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Category Archives: Religion

Good appeasement and bad appeasement

Appeasement–in the form of conciliatory concessions–can be a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with folk. It entirely depends on how limited their aims are. Mixed past So, the Middle Realm‘s Sons of Heaven used appeasement successfully for centuries in dealing with the steppe nomads to their north, the only open border of a unified China (with the partial […]

Don’t mention the inconvenient

So, a black guy with a long criminal record, a history of mental illness and attempted suicide, attempts to murder his girlfriend, kills two cops in Brooklyn and then shoots himself. A mainstream newspaper provides details on his life, ignoring an obvious one; he was Muslim (his name being Ismaayil Abdullah Brinkley is something of a hint). […]

Culture and rationality: or why South Asian call centres can be so infuriating

I recently read Kenneth Pollack’s Ph.D dissertation on The Influence of Arab culture on Arab Military Effectiveness (which later became a book). It is a very fine piece of social science which, alas, I doubt any important member of either the Obama or Bush II Administrations has read. The burden of his analysis is that Arab culture strongly […]

Domain states, tax states and fiscal states

Have been reading a Ph.D dissertation by Wenkai He on the consolidation of a modern fiscal state in C18th England and late C19th Japan and the failure to do so in late Qing China. (The dissertation has since become a book.) The dissertation references history of public finance literature I was previously largely unaware of. The literature covers domain states and fiscal […]

States and gangs

Having previously defined the state as (a structure of) systematic coercion requiring hierarchy to operate and revenues to sustain itself extracted from a given territory, an obvious question is: what about criminal gangs? They engage in systematic coercion, have a hierarchy which they use to extract revenue to sustain themselves from a given territory. One objection might be that criminal […]

Origins of the state

The state is systematic coercion requiring hierarchy to operate and revenues to sustain itself extracted from a given territory. The development of farming does not, of itself, create the preconditions for the development of the state, apart from requiring the storing of food across seasons (and so able-to-be-expropriated). Indeed, the first wave of proto-cities rose and […]

Three ages of Western history summarised

In the Ancient period, the dominant ideal was to ennoble life (to seek glory). In the Medieval period, the dominant ideal was to sanctify life (to seek salvation). In the Modern era, the dominant ideal is to expand life (to live long and prosper). The ideal of the previous era never entirely dies, but becomes part […]

Ebola, Ferguson and political narratives

The Ebola virus reaching the US and the ongoing troubles and controversy over a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri display the power and the dangers of political narratives from all sides, both of US politics and more broadly. Thus, one of the more tired and embarrassing responses to Ebola mis-steps in the US has to […]

Orientation and action

The case of Gordon College (via) in Massachusetts, which propounds a traditional Christian view of homosexuality with a rather less traditional coda of sympathy, puts into sharp relief the “orientation is not sinful, acts are” position. The policy of Gordon College is: The orientation/action distinction has two major problems with it. First, it sets up an utterly […]

The good people syndrome

I doubt that there is any more corrupting element in contemporary public debate than the good people syndrome: talking heads who say things, not because they have any knowledge or understanding, but because it is what good people say. There are forms of it on a wide range of issues, and on all sides of politics, but it seems unlikely […]