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Category Archives: Middle east

Open and closed state systems: the geography of regional unification

Recurring periods of unification were a notable feature of the history of China; notably the Qin-Han (221BC-220), Sui-Tang (589-907), and Yuan-Ming-Qing (1271-1912) periods of unification. (The Northern Song [959-1126] arguably do not count as a full unification, since they never controlled the northern regions, which was under the control of the Liao dynasty [907-1125].) Indeed, of all the major civilisation centres, China was unified more […]

Lenin, Luxemburg and Gorbachev’s failure (a Vladimir, Rosa and Mikhail story)

Vladimir Lenin gave his name to Leninism, a way of operationalising revolutionary socialism. In fact, essentially the only way that has proved effective, based on adopting the Jacobin model of political action. That is, totalist politics–no limit on the range, or means, of political action in pursuit of a specific political project. Lenin was happy to adopt the title of Jacobin: A Jacobin […]

Frustrated status and bigotry

Bigotry (in the sense of prejudice-by-category) is a form of moral exclusion–one excludes some group from the moral consideration and standing given to other people. As I have noted before, bigotry is always and everywhere a moral claim–a claim about some category of people’s moral status or standing. A claim not based on specific individual actions against others, […]

The hollow states of Islam

Reading Norman Davies’s Vanished Kingdoms, it struck me how much Islamic states–across most of the history of Islam–resembled the fluid warlord states of Europe in the centuries immediately after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, but did not resemble the institutionally resilient Christian states of the later medieval period. These divergent paths came from the very different internal dynamics […]

Thinking about states

While writing a paper on state dynamics in Latin Christendom, it was useful to try and think (think out aloud indeed) coherently about states as historical entities. State understood as an institutionalised structure of expropriation and coercion dominant in a particular territory. The notion that a state has to have, or even aspire to, a monopoly of coercion does not make […]

Palestine’s disastrous political leadership

I recently read Mark S. Weiner’s The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. I heartily recommend the book, which includes various case studies–the comparison of the largely contemporaneous consolidation of state power against claims of kin, clan and lineage in Anglo-Saxon England with Arabia […]

The nonsense debate over whether the Islamic State is Islamic

Despite claims that political correctness is merely about politeness and not offending folk, the Virtue-signalling that underlies political correctness corrupts public debate in various ways–it puts a criteria (status-as-Virtuous) above facts, it elevates intent over consequences and it sets up various taboos and ludicrous moral distinctions. Such as, for example, the claim that there is some great moral difference between “coloured […]

Why, in the PC universe, there is a paucity of bad Muslims.

Jeffrey Herf (Professor of History, University of Maryland) recently suggested that President Obama apply the same standards to Christianity and Islam. This is a delightfully naive suggestion. First, there seems to be a belief among various Western leaders that criticising any strain within Islam is somehow a criticism of all Muslims. This is, of course, pathetically condescending, […]

The Nazism of our time

A recurring theme of Algerian-American law academic’s Karima Bennoune‘s moving and informative Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism is the disastrous consequences of pandering to Muslim fundamentalism. For example, Karima Bennoune’s Pakistani interlocutors note how important the “Islamisation” program of Zia ul-Haq‘s regime was in encouraging fundamentalism (p.241). The British […]

Justification versus motivation

As more than one commentator has pointed out, much of the contemporary intellectual and political Western elite does not understand, or give much weight to, religious motives. Using religion to justify actions they have a more of a grip on, than doing things for religious motives. The controversy over President Obama’s prayer breakfast comments show this quite well.  In the […]