By Thomas Jackson
October 4, 2013 - amren.com
Do they threaten the modern state?
What is the oldest, most natural form of human organization? The clan or tribe. Even in societies that that are not ruled by clans, people have instinctive kinship loyalties. In the United States, this loyalty is weakest among whites, who rarely show much attachment beyond their immediate family, and strongest among blacks, most of whom have a strong sense of loyalty to their entire race.
Mark S. Weiner of Rutgers University Law School has written a book about the powerful attractions of clan loyalty and the persistence of clan rule in some parts of the world. He has interesting things to say about how clans work, and offers case studies of clan societies past and present. He also understands why clan loyalties are so powerful and how they shape a member’s identity.
And yet, this book is irritatingly couched as a solution to an imaginary problem. Prof. Weiner actually seems to think that proponents of small government want to hack away the state to the point that the United States could fall into clan chaos. Get the government out of medicine and education, and we’ll be back to the blood feud. It’s hard to think of a stupider defense of big government but fortunately there are other, better things in this book.Clan society
Prof. Weiner writes that “clan societies meet certain basic human needs more effectively than liberal nations.” (By “liberal,” he means any non-clan-based democratic country.) He’s right. Members have dense, interlocking associations with many people. They know exactly who they are, and how they fit. Compared to the “bowling alone” individualism and loneliness of many in the West, clansmen—Prof. Weiner concedes he is writing about tribes as well, but doesn’t like the T-word because of “negative and racialist connotations”—have a profound sense of identity and affiliation.
The identity of clan members tends to be collective. They take great pride in the accomplishments of their fellows and they share responsibility for failure. A clansman’s offense against a neighboring clan could bring retaliation against anyone, so clans police their members and make sure they behave.
Clan relationships are also permanent. In “liberal” societies, we have a few ties we cannot cut—laws enforce a parent’s obligations to his children—but most of our associations are voluntary. We can change jobs, skip town, join a new club or church. Tribesmen find deep meaning and security in their tribe, but they are stuck with it.
If there are disputes within the clan, councils of elders dispense justice, and there is usually not much need to enforce decisions. Members do as they are told because violators could pay a heavy penalty in ostracism or even violence.
Clans have clear boundaries. These are usually set by lineal descent, but sometimes non-related but similar groups known as septs may become part of a clan. Clans may join forces in the face of foreign invasion, but there is almost never any doubt about membership. Prof. Weiner reports that clansmen in Somalia can often trace their ancestry back 20 generations.
Prof. Weiner does not mention this, but many clans physically mark their members. Among West African tribes it is still common to scar the faces and bodies of children so they will always be recognizable as members. Highland tartans served the same purpose, as do the “colors,” branding, and tattoos of American criminal gangs.
Prof. Weiner writes that a legitimate American organization that closely resembles a clan is the Marine Corps. Although the corps is not a kinship group, many corpsmen are loyal for life, take pride in each others’ accomplishments, and share the humiliation when a Marine misbehaves.
The most obvious problem with clans is that they recognize no superior authority. Prof. Weiner notes, however, that catastrophic feuding is rare; clan societies have what he calls “justice without government.” There are rules that cover violations, and a well-considered act of revenge often squares the books. Sometimes elders from a third clan reconcile hostile clans. No one wants all-out war, so there are built-in curbs against it, but sometimes clan honor requires mass violence. Much blood may be shed before one clan is routed or the exhausted belligerents finally make peace.Full Article: http://www.amren.com/features/2013/10/why-clans-persist/