Law School Discussion

bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west

tbbs1

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2006, 06:14:33 AM »
but to return to the main point, though my definition of modernity might be extremely narrow and western, i think it's very relevant to the current discussion.  this is clearly a sort of modernity that bin laden and his fellows reject violently.  i think it is also something that "cosmopolitans in karachi" accept and desire (this may be an incorrect assumption i admit; i believe it is true but cannot back it up empirically).  since this latter group embraces an idea about how society should be structured that is so completely at odds with bin laden's views, they most likely do not have a place in his imagined caliphate.  i find it difficult that he would try to show a face of moderation in order to appeal to such groups



to build upon stanley's point, i think that there are certain aspects of "Western modernity" that are more a product of modernity than the evolution of Western values. take for example the status of women. technological change and economic necessity, in my opinion, did more to advance the cause of women's equality than did traditional western values (there is little tradition/history in the west for women's equality).

similarly, let's suppose that bin laden does in fact desire the establishment of a technologically-modern caliphate. those could be mutually exclusive. for it to be technologically modern, it would require mass public and higher education to train the workers for its ecnonomy and greater urbanization in order to organize the economy. but mass education and greater urbanization will in turn create more of the "cosmopolitan Karachis" referenced above, who are not interested in bin laden's vision.

the basic point is not that liberal democracy is inevitable -- i do not think that that is true. but i do believe that a technologically modern society does require certain liberal values, at least to be economically successful. china is an interesting example to keep in mind.

redemption

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2006, 08:49:34 AM »
to build upon stanley's point, i think that there are certain aspects of "Western modernity" that are more a product of modernity than the evolution of Western values. take for example the status of women. technological change and economic necessity, in my opinion, did more to advance the cause of women's equality than did traditional western values (there is little tradition/history in the west for women's equality).

Hmm. I think that these claim may be both factually and conceptually problematic.

Numerous historical,  anthropological and sociological studies have shown that the sexual division of labor, the distribution of rewards,  the control of strategic resources and the social status of women was higher in pre-modern societies than in modern (what is called, in the argot of these disciplines "Fordist") societies. Economic studies in developing countries today show that by the four criteria listed above, women in the subsistence economy ( aproxy for the pre-modern) have it better than women in the modern sector.

I have a poor understanding of what "economic necessity" is. Who faces such a pressure more: the subsistence farmer, the sweatshop worker, or the investment banker?

What is "western modernity", and how can it be disentangled from "western values"?

similarly, let's suppose that bin laden does in fact desire the establishment of a technologically-modern caliphate. those could be mutually exclusive. for it to be technologically modern, it would require mass public and higher education to train the workers for its ecnonomy and greater urbanization in order to organize the economy. but mass education and greater urbanization will in turn create more of the "cosmopolitan Karachis" referenced above, who are not interested in bin laden's vision.

the basic point is not that liberal democracy is inevitable -- i do not think that that is true. but i do believe that a technologically modern society does require certain liberal values, at least to be economically successful. china is an interesting example to keep in mind.

How do we then explain that for nine hundred years the most modern, richest, most urbanized, most cosmopolitan and educated society in the world was an Islamic caliphate? And that for a thousand years before that it was a Confucian Empire?

redemption

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2006, 09:08:02 AM »

fair enough.  i am using the word modernity in this narrow western sense.  for the record yes i was an IR person, but i understand that modernity is defined differently in other disciplines (my film history professor was particularly confused by how i defined the word). 

and i disagree that westphalia was not the beginning of social modernity.  i think that social modernity (again narrow definition) does entail the existence of a private domain for the individual.  i believe that this private domain came about beginning with westphalia, which started the process of moving religion out of the public realm (and yes i know that this is arguable). 

but to return to the main point, though my definition of modernity might be extremely narrow and western, i think it's very relevant to the current discussion.  this is clearly a sort of modernity that bin laden and his fellows reject violently.  i think it is also something that "cosmopolitans in karachi" accept and desire (this may be an incorrect assumption i admit; i believe it is true but cannot back it up empirically).  since this latter group embraces an idea about how society should be structured that is so completely at odds with bin laden's views, they most likely do not have a place in his imagined caliphate.  i find it difficult that he would try to show a face of moderation in order to appeal to such groups


If you define Modernity as Westernism, then sure - Bin Laden doesn't want any part of it for his future imagined caliphate. That's easy. It is only complicated by the fact that some imagine that because he therefore "hates us for our freedoms". I doubt that very much, I don't see any evidence to support that claim, and I don't see how that view has gained such common currency.

I think you'll find that the claims of community and faith are far greater in Islam than they were in Christianity. Islam is a fundamentally *political* faith. I would not bet that the "Western-Modern" concept of social organization is more in tune with the intuitions of a professional in Karachi or Mombasa than are the instincts of Bin Laden or Al Zawahiri.

Part of the challenge for us, I think, is to stop viewing Islam as a sort-of protest against the West or against Liberalism etc. It is not. It is its own belief system, with internal coherence, and with sufficient appeal to command the allegiance of hundreds of millions of people. Compared to Christianity, there is very little variation in the structure of that belief. I would say that (for different reasons) the Taliban/Wahabi variant  and the American-Black-Muslim variant are the only outliers.

I have no reason to believe that Bin Laden is a Wahabi or that he adheres to the Talban view of Islam. His messages and his actions have all been political ones.

tbbs1

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2006, 11:00:06 AM »

Hmm. I think that these claim may be both factually and conceptually problematic.

Numerous historical,  anthropological and sociological studies have shown that the sexual division of labor, the distribution of rewards,  the control of strategic resources and the social status of women was higher in pre-modern societies than in modern (what is called, in the argot of these disciplines "Fordist") societies. Economic studies in developing countries today show that by the four criteria listed above, women in the subsistence economy ( aproxy for the pre-modern) have it better than women in the modern sector.

I have a poor understanding of what "economic necessity" is. Who faces such a pressure more: the subsistence farmer, the sweatshop worker, or the investment banker?


i should be more precise when discussing the status of women. i was  referring in particular to political rights and general economic opportunity.

and by "economic necessity" i was referring obliquely to particular conditions that contributed to the increased rights of women in the united states. for instance, women, at least in the US, have routinely been afforded more opportunity and rights during and in the aftermath of war. for example, certain professions and professional schools became more accepting of women out of necessity in the second half of the 19th century mainly because there were shortage of young men (600,000 of them having been killed). the political rights of women in America at least originated with this type of economic necessity (and not from Western political traditions). 


How do we then explain that for nine hundred years the most modern, richest, most urbanized, most cosmopolitan and educated society in the world was an Islamic caliphate? And that for a thousand years before that it was a Confucian Empire?


well, i believe in the case of the islamic caliphate, it was comparatively more liberal than the others societies of its age (in no small part because it was the most cosmopolitan and educated society in the world). and it is certainly not true that western values translate to societal supremacy. but that is besides the point. my point was in response to the idea that bin laden wants a modern Caliphate with "engineers and bankers and air-traffic controllers," i.e., a technologically modern society, by today's standards. if by Caliphate we should mean he wants all Muslims to live under one political entity governed from Saudi Arabia, Baghdad, or elsewhere, I do not think that the requirements of a technological modern society preclude that from happening (those lots of other factors do). however, if you extend that idea of a Caliphate to the imposition of Salafist beliefs (or another rigid belief system) on all members of that political entity, I do think he could achieve a technologically modern society. i do not believe you could educate and employ tens of thousands of engineers, bankers and air-traffic controllers in a society in which women could not drive.

redemption

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #24 on: January 24, 2006, 11:31:07 AM »

i should be more precise when discussing the status of women. i was  referring in particular to political rights and general economic opportunity.

and by "economic necessity" i was referring obliquely to particular conditions that contributed to the increased rights of women in the united states. for instance, women, at least in the US, have routinely been afforded more opportunity and rights during and in the aftermath of war. for example, certain professions and professional schools became more accepting of women out of necessity in the second half of the 19th century mainly because there were shortage of young men (600,000 of them having been killed). the political rights of women in America at least originated with this type of economic necessity (and not from Western political traditions). 


Total War as an emancipator of women? I'm with you on that score. Take, for example, the case of Eritrea and Ethiopia: identical traditions, customes, cultures, economies (if anything Eritrea is poorer, but the economic structure is the same), polities etc. They fought a thirty-year (civil) war. Ethiopia, with a population of 70 million, threw in its men and boys; Eritrea, with a population of not even a quarter that, threw in men, boys, women and girls. The women fought alongside the men, all afros and kalashnikovs. There is no country today, after the victory was won,  that has a more emancipated female population than Eritrea, if by emancipation we mean parity with the social and economic status of  men. There are few countries where women have a lower status than in Ethiopia.

Notice, though, how this is very very tangential to the issue of economic development, economic modernity etc. Further, no-one would claim that Eritrea is a Western or a liberal state.



well, i believe in the case of the islamic caliphate, it was comparatively more liberal than the others societies of its age (in no small part because it was the most cosmopolitan and educated society in the world). and it is certainly not true that western values translate to societal supremacy. but that is besides the point. my point was in response to the idea that bin laden wants a modern Caliphate with "engineers and bankers and air-traffic controllers," i.e., a technologically modern society, by today's standards. if by Caliphate we should mean he wants all Muslims to live under one political entity governed from Saudi Arabia, Baghdad, or elsewhere, I do not think that the requirements of a technological modern society preclude that from happening (those lots of other factors do). however, if you extend that idea of a Caliphate to the imposition of Salafist beliefs (or another rigid belief system) on all members of that political entity, I do think he could achieve a technologically modern society. i do not believe you could educate and employ tens of thousands of engineers, bankers and air-traffic controllers in a society in which women could not drive.

See how that term "liberal" re-appears? You are using it in the sense of "tolerant", I think, whereas Stanley is using it in the Lockean sense. Yes, the Caliphate then was tolerant: there was a personal space for individuals to follow their own faiths (there were no persecutions, restrictions and pogroms of Jews and Christians, for example, in the Caliphate as there were of Jews and Muslims in Christendom), and yet the political and public space was indisputably islamic.

A great deal of value was placed on education, on higher education, on technology and on economic expansion. I see no necessary reason why his future imagined Caliphate shouldn't emphasize those values also.

As you can sense, I see no reason why the notion of a Caliphate, as imagined by Bin Laden, needs to be "extended" into a Salafist vision. I do not know of any instance in which Bin Laden himself or Al-Zawahiri as stated or implied this. I understand that USG has conflated the two - perhaps from ignorance (entirely possible), or from an attempt to communicate complex ideas simply to an otherwise confused populace (that would be us). I think it is the former, personally: I need only think back to the "Yellow Devil" portrayals of the Japanese during WWII.

Even if it were a Salafist vision that he has in mind, however, I do not see any practical problem that the Caliphate would have in achieving technological and economic modernity without having a female professional labor force (at the extreme) or without having an integrated professional labor force. I guess I think that economic determinism is so much bunk.  :)

redemption

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2006, 08:14:23 PM »
Fair enough. It felt more like a discussion than an argument, though. And good morning.

tbbs1

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2006, 09:55:36 AM »

I guess I think that economic determinism is so much bunk.  :)


i suffer no shame in usurping marx for my own ends.

redemption

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #27 on: January 25, 2006, 10:00:13 AM »
Heck, everyone else does - why shouldn't you?

Fidelio

Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #28 on: January 27, 2006, 07:50:38 PM »
Redemption,


Your LR advice is solid but with all due respect...

Osama Bin Laden is not a Salafi.

http://www.thewahhabimyth.com/

Due to his despicable actions, the top Salafi scholars have declared Bin Laden a deviant. 

140am

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Re: bin laden: possibility of a truce with usa/west
« Reply #29 on: January 27, 2006, 08:50:25 PM »
Modernity is the forward thrust of the human condition away from whatever the previous/current incarnation is.  This takes a much different form depending on where you may be.