Symposium: Clan on the FOB, part two

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3 Responses

  1. Arnold Kling says:

    But what if a necessary condition for moving away from clan society is either an autocrat on top or a culture based on the nuclear family at the bottom?

    • Doyle Quiggle Jr. says:

      Many thanks for your tough-minded “what if.” I suspect that BOTH are necessary conditions to spark the abiding, clan-to-constitution cultural transformation for which Mark calls in his book. Think about how clan-embedded the US Founders still were when they posited and constituted a “liberal individual” possessing certain, self-evident inalienable rights. Although they did not have the tools of socio-biology or anthropology by which to examine their own social predicament, they were aware — Jefferson was acutely aware – of the dangers of their own clannism to their entire constitutional project. Republican and Federalist anxieties about how strong the executive office should be point to their even deeper anxieties about the threat of clannism. Madison called clans “damned factions,” and he and Jefferson both used the metaphor of a “witches cauldron” to describe the political threat of clannism.

      The survival of the Early Republic is inconceivable without the spellbinding, faction-soothing charisma of George Washington (the founding FATHER), who was, in a sense, a benevolent autocrat. Miriwais is often referred to by Afghans as the FATHER of Afghanistan, which is why I am perplexed by the Afghan Army’s failure to mobilize that trope in the IO war.

      I suspect you have an even more powerful individual in mind when you use the term “autocrat.”

      This autocrat and the extended family must be able to offer the individual legal protection equal to or greater than what the clan offers. I have in mind here the protection that many Afghan farmers do NOT get from strongmen who force them into opium debt. For a while, ISAF played the role of autocrat pretty well in some regions, effectively protecting farmers from being forced into the opium debt cycle in which many farmers find themselves forced to sell their daughters as child brides in order to pay off the debt. (See F. Nawa’s recent book OPIUM NATION.)

      I have no qualms about admitting the need for autocrats or nuclear families, especially in places like Afghanistan, as long as they really can protect individuals from the likes of heroin druglords and break individuals free from clan-imposed forms of debt, both moral and economic debt. Again, think about Jefferson’s obsession with the inheritability of debt, which he was determined to abolish in the newly founded Republic.

      I need to think more about your question, though. It’s a tough one.

  2. Mark S. Weiner says:

    Regarding your discussion, a friend today passed along the following remarks from a 1968 paper by David Apter regarding the way charisma can bridge the gap between traditional and modern society:

    “Indeed, charisma can arise in part when the increase in modernity is not met by a proportioned decline in ‘traditionalism.’ Then a charismatic leader is part traditional and part modern. This happened in Ghana. Despite important changes in the structure of authority and rule, traditionalism flourished to a surprising degree and continued to provide the normative basis of propriety. Operating through customary beliefs and practices, traditionalism affected the substance and style of Nkrumah during his charismatic period. If it pitted Nkrumah against the chiefs, a kind of charismatic dialectic resulted which combined the two opposing tendencies.”