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The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom

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A revealing look at the role kin-based societies have played throughout history and around the world A lively, wide-ranging meditation on human development that offers surprising lessons for the future of modern individualism, The Rule of the Clan examines the constitutional principles and cultural institutions of kin-based societies, from medieval Iceland to modern Pakista A revealing look at the role kin-based societies have played throughout history and around the world A lively, wide-ranging meditation on human development that offers surprising lessons for the future of modern individualism, The Rule of the Clan examines the constitutional principles and cultural institutions of kin-based societies, from medieval Iceland to modern Pakistan.      Mark S. Weiner, an expert in constitutional law and legal history, shows us that true individual freedom depends on the existence of a robust state dedicated to the public interest. In the absence of a healthy state, he explains, humans naturally tend to create legal structures centered not on individuals but rather on extended family groups. The modern liberal state makes individualism possible by keeping this powerful drive in check—and we ignore the continuing threat to liberal values and institutions at our peril. At the same time, for modern individualism to survive, liberals must also acknowledge the profound social and psychological benefits the rule of the clan provides and recognize the loss humanity sustains in its transition to modernity.      Masterfully argued and filled with rich historical detail, Weiner’s investigation speaks both to modern liberal societies and to developing nations riven by “clannism,” including Muslim nations in the wake of the Arab Spring.


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A revealing look at the role kin-based societies have played throughout history and around the world A lively, wide-ranging meditation on human development that offers surprising lessons for the future of modern individualism, The Rule of the Clan examines the constitutional principles and cultural institutions of kin-based societies, from medieval Iceland to modern Pakista A revealing look at the role kin-based societies have played throughout history and around the world A lively, wide-ranging meditation on human development that offers surprising lessons for the future of modern individualism, The Rule of the Clan examines the constitutional principles and cultural institutions of kin-based societies, from medieval Iceland to modern Pakistan.      Mark S. Weiner, an expert in constitutional law and legal history, shows us that true individual freedom depends on the existence of a robust state dedicated to the public interest. In the absence of a healthy state, he explains, humans naturally tend to create legal structures centered not on individuals but rather on extended family groups. The modern liberal state makes individualism possible by keeping this powerful drive in check—and we ignore the continuing threat to liberal values and institutions at our peril. At the same time, for modern individualism to survive, liberals must also acknowledge the profound social and psychological benefits the rule of the clan provides and recognize the loss humanity sustains in its transition to modernity.      Masterfully argued and filled with rich historical detail, Weiner’s investigation speaks both to modern liberal societies and to developing nations riven by “clannism,” including Muslim nations in the wake of the Arab Spring.

30 review for The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Slobodan Blazeski

    This book is a real masterpiece. My interest of development economics and reading numerous books of why some countries are rich and the other are poor, always lead to dabbling in amateur sociology. By reading the rule of the clan you don't need to dabble anymore. The author Mark Weiner clearly describes that rule of the clan is the natural state of organization that reemerges whenever the power of the state is weakened. When you don't trust the institutions to treat you right you start organize This book is a real masterpiece. My interest of development economics and reading numerous books of why some countries are rich and the other are poor, always lead to dabbling in amateur sociology. By reading the rule of the clan you don't need to dabble anymore. The author Mark Weiner clearly describes that rule of the clan is the natural state of organization that reemerges whenever the power of the state is weakened. When you don't trust the institutions to treat you right you start organize on clannish lines and voluntary subjugate your individualism to the power of the clan in order to advance your own interests. When that happens there is no more universal morality, and you start to treat everybody as member of the insider- outsider continuum. When clannishness rule the modern state is just a sham of patronage networks who control the real power and institutions are nothing but proxy. How many countries in the world are real states instead of clannish networks in disguise? How many have countries have all the outside appearance but none of the substance. The truth written in this book is very sad, but ignoring it could bring just misery. Modern state can't hang on a skyhook, without minimizing the rule of the clan descend into dark ages is inevitable. Because the clannishness could never be beaten just contained.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix

    Extended Family Matters (a lot!) Weiner's main thesis extends that of 19th century jurist Sir Henry Maine who's observations became the heart of British colonial policy but also Marx and Engels. Maine contended that societies in their early stages based power and governance on the status of individuals within a tradition of extended family groups. Status determined position, deference, role and expected behaviour which maintain the harmony of the community Even the outsider has their place. In co Extended Family Matters (a lot!) Weiner's main thesis extends that of 19th century jurist Sir Henry Maine who's observations became the heart of British colonial policy but also Marx and Engels. Maine contended that societies in their early stages based power and governance on the status of individuals within a tradition of extended family groups. Status determined position, deference, role and expected behaviour which maintain the harmony of the community Even the outsider has their place. In contrast the liberal state creates a social contract with each member affording equality, protection, freedom and opportunity for individuals, and the formation of ad hoc group relationships. The technological extreme is reflected by a remark by LinkedIn's founder (and Weiner's college friend) Reid Hoffman: "In the future everyone will be able to choose their own family". Maine's key concept is that there is a natural progression "from status to contract". The examples provided are informative, wide ranging and entertaining. The Asian case studies include Korea and the Philippines with brief glances at China and Japan. SE Asia covers India's castes, Punjabi courts and family law the pashtunawali (hospitality) ethos of Afghanistan and Pakistans. We are led to despair over the power vacuum of the `stans of the former Soviet Union slide to personality based variations of the parody Borat. Interesting parallels are raised between the evolution of Christianized Germanic and English law and the rise of Islamic law as a counter to the tribalism of the medieval Saudi peninsula. In Africa Weiner describes the early 1930s studies of the fiercely independent Nuer tribes of the Sudan. Another major example (Chapter 5) is the highly decentralized but very democratic case of Medieval Iceland. Briefly he touches on the Seneca and Mohawk of North America. And, not unsurprisingly, the same anthropological analysis gets applied to literature: Romeo and Juliet, Michener's Caravans, Sir Walter Scott's Waverly to name a few. Both kinds of societies have their own checks and balances though Weiner feels that liberalism scales better. Where both liberal and Marxist colonialism failed however was in the rapid imposition of status on tribal societies. One example is in Africa where endorsement of particular tribal chiefs led to the rise of powerful dictators unchecked by traditional safeguards, and exacerbated by restrictions on tribal means of gathering wealth - the sale of ivory, slaves, tribute or raids on neighbouring villages. Another was also an unforeseen mismatch between English and Islamic law, according to Professor John Farmer (also Weiner's Dean at Rutgers School of Law) who was an adviser on dispute mechanisms to the Palestinian Authority. The common use of bail is to allow the accused to be released to the custody of family or friends. Under Sharia however the family of the victim of violence is allowed to set the punishment for a crime, either in kind or a monetary penalty. Farmer noted , in cases of violence, bail is sometimes paid by the victim's family, who exact their own justice. Overall a worthwhile read and a powerful way to re-imagine the world. My biggest disappointment was that it needed to be longer. For example it would have been interesting to have examined "old boys" networks, family compacts like the Borgias and Medicis, 18th-20th century Europe, family networks in ancient Rome, or tribal factions in Syria and Lebanon, crime gangs in America. Similarly the author could have looked at the budding field of SNA (Social Network Analysis) to compare the patterns of liberal societies with those of traditional clans Thought provoking and recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    D.A. Barr

    I discovered this book while researching the functions and traditions of clan-based social organizations, for a novel that I am writing. First of all, I'd like to address the term, often used in this book, that will cause serious derision among a significant number of people; especially here in the United States. That word is "liberal", to include related terms like "liberalism". In this book, the author defines the word this way, "(by "liberal" I refer to people committed to the values of individ I discovered this book while researching the functions and traditions of clan-based social organizations, for a novel that I am writing. First of all, I'd like to address the term, often used in this book, that will cause serious derision among a significant number of people; especially here in the United States. That word is "liberal", to include related terms like "liberalism". In this book, the author defines the word this way, "(by "liberal" I refer to people committed to the values of individualism and the principals of liberal democratic government, regardless of party affiliation)." He goes on to explain further what a "liberal democratic government" means to him. This too goes beyond party lines. Though I had a basic understanding of the subject, this well-researched and well-cited information, provided within, not only helped me in my work, but opened my eyes to where we are now, politically, and what can become of modern societies when a central government is destroyed or severely weakened. Though I fully agree that a central government can become dangerous when it holds and wields too much power, I was genuinely surprised to learn of what can very quickly happen when a central government holds too little power to perform its job. We fall back upon our instinctive social patterns; to rely upon the governance of the tribal unit. I'll leave it at that. I believe that it is a valuable read for everyone. For those bothered by the word "liberal" and what you believe it implies, please try to look past that one word and read on. D A Barr November 17, 2019

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    First, the good: the underlying thesis is relatively new and unique and incredibly important to having a better understanding of how societies change. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in foreign affairs or comparative history. The author's use of the history of different countries/groups and mixing in culture and literature works to make his point and is incredibly interesting. The negative: this reads like a dissertation and comes off very pedantic at times, almost like it's a professor p First, the good: the underlying thesis is relatively new and unique and incredibly important to having a better understanding of how societies change. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in foreign affairs or comparative history. The author's use of the history of different countries/groups and mixing in culture and literature works to make his point and is incredibly interesting. The negative: this reads like a dissertation and comes off very pedantic at times, almost like it's a professor presenting to the class. It is also clearly a survey and does not go into great depth even though there are moments where this would have been very useful in further proving the point.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannes

    Fantastiskt läsvärd. En skrämmande inblick i begränsande strukturer, men även intressant utifrån de positiva värden medlemmar i en klan får. Här finns tryggheten, rättvisan och gemenskapen. Samtidigt stärkt i min övertygelse om hur detta står i direkt kontrast med individuella rättigheter och det går inte att ha det ena och samtidigt det andra.

  6. 5 out of 5

    mike osman

    Nice brief overview of the clan as an institution that provides its members the benefits of solidarity and provides the broader society with a measure of order in the absence or weakening of strong state institutions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eva Forslund

    I leaned a lot but wasn’t taken by this book. Became (even more) interested by the intersection of law and economics in relation to clan rule.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Red-Eye

    A very interesting book! Of course I've been thinking about the difference between individualist societies and collectivist societies before, but I've never really had the framework to fully appreciate the two and the enormous difference between them. Not that I can fathom it to the full, I believe. A collectivist society isn't something I can simply "imagine, then understand it". But this book is a good start. I especially enjoyed roughly the first half of the book, the introduction chapters an A very interesting book! Of course I've been thinking about the difference between individualist societies and collectivist societies before, but I've never really had the framework to fully appreciate the two and the enormous difference between them. Not that I can fathom it to the full, I believe. A collectivist society isn't something I can simply "imagine, then understand it". But this book is a good start. I especially enjoyed roughly the first half of the book, the introduction chapters and then the more detailed "case studies" of the Nuer tribes of South Sudan in the 1930ies (very funny, actually), the society of Medieval Iceland (the only case I could somewhat judge against admittedly shaky pre-knowledge, and yeah it's approved) and the current-day Palestinian Authority (I've read a lot of various critisism and praise of Yassir Arafat, but this particular critique was unknown to me!). In other chapters, many many other societies are described, but the three mentioned have the most thorough descriptions. The author is a Law professor and his field of expertice is a little "foreign" to me, but he manages to write it up simple enough for non-experts to follow his points. I believe the subject is EXTREMELY important to understand a lot of problems which haunt our world, so I'll definitely keep this one in mind, and hopefully eventually find time to read some of the sources he has used as well. Recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Groves

    An engaging first cut at understanding the politics and culture of clannism from a liberal-statist perspective. Provocative, not conclusive. Glad I read together with James Scott and Steven Pinker. Three takeaways: 1 - The natural political order in the absence of a capable state is clannism: decentralized family ties, honor-based, and highly communitarian, with enforcement defined by tit-for-tat retributive violence. Libertarians should love the state because it protects individual liberty than t An engaging first cut at understanding the politics and culture of clannism from a liberal-statist perspective. Provocative, not conclusive. Glad I read together with James Scott and Steven Pinker. Three takeaways: 1 - The natural political order in the absence of a capable state is clannism: decentralized family ties, honor-based, and highly communitarian, with enforcement defined by tit-for-tat retributive violence. Libertarians should love the state because it protects individual liberty than the clannist alternative. 2 - Clan societies are very democratic, but they arn't very liberal, they tend to be violent, and they are at least correlated with a lack of respect for women's rights/ 3 - The strategy for shifting from Honor (clan) to Contract (liberal) society should be based on a combination of (1) bottom-up cajoling of clan institutions to bind themselves to national-level instituions, (2) investments in technologies (social media) and social institutions (professional groups) that transcend clan ties, (3) occasional coercive state-making (doesn't defend this explicitly, but a clear implication)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ed Hertzog

    This should be required reading for modern American liberals and libertarians, particularly the type who tend towards the anarchist side of the political spectrum. We don't need to imagine the type of world that would exist in the absence of a state, along with its monopoly on the initiation of force. We have thousands of years of history to suggest what decentralized executive authority very well may look like. The challenge for anarchists is to explain how a stateless society would not devolve This should be required reading for modern American liberals and libertarians, particularly the type who tend towards the anarchist side of the political spectrum. We don't need to imagine the type of world that would exist in the absence of a state, along with its monopoly on the initiation of force. We have thousands of years of history to suggest what decentralized executive authority very well may look like. The challenge for anarchists is to explain how a stateless society would not devolve either into some post-Soviet system of gangsterism or a blood line obsessed clan society like modern Pakistan. This is a challenging read for anyone who rejects the social contract and the construct known as the state. This book may very well raise questions that most anti-state libertarians would rather not like to confront.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ananda

    This is a really interesting high-level essay about what Weiner sees as the only alternative to a strong central state: the rule of the clan. He argues that clan rule is the default, indeed perhaps preferred (by people in general, not him), method of human social organization. For Weiner, people (such as myself) who think the state is a major threat to liberty may be right, but clan rule is far more illiberal and suffocating than the state is (except in the obvious cases). I found this book very This is a really interesting high-level essay about what Weiner sees as the only alternative to a strong central state: the rule of the clan. He argues that clan rule is the default, indeed perhaps preferred (by people in general, not him), method of human social organization. For Weiner, people (such as myself) who think the state is a major threat to liberty may be right, but clan rule is far more illiberal and suffocating than the state is (except in the obvious cases). I found this book very challenging and thought-provoking. Weiner has contributed the lead essay on this subect as part of a symposium critiquing his views at Cato right now. I'm interested to see the back and forth there.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Somewhere between 3 stars and 4 stars. This book provides a look into the clan, an organization of society throughout history and into the present day. It overlaps well with another book I'm reading "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West" by Benazir Bhutto in that both address and provide a plausible answer as to why the West has had such problems with intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is some obvious bias in this book, feeling too often like the author is ramming "liberal soci Somewhere between 3 stars and 4 stars. This book provides a look into the clan, an organization of society throughout history and into the present day. It overlaps well with another book I'm reading "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West" by Benazir Bhutto in that both address and provide a plausible answer as to why the West has had such problems with intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is some obvious bias in this book, feeling too often like the author is ramming "liberal society is good and better than this violent clan system" down my throat. But overall his analysis has given me food for thought and broadened my knowledge and history of different tribal and clan setups.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Robbins

    "Status to Contract" "To be sure, the state can be an instrument of tyranny. Nobody who has lived in the twentieth century can fail to be profoundly aware of the dangers posed by state power. Overreaching states have utterly crushed individual freedom in the Soviet Union (sic), Germany, China, and a host of other nations. But this fact should not lead to radical cynicism about state power per se. nor should it cause us to be cavalier about the consequences that would ensue if the state were to be "Status to Contract" "To be sure, the state can be an instrument of tyranny. Nobody who has lived in the twentieth century can fail to be profoundly aware of the dangers posed by state power. Overreaching states have utterly crushed individual freedom in the Soviet Union (sic), Germany, China, and a host of other nations. But this fact should not lead to radical cynicism about state power per se. nor should it cause us to be cavalier about the consequences that would ensue if the state were to be critically weakened"(p.200). "People dedicated to individual freedom must have the clarity and the courage to defend the state that makes freedom possible"(p.208).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terry Tracz

    Having just been to Kenya and Tanzania, two countries currently evolving from Status to Contract, I found this book to be an especially interesting read. The author presumes more academic background, so I struggled to understand some passages, but we ignore the points he makes at our own peril. Before we can assist other cultures toward democracy, we must first understand their current means of existence.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wickliffe Walker

    Rule of the Clan is a delight: important, thoughtful social and legal analysis leavened by fascinating examples, from an Irish Pub in Georgia to medieval Iceland, from the south of Sudan to the si-fi future of Avatar. Mark Weiner’s clean prose and impressive scholarship add up to a rare combination.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    A look at how clans function in society. The author claims that a strong Liberal government grants individual rights and are the only thing with the ability to enforce rules on society. He challenges the claim that individual rights flourish in a weak government. This is a propaganda piece for Liberalism.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Toronto

    One of the clearest arguments yet for the liberal worldview. Any friend of peace, prosperity, and stability should read Weiner's essay, who casts a light on how liberalism needs the cultural heritage of the clan in order to survive. One of the clearest arguments yet for the liberal worldview. Any friend of peace, prosperity, and stability should read Weiner's essay, who casts a light on how liberalism needs the cultural heritage of the clan in order to survive.

  18. 4 out of 5

    The Advocate

    "Weiner’s study on the role of the clan in strengthening societies gives a good understanding of the conflicts and benefits of both individualism and rigid social structure." Read more here. "Weiner’s study on the role of the clan in strengthening societies gives a good understanding of the conflicts and benefits of both individualism and rigid social structure." Read more here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book was a great read - provocative and insightful. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in law's relation to the individual. This book was a great read - provocative and insightful. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in law's relation to the individual.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rodger A. Payne

    2015 Grawemeyer winner for Ideas Improving World Order.

  21. 5 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS KOBOBOOKS

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex MacMillan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dean Willard

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gurri

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ali Akkoyun

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Madlyneon

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Wonacott

  30. 4 out of 5

    Todd

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