Clans and Individuals

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mark Weiner teaches constitutional law and legal history at Rutgers School of Law in Newark and is the author of The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. He joins us look at the concept of individual liberty under central governments and clan-based countries.


Mark Weiner

Comments [9]

Marijana Benesh

Strong and effective government, I would think, does not necessarily imply big government and might be interpreted as lean government. The functional words here seem to be: transparent, strong, effective. Once that goal is clear, how the goal is to be achieved is the question that follows.

Mar. 13 2013 09:04 PM
Mark S. Weiner from Connecticut

Hi everyone, thanks for your comments. jgarbuz: You directly address some of the key issues I explore in my book. The status of women in any society is an indication of its more general commitment to principles of individualism. And as you say, the concept of loyalty to a nation state that transcends clan or tribal identity is relatively new in historical terms. The Truth from Becky: I hope I can convince you otherwise! If you're perhaps thinking of "Klan" rather than "clan," you might be interested in my first book, Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste. But if you're thinking of "clan" as in tribe, I think in fact that it's a subject of critical, universal importance that everyone dedicated to liberal democratic principles ought to think about. (Besides, I hope the book also makes an enjoyable read.) Mark from Brooklyn (and perhaps Henry from MD): This is a _great_ question, and I directly address it in the final chapter of the book, in which I argue that for a number of reasons liberal democratic societies like the United States run the risk of producing a range of "postmodern" clans--the kind of groups that maintain social order in the absence of effective state authority. Corporations are one. Christine from Westchester: Thanks for your careful listening! Indeed, I think that one of the lessons that people in the US and other liberal societies can learn from studying the rule of the clan is how important it is to safeguard our own effective and transparent government, lest we run the risk of descending into postmodern clannish chaos. Hunh?: Thanks for the reference! I'll take a look. As it happens, I have a side scholarly interest in the history of food and have written a bit about corporate food products, and personally my wife and I are dedicated to the kind of cooking to which you may be, too (I even make a quick reference to it in the first pages of the book). In any case, though I agree with jgarbuz's comments, I also think that clan societies have a great deal to teach modern liberal ones, too.

Mar. 13 2013 08:21 PM

An interesting sort of medical-anthropological view of small, mostly pre-industrial societies around the globe was published in 1939 by Weston A Price, entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration - food holding societies together! - I read it for traditional nutritional information but came away with a new appreciation for "clan" behavior. It's an interesting look through another lens

Mar. 13 2013 01:30 PM
The Truth from Becky

Against anything with the work "clan" in it, can't be a good thing.

Mar. 13 2013 11:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

In the West, the push for individualism and individual rights works against the family or "clan." Women's rights works against the existence of the clan or family, which is why clannish societies, like in the Middle East, resist individual rights as much as they do.

Mar. 13 2013 11:43 AM
Mark from brooklyn

Are corporations like clans?

Mar. 13 2013 11:40 AM
Christine from Westchester

Note that he said "effective" and "transparent" government. I'd say we have a lack thereof. So what's the effectiveness of clans in the kind of mess we're in?

Mar. 13 2013 11:37 AM
Henry from md

The 1%

Mar. 13 2013 11:37 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Human societies began as clans, morphed into tribes, and only in recent centuries turned into nation-states. The concept of loyalty to a national state is a relatively new concept in much of the world. But even the US had early problems getting 13 colonies to agree to merge into a single nation state. Each state still has some local autonomy and powers.

Mar. 13 2013 11:35 AM

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