. — who may be operating alone or in collusive alliances. The network optic allows for a broader, more systematic, insightful way of analyzing and addressing systemic corruption (as should become clearer in the next two posts, also based on Chayes’ work).


Remember, I'm not claiming that TIMN is “better” than the CEIP framework. But TIMN can offer a comparably good understanding of systemic corruption — partly because TIMN has some network-analysis qualities in common with the CEIP framework, but mostly because TIMN has built-in evolutionary qualities that the CEIP framework lacks.
The two frameworks certainly differ as to their purposes. CEIP’s is designed for a specific purpose: analyzing corruption around the world. In contrast, TIMN is a broad framework for analyzing social evolution across the ages and into the future — TIMN’s ability to explain systemic corruption is a byproduct.
Moreover, the two frameworks differ in their treatment of “networks”. Whereas the CEIP framework is entirely about networks, TIMN is only partly about networks. What the CEIP / Chayes framework mean by “networks” is what network scientists and social network analysts generally mean — viewing people, organizations, and other actors and entities as sets of nodes and links (ties, connections), with multi-node, multi-hub, small-world, and other complex network structures often being the result. It's a newish way of viewing and analyzing social relationships such that all social relationships (including all four TIMN forms) are deemed to be “networks” or variants thereof. Quite an advance over saying that corruption is primarily a function of “bad apples” or other isolates and outliers.
In contrast, TIMN is primarily about the evolution of four different forms of organization — in historical order, the tribal, institutional, market, and lately the new network forms. Thus, as a framework partly about future evolution, TIMN is keenly concerned with prospects for the emerging +N network form. Yet just because that's TIMN’s key concern regarding “networks”, TIMN does’t deny or stand apart from Chayes’ or anyone else’s concern with applying social network analysis to the study of systemic corruption. TIMN is entirely amenable to that. But the networks it says to look for are not just any social networks à la Chayes, nor are they TIMN’s specialized +N-type networks.
Rather, TIMN points to the kinds of networks most  associated with systemic corruption and related criminal and other clannish enterprises: i.e., kinship networks — the kinds that stem from family and fictive kinship bonds, that elevate group over individual identities, that value principles of group honor, respect pride, and dignity above almost all else, that justify solidarity and sharing among insiders but have no problems with predation against outsiders, etc. In other words, the kinds of social networks associated with TIMN’s T/tribal form — the kinds that can produce inveterate criminals as well as good citizens.
In Chayes’ framework, “networks” are essentially abstract academic constructions that turn out to be occupied by corrupt kleptocrats. But in TIMN the analytical eye gets directed right away to the archetypal tribal form and, as a result, how these kleptocratic networks affect — subvert, distort, stall? — the development of the other TIMN forms. Because of this evolutionary quality, I'd argue that, TIMN has an analytical strength that is lacking in the CEIP / Chayes framework.
As I offer these comparisons, I'm not proposing that Chayes take account of TIMN in her future work (though I believe it'd help). What I am pointing out is that TIMN implies a similar approach to analyzing systemic corruption: Both frameworks imply looking not for the kinds of isolates and outliers mentioned above but rather for the kinds of social and organizational networks that weave perpetrators together, in a sense becoming “information multipliers” and “force multipliers” to their benefit. No wonder Chayes now views systemic corruption as a functional system. TIMN further enables us to understand that what may seem functional for a system may also be supremely dysfunctional for a society's long-term evolutionary potential.
I hope to make this more evident as we move into the next post.

To read the CEIP study for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Aug 17.]



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #17 (second of two supplements to #15): Mark Weiner, "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014)

Mark Weiner's "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014) provides still more observations about the significance of the clan form. This article appears in an issue of the journal Cato Unbound, along with three review articles by other Cato-related authors. Weiner's article, plus the review articles, all focus on how and why living under clan rule, versus living under government rule, can alter the prospects for individualism versus collectivism.
• Here Weiner reinforces his theme that government rule benefits individual freedom:
"As I argue in my recent book The Rule of the Clan, among its important benefits, a strong central state provides the most effective means to ensure that persons are treated as individuals, not merely as cousins. In its absence, people are forced to look to other institutions to address their social and legal problems, and the most enduring such organization in human history is the extended family, the clan — for which group loyalty trumps individual rights.
"… Clan organization is now capable of taking a variety of new forms beyond traditional kinship associations, which underscores the fact that individuals must claim their freedom not only against the state, but also through it." 
• Here Weiner reiterates what he means by "rule of the clan":
"First, and most prominently, by the rule of the clan I mean the legal institutions and cultural values of societies organized primarily on the basis of kinship —
"Second, by the rule of the clan I mean the political arrangements of societies governed by what the U.N.’s 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls “clannism.” These societies possess the outward trappings of a modern state but are founded on informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship, and on traditional ideals of patriarchal family authority.
"Third, and most broadly, by the rule of the clan I mean the antiliberal social and legal organizations that tend to grow in the absence of state authority or when the state is weak, including in modern democracies where the writ of government fails to run. These groups include associations dedicated to unlawful activity, such as petty criminal gangs, the Mafia, and international crime syndicates, such as the drug gangs of Mexico — which in their cultural markers of solidarity, their lack of opportunity for exit, and their feuding patterns look and act a great deal like traditional clans. Today racial identity groups and multinational corporations have the potential to transform into similar clanlike systems."
•. Here Weiner explains in more depth the paradox he sees for individualism in the context of the clan versus the state, assuming a state performs effectively:
"In this respect, modern individualism rests on a paradox. For persons to be treated as individuals, and for clans to become clubs, we require the state. If modern individualism is to survive, society needs effective government institutions dedicated to advancing the substantive end of personal autonomy. The state I have in mind need not be centralized (I am personally a strong supporter of federalism in the American context), but it must at all levels be dedicated to vindicating the public interest, defined as policies most citizens would rationally support regardless of their position within society at any given moment.
"Equally, to maintain its legitimacy, government must seek to address the needs that the rule of the clan meets far more directly. It must pursue policies that moderate economic inequality; it must provide a space for the flourishing of voluntary civil society organizations that provide opportunities for solidarity; and it must ensure that individuals have fair opportunities to exercise their autonomy within the marketplace and that they can effectively navigate the host of bureaucratic state institutions that provide the conditions of modern life."
There is surely much more material in Weiner's book, but I've not read it yet. Anyway, this completes my effort to provide two supplements to the major reading (#15) about Weiner's sterling writings about clans and clannism.

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on July 25.]

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.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Readings about tribes and clans — #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 article "The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013) has more in common with TIMN than any prior reading in this series. So do two other articles and an interview he did based on his then-new book The Rule of the Clan (2013). This post draws on all but his book, which I've not read. Yet, as today's reading, I'm pointing only to the article named up top — I like it best as an overview.


As I keep repeating, tribal (TIMN’s T) forms of organization, their dynamics and effects, have been widely ignored by national-security policymakers, grand strategists, development economists, and counter-terrorism theorists, among others — at their peril, to their discredit, and without their even knowing it. They’ve ignored tribes as a distinct form — yet it's the first and forever form, the form upon which every society is grounded. They have also ignored how the tribal form relates to the other TIMN forms that societies use to organize themselves. Yet excessive commitments to the T form lie behind most of the violent troubles we now face around the world; and its pernicious entanglement with the +I institutional and +M market forms accounts for much of the systemic corruption and political illiberalism we see in so many societies.
That doesn't apply to this author. He has an excellent understanding of the tribal / clan form, it's effects and implications. His understanding is not as thorough as TIMN proposes, but it’s the best I’ve seen so far. 
So I'm doing my write-up differently from others in this series. For the others, I've tried to show they advance a recognition of the T form. But this reading is already so advanced that I'm going to emphasize instead where it matches TIMN, such that they mutually validate each other. Also, the points I make below fit with today's reading, but I use quotes from all the articles noted above. (See source note at end for clarification.)
• Weiner, much like TIMN, views clans as a variant of the tribal form — as "a subset of tribes". Clans first took shape around biological kinship principles to become the initial "basic building blocks of civic life”, as “a natural form of social and legal organization.” Later, some clans also became based on "the adjunct principle of “fictive kinship” — in which a non-consanguineous group is treated “like family”." Thus, says Weiner, clan rule "is more explicable in human terms than that most historically anomalous of institutions: the modern liberal state. … Clannism is tribalism’s historical shadow.”^
• Weiner finds, much like TIMN, that clan structures are so decentralized and collectivist that clan system depends on imposing a “culture of group honor and shame”. Indeed, he says, "Group honor and shame allow the rule of the clan’s devolution of power to work by promoting both internal self-regulation within extended kin groups and coexistence among them". In other words, "Honor and shame form the cultural circuitry of such a collectivist system." 
• Weiner observes, again like TIMN, that as societies progress, the clan form does not go away — it persists. This persistence occurs not only via the clan's traditional blood-kin form, but also via morphed modern forms based on "fictive kinship". Indeed, people may remain partly if not wholly beholden to the clan form for both defensive and offensive purposes, for it gives them a place from which to defend and/or expand their personal as well as clan interests. In TIMN terms, people will remain in clan forms to the extent that they cannot find appropriate places in sectors structured by the institutional, the market, or now the new information-age network forms.
• Weiner recognizes, as does TIMN, that people revert back to clan forms especially when societies break down — this is true not only for far-away societies but also, increasingly, right here at home in America. Accordingly, "People … reflexively turn to it as a principle of social organization, especially when state alternatives break down." “For when there is no such thing as society, eventually there are only cousins and clans.” Thus, "people who live under clan rule often — and sensibly — hold it in high regard, just as they rationally return to it when other social structures break down."
• Weiner’s analysis is evolutionary, somewhat like TIMN, in that he looks beyond clan rule to the rise of government rule. As he sees matters, “When clan rule diminishes, two aspects of a society change: its legal and political structure and its culture." What's needed, then, "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.” Indeed, Weiner often notes as a theme, that clans must soften into clubs, and their exclusive kinship networks must loosen and evolve into broader more inclusive social networks, in order for social evolution to advance.
• Weiner, like TIMN, warns that clannism is becoming rife and risky here at home as well as abroad. According to Weiner, “The second reason to study clans … 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.” As he notes elsewhere, "… today, clan rule poses grave international challenges, not just in tribal societies, but in more developed nations, and even in modern liberal democracies.” Extensive clannism has the effect of "making it more likely that conflicts will escalate and spiral out of control."
• Because of the above, Weiner advises, much like TIMN, that foreign-policy and national-security strategists acquire a better understanding of the clan form. Indeed, "appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges." In particular he highlights how “The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious.” He sees, as does TIMN (though I lag in writing it up), that "clannism" explains corruption in systems where institutions do not take hold properly: “One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism — like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt — suffer from corruption and stifled economic development.” Weiner also sees urban gangs as another manifestation of clannism in modern societies.
A couple of final points: 
While TIMN treats tribes as a cardinal form of organization, Weiner's focus on clans has resonance in other comparative organizational frameworks: notably, William Ouchi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, and markets; and Clay Spinuzzi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks. Weiner’s work helps validate these. Jim Gant deserves credit as well for his efforts to gain recognition of the significance of the tribal/clan form in all sorts of societies. For more on this, see my blog post and accompanying charts here:…/organizational-forms-comp…
Finally, let’s notice that Weiner wrote about "rule by clan" years ago — well before Donald Trump became president. Yet Weiner's analysts bears on this, for in some ways Trump, more than any American president, operates like a clan chieftain who is seeking to install a familial loyalty-driven clan-state inside our nation-state. (An example of a country that has always been more a clan-state than a nation-state is North Korea.)


• First, here's how Weiner describes the nature of clans and "rule by clan":
“What do the European sovereign debt crisis, the difficulty of building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan, and a Mexican drug cartel have in common? To begin with, all three are the predictable result of weak government institutions. On a deeper level, however, they are products of a single basic impulse: They all implicate the fundamental human drive to live under the rule of the clan. Grasping this impulse and appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges.
“So what is the rule of the clan? Ancient Highland Scotland provides a helpful example. Until well after the failed 1745 Jacobite rising, when Britain roundly defeated the cause of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," no robust public identity or state institution in the Highlands effectively superseded clans. Society was organized around kinship groups -- like the MacGregors, Macphersons, and MacDonalds, each associated with its own region -- and the ever shifting confederacies they established over centuries. Under clan rule, groups of extended families formed the basic building blocks of civic life. They remained largely autonomous from central government authority, maintaining their own law and settling disputes according to local custom.”
• Here's how Weiner describes the corrosive corrupting grip of "clannism" in clan-riven societies:
“One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism -- like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt -- suffer from corruption and stifled economic development. Although they possess stronger state institutions, they nevertheless govern through informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship. President Bashar al-Assad centralized and maintained his power through such patronage in Syria. So did Yasir Arafat after his return to Palestine in 1994. Where clannism reigns, governments are co-opted for purely factional purposes, and states, conceived on the model of the patriarchal family, treat citizens not as autonomous actors but rather as troublesome dependents to be managed. At the same time, kin-based patronage groups have the power to discipline their members in accord with their own internal rules."
“The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious. Corrupt governments regularly set factions against each other to avoid scrutiny of their own practices, and a lack of economic dynamism encourages out-migration of workers and fosters social unrest. More profoundly, in the words of the 2004 Arab Human Development Report, by "implant[ing] submission, parasitic dependence and compliance in return for protection and benefits," clannism destroys "personal independence, intellectual daring, and the flowering of a unique and authentic human entity." But clannism is not just a relic of the developing world. Modern liberal democracies can and do succumb to clan rule when their central-government institutions are weak or perceived to be illegitimate. In inner cities of the United States, for example, where the writ of the state often runs out, petty criminal gangs enforce their own social order. Likewise, in countries like Italy and Mexico, international criminal organizations and drug syndicates dictate their own internal codes of discipline and engage in intergroup behavior -- like blood feuds -- strikingly akin to that of traditional clans. Even the weakening transnational institutions of the European Union have accelerated the rise of right-wing parties, such as Greece's fascist Golden Dawn party, which claim to provide alternative social orders based on ethnicity."
• Here Weiner again contrasts clan values with liberal values, arguing that the former must soften if the latter are to take hold:
“The rule of the clan everywhere challenges liberal values. But it need not. Over time, as they did in Scotland, clans of all sorts will transform from hard political entities to soft -- if cherished -- markers of personal identity. Over a long span of history, clans will become clubs -- even in the most difficult parts of the world."


I’ve based this post mostly on today’s reading — Mark Weiner's ”The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013), at:

This post also draws on two other sources I mentioned up front. One is the interview by Deven Desai, titled “Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan” (2013), at:…/bright-ideas-mark-weiner-o…
The other is Weiner’s “The Paradox of Modern Individualism” (2014), which is published in a special issue of the periodical Cato Unbound, along with discussion articles by several other analysts, located at:…/mark-s-weiner/paradox-modern…

For a review of Weiner’s book, including comments I made that reappear above, see Mark Safranski's illuminating blog post "Review: The Rule of the Clan" (2016), at:
All quotes above are from these sources. However, my write-up here does not specify exactly which quotes are from which sources. I lost track, and I hope to take care of that tiresome slip-up later.

To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 26.]

Monday, August 7, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #14: Richard Landes's “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015)

Here's an argument I've not seen before: “What’s needed is more tribalism, not less”.
It's the subtitle and crucial point of Richard Landes's “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015). I keep urging we do more analysis using a tribal optic, but mostly for purposes of decreasing tribalism. Landes uses a tribal optic here, but for a contrary purpose: He sees virtue in urging that a particular kind tribalism be increased. 
The article focuses on Jewish responses to the jihadi terrorist attacks in Paris in 2013. His starting point is to identity a paradoxical "split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks". The split is between Jews who hold tribalist views of what's going on and what to do, versus Jews who hold universalist views. The paradox is that Europe is mostly full of universalists who feel an affinity for the Jewish universalists, but, says Landes, their views only make Europe and Israel more vulnerable to terrorism. It's the tribalists who have the more accurate views.
Here's what Landes writes up front about the paradox, before analyzing one view as tribalist, the other as universalist: 
“In a deeply disturbing and repeating 21st-century, paradox, however, the approach of Israel’s generous and selfless ones [i.e., the universalists] has worked to the benefit of most regressive forces on the planet — while on the contrary, the voice that awakening Europe needs most to heed in the current crisis is that of those self-centered Israelis [i.e., the tribalist] who relate European woes to their own pain. The failure to understand this paradox explains both why Western elites are so poor at resisting global jihad, and why, for a disaffected youth — Muslim by birth or by choice — it makes sense to join that jihad. Indeed, this split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks illustrates the disproportionate impact of a peculiar Jewish dispute on the current cognitive disorientation of the West."
What makes this apropos for this series is that Landes then turns to contrast two types of thinking. First up is the tribalist type:
“But first, let’s explain our terms. Let’s call the first response the tribalist approach. It is centered on the self, preoccupied with defending family, clan, group; suspicious by default of others, especially of strangers; and easily rendered defensive by threatening behavior. Tribalists think in terms of “us vs. them”; they treat “their own” differently from others, and when they feel sufficiently threatened, they will lash out. They think of their own pain and feel anger at hypocrisy (in this case against the French for their 15-year-long indifference to the pain of their Jews). This mindset historically favors vengeful attitudes — “they deserve it” — and rough justice.
“Politically, these folks appear on the “right” of our spectrum, and they remind us of historical periods when people with power lacked empathy and used it cruelly, a political culture of rule or be ruled, that democracies hope to have outgrown. Tribalists are the zero-sum folks: “I only win if they lose,” and, “they only understand force.” Like Huntington, one of their intellectual heroes, these tribalists tend to look for enemies. They find reasons to be belligerent, to provoke war, they “invent the enemy.”
I think that's a good accurate description of how the tribalized mind works.

Here's what he says next about the universalist:
“Let’s call the second response the universalist: considerate of others, self-abnegating: “This is not about Israel.” These are the positive-sum folks, the ones who make friends, who build on trust, who come up with mutually beneficial projects from which everyone profits, who look for the voluntary win-win rather than the coerced win-lose. They reject the selfish me first, the invidious us-them, the tribal my side right or wrong.
“These folks appear on the “left” of our political spectrum. They empathize with the “other” and embrace diversity. They can and want to trust. In renouncing the win-lose, they become capable of granting dignity and freedom to others — the fundamental social contract of a successful egalitarian culture. They imagine themselves as inhabitants of a future diverse, civil, and peaceful global community, where racism and xenophobia are no more."
Again, that's a fair description. And it hones in on the dichotomy behind the paradox that concerns him in both Israel and Europe:
“This dichotomy between tribal and universal sheds light on the current paradoxical situation in Europe, where the most extraordinary cognitive disarray rules.” 
The article then becomes long, offering an intricate analysis of Jewish and European perspectives. I'm going to skip over that, in order to provide you with Landes' hard-hitting conclusion. It's about why Europeans should heed the Jewish tribalists, for they are better than the universalists at understanding the enemy and thus at knowing how best to defend the future of democracy:
“What has this got to do with the two Jewish-Israeli responses with which I began this discussion? Ironically, it suggests that those tribal Jews/Israelis that Europe deplores are fighting not only for themselves, but for a decent democratic and egalitarian culture the world over, against a deeply regressive, triumphalist Islam. The “left-wing” Israeli responses that disdain tribalism, and promote lofty universalist values, dismiss this Israeli tribal voice as paranoid, conspiracy-minded, xenophobic, Islamophobic. Yet, in so doing, they contribute to the cognitive disorientation of the outside nations and peoples. In their eagerness to confess Israel’s sins, to consider Palestinians innocent and Israel guilty, they shield outsiders from hearing the much harsher jihadi voice that explicitly targets not just Israel but them.”
Landes usually focuses on honor-shame dynamics in the Middle East, as well as on the kinds of cognitive warfare that result from this. This 2015 article is one of the few where he explicitly focuses on tribalism per se. For that, I'm delighted to include it in this series of readings.

To read for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 19.]

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Readings about tribes, tribalism, tribalization — #13: Kenan Malik, "Britain’s Dangerous New Tribalism" (2015)

Speaking of NYT's attentiveness to the tribal form (see reading #12), this NYT op-ed shows an early grasp of tribalism: Kenan Malik's "Britain’s Dangerous New Tribalism" (2015). 
It was written in the wake of jihadi attacks that were followed by rising tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim (not to mention anti-Muslim) Britons. Yet, Malik is intent on pointing out, the hostility toward Muslims was not relentless, for in many ways Muslim and non-Muslim communities were getting along well enough in Britain.
Here's what he says, after reviewing recent trends and incidents: 
"All this might suggest a nation polarized between alienated Muslims and non-Muslims hostile to Islam. The reality is otherwise. What is striking about the past decade is not conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, but the relative ease with which different communities have got along. …
"While anti-Muslim hatred is certainly present, there is by no means a climate of “relentless hostility” toward Muslims."
In light of this reassuring observation, Malik next explores why matters stay so polarized anyway. He attributes this, on the one hand, to value-loaded political rhetoric and harsh counter-terrorism measures from the top, and on the other hand, to a growing disaffected politics of identity at mass levels of society — and to how these top and bottom dynamics reactively reinforce each other. At least that's what I think he is saying. 
Here's an excerpt:
"So, if in practice Muslims and non-Muslims coexist relatively peaceably, how do we explain the polarization in attitudes? Why do so many non-Muslim Britons regard Islam as a threat, while so many Muslims yearn for Shariah law? …
"Politicians constantly call for a defense of British values against extremism. But beyond platitudes about liberal democracy, they find it hard to articulate what those values are. At the same time, these leaders constantly undermine fundamental liberal values in the name of fighting terrorism: They have increased state surveillance, restricted free speech and banned certain organizations.
"Meanwhile, a growing disaffection with mainstream politics among Muslims and non-Muslims alike has found expression in a politics of identity, which encourages people to understand their problems through the narrow lenses of culture and faith. The overall result is that people see values less as ideals than in terms of identity. For many non-Muslims, for example, the idea of Shariah conjures images of Islamic State beheadings or the oppression of women. For many Muslims, supporting Shariah may mean no more than an affirmation of identity."
In conclusion, Malik says the persistence of rancorous hostility derives from "the emergence of a tribalized society". That limits how people can go about having a sense of identity and belonging. It also increases the probability that disaffected people will end up becoming more tribalized, in one direction or the opposite.
"The real problem is neither Muslim disloyalty nor rampant Islamophobia. It is, rather, the emergence of a tribalized society in which people have an increasingly narrow sense of belonging. At the fringes, this can funnel disaffection into jihadism on one hand, and into anti-Muslim hatred on the other.
"Britain is not divided into warring camps, as some would have it. But the consequences of tribalism can be devastating."
Malik's is a pertinent insightful op-ed. I'm pleased it's in my folder. Yet it's flow of logic about tribalism leaves me a little puzzled. If he is saying that polarization, the politics of identity, etc., have led to tribalism, well, OK, in a way. But that's very close to saying that the attributes of tribalism cause tribalism — which verges on being a tautology. However, if he is saying that how people talk and act can make a big difference for how tribal they become toward each other, then I say bravo. At least he has a disposition toward fine-grain analysis that offers some encouragement and promise that malignant tribalism will not carry the day in Britain.

To read for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 16.]

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Blog update

This blog is and will continue to be even more slowed down than usual, or desirable. Because of my taking a bad fall in late June, I'm going through long slow uncertain recovery phases.

Meanwhile, I expect to remain more active at my Facebook page than here. I will continue trying to re-post here, belatedly, what I post there about TIMN or STA:C.

Onward, haltingly …

Readings about tribes, tribalism, tribalization — #12: Ross Douthat, “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016)

This post covers Ross Douthat’s column on “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016). As you'll see, it's about tribalism as much as cosmopolitanism.
Tribalism, like most isms, is not an ism unto itself; it's become an alternative to other isms. The comparisons I mostly see are about tribalism versus globalism, or versus cosmopolitanism (which is a kind of globalism). I also see contrasts between nationalism and globalism, as well as between populism and globalism — but, in TIMN, nationalism is a modern kind of tribalism. So is populism, though populism implies a belief in government (+I) solutions as well. So we are back to tribalism versus globalism as the most common comparison. 
What is significant for my efforts is that these comparisons fit TIMN: Tribalism is obviously an expression of the T form. Globalism — the alternative that comes up most often — is a function of the +M and +N forms; for economic and other kinds of globalism reflect the spread of market (+M) and network (+N) forces around the world. Much the same can be said of cosmopolitanism.
According to my browsing, the New York Times is doing much better than other newspapers at regularly calling attention to the tribalism afoot in our country, and comparing it to other isms. Its regular columnists, notably David Brooks and Ross Douthat on the right, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman on the left, have been fairly effective at doing so, starting a few years ago. 
A good example of NYT's attentiveness to the tribal form is Douthat’s “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016). In it he makes a rarely made but insightful point: some presumed cosmopolitans are really camouflaged tribalists.
He opens with an observation about the spread of tribalism in our country that is still a bit alarming but no longer unusual to encounter — tribalism is increasingly in conflict with the internationalism, globalism, and cosmopolitanism that have long been transcendent. Quite so. But then he turns a knife — he questions the validity of the cosmopolitanism that some elites claim for themselves:
"… From now on the great political battles will be fought between nationalists and internationalists, nativists and globalists. From now on the loyalties that matter will be narrowly tribal — Make America Great Again, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England — or multicultural and cosmopolitan.
"Well, maybe. But describing the division this way has one great flaw. It gives the elite side of the debate (the side that does most of the describing) too much credit for being truly cosmopolitan."
Here's why he says that many of today's presumptuous elite cosmopolitans — notably, Davos men — are like tribalists who comprise a tribal cohort much like any other:
"They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home.
“Indeed elite tribalism is actively encouraged by the technologies of globalization, the ease of travel and communication. Distance and separation force encounter and immersion, which is why the age of empire made cosmopolitans as well as chauvinists — sometimes out of the same people. (There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)"
After noting there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, he turns to make sharp points about the downsides of these elites thinking and behaving like tribes, while denying they are so:
"But it’s a problem that our tribe of self-styled cosmopolitans doesn’t see itself clearly as a tribe: because that means our leaders can’t see themselves the way the Brexiteers and Trumpistas and Marine Le Pen voters see them.
"They can’t see that what feels diverse on the inside can still seem like an aristocracy to the excluded, who look at cities like London and see, as Peter Mandler wrote for Dissent after the Brexit vote, “a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations.” …
"They can’t see that their vision of history’s arc bending inexorably away from tribe and creed and nation-state looks to outsiders like something familiar from eras past: A powerful caste’s self-serving explanation for why it alone deserves to rule the world."
And thus many upper-class elites who preen like forward-looking progressive globalists turn out to be little more than clannish aristocratic cronies who can be as tribal as the people they look down on.

To read for yourself, go here:

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 14.]