A blog on political conflict and the ways we make sense of it

Category: “The Middle East”

Rethinking yesterday’s post: “danger” was a poor choice… Shura and Democracy

in wording. And soon enough, I found evidence to damn my own conclusions. It is clear to me now that my frustration with the term and implications of shura were from the Shavit piece, more specifically, from Shavit’s explanation of the historical functionalization of the term. (Especially in the case of the Society of Muslim Brothers, it is guilty of all the things I frantically outlined…)

After I rushed off to class and we discussed “what is the West and what is democracy?” I had a few more thoughts on shura and the demands that the question (not only of “the West” and democracy, but) of the emancipatory principles of Islamic law.The project is riddled with layers of decrepit politicized crust. It is hard not to take the crust for law, historical implementation for potential. In short, I cannot mistake my big fat finger for the moon, even though I have to point to it somehow.

I also read Charles Tilly’s piece on Social Mechanisms, and his example of mechanisms and their interplay was on democratization. What do you think his definition was?

Democratization is any move toward protected consultation, de-democraization any move away from protected consultation.

As you recall, shura is translated as “consultation.” But I think that I was a little bit right and a lot wrong when I said that there are dangers of equating shura with democracy. I was right in my discernment on the improper and unclear linearity of the two terms. I was incorrect because (from ignorance and conceptual ambiguity that DEFINITELY still lingers) on the relationship to shura as a mechanism in democratization. Thus, the concepts are not linear or interchangeable but are definitely related. There is certainly more to come on this topic. I only wanted to point out my earlier failing and also to share my definitions of “the West” and “democracy” (both formulated pre-Tilly).

{Directly from my notebook:}

The West: A non-geographical tradition of accumulating hegemony. Western thought is also an inheritence of this type, and it remains a sort of hegemonic enterprise defined after its apogee. Historical networks of hegemony centralize power and expand influence. Resistance is always non-West, because it is always non-hegemonic. Is “the West” a way to name a dot on the map of this tradition as it falls away?

Democracy: mutual recognition of inherent radical equality for decentralized, ubiquitous consensus.

Signing off,


Time-lag: the Beginning of Crisis in Iran

Image(Photo courtesy of NY Times)

Panic, desperation, and a financial drone that’s been a long time coming. Is it possible to stave off the impending collapse of Iran’s economy? The story is unfolding at different points in the politico-capital spectrum, leaving many (including myself) with the feeling that global, paradigmatic geo-politics leaves us all behind in the dust. When the jobs are devastated, the currency value imploded, the bargaining purchase of a university education have all been shot up before us, are we left with wreckage? or reminded that we were always only human? How many of us boring our way through the second decade of the 21st century recognize our (own) political nature?

Left, right, center, anarchist, Islamist: we are aware of the politically-defined character of our lives (to say nothing of the economically-determined character of our private lives and in common). But to what extent are we aware of our own politics, our own political agency?

I hear my professor’s voice: who is we Kimosabe?  Well, that’s what I’m here to figure out. Provisionally, I mean “all;” in this RARE instance I mean universal man; but can’t we say that all is also the disenfranchised, the ones who maybe forget that we determine as much as we are the unwilling inheritors of political determination?

This blog will not orient itself around overly-abstract conceptions of politics, community, economy, and conflict. I hope that in the course of writing and reading in the world, I will find light shed on our ability to recognize our own political capital, disown the shattered wreckage as the space-junk engineered not for us, but them.

It remains to be seen, just who we are, whether our political nature has to be reclaimed, named, or mobilized. Until then, I’ll be here, writing the time-lag.

Signing off,