Monday, June 21, 2010


عصبية, Asabiyyah:
`Asabiyya or asabiyah (Arabic: عصبية, ʕaṣabīya) refers to social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness, and social cohesion, originally in a context of "tribalism" and "clanism", but sometimes used for modern nationalism as well, resembling also communitarism. It was a familiar term in the pre-Islamic era, but became popularized in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history. `Asabiyya is neither necessarily nomadic nor based on blood relations rather it resembles philosophy of classical republicanism. In the modern period, the term is generally analogous to solidarity. However, the term is often negatively associated because it can sometimes suggest loyalty to one's group regardless of circumstances, or partisanship.
Link, The Muqaddimah, more accessibly, "An Introduction to History," and mislabelled "The Classic Islamic History of the World," (Bollingen Series, 1967) is one of the best books I've read in several years, but it is not a a history: it is better understood as a philosophy of history, perhaps the first ever, or an ethnography, if not the first then certainly the best since Herodotus.* The Bollingen edition declares itself to be "translated and introduced by Franz Rosenthal, abridged and edited by N.J. Dawood." A 2005 reprint includes a useful introduction by Bruce B. Lawrence. On Asabiyyah, Lawrence quotes one Mohammed Talbi" one and the same time the cohesive force of the group, the conscience that it has of its own specificity and collective aspirations, and the tension that animates it and impels it ineluctably to seek power through conquest.
--Id., xv.
And one Jon Anderson:
[A]sabiyah seems to be a concept of relation by sameness, opposed both to the state (dawlah) based on relations of difference or complementarity, and to religion (din), which alone supercedes (sic) it.
Oddly enough, the term does not appear in the index to the Bollingen edition.
*The edition in question is a one-volume abridgment of a three-volume work; the longer version may contain more straight history, I cannot say.

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