Mark S. Weiner

Archive for the ‘Rule of the Clan’ Category

Donald Trump and the Rule of the Clan

In Rule of law, Rule of the Clan on November 13, 2016 at 5:50 pm

A number of readers have written in the wake of the American presidential election to ask how I would read Donald Trump’s victory in light of the arguments I make in The Rule of the Clan.

I’ve just returned from a weekend away to receive a kind new review of my book by Karen Schousboe, editor-in-chief of Medieval Histories, which is based in Denmark. Because she’s a sensitive and careful reader of my work, I’d like to let her review answer the question, but I’d also like to add some thoughts of my own from a related perspective: as someone who has devoted most of his professional life to the non-partisan teaching of American constitutional law and the principles of liberal constitutional democracy.

Over the course his campaign, Donald Trump consistently flouted basic principles of democratic constitutionalism. Trump violated these principles not incidentally or at the margins of the race, but rather through specific promises that were at the heart of his campaign, as well as in his repeated public behavior toward his rivals. Read the rest of this entry »

John Stuart Mill and the Rule of the Clan in Sweden

In Freedom of speech, Individualism, Race, Rule of the Clan, Sweden on March 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

Two items were published this week that brought me away from thinking about documentary film and back to The Rule of the Clan.

The first was a blog post titled “Why Libertarians Should Champion Social Liberty,” by Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center. Taylor advances a position that at first glance seems to run counter to core libertarian principles: he argues that “freedom is advanced by [government] preventing private racial discrimination.” This view is anathema to many libertarians, Taylors notes, who believe that government action to prevent private discrimination is “flatly immoral no matter how well-intentioned or worthwhile the consequences might be.”

But Taylor suggests that this is a misunderstanding of the libertarian tradition—one of whose patron saints, John Stuart Mill, had this to say in the first chapter of On Liberty:

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

Taylor then goes on to suggest—here’s the kicker—that “Mill’s heir on this matter might well be Mark Weiner.”

… Pause … Read the rest of this entry »

Improbable Things in Foreign Languages

In Europe, Law and film, Rule of the Clan, Sweden on August 12, 2015 at 6:35 am

Here are three improbable things collected into one audio file: me talking 1) on Austrian radio, 2) in German, and 3) about my latest video project (“Wood, Water, Stone, Sky, Milk”). The program was broadcast recently on “Salzburg Aktuell” on radio ORF.

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And while I’m on foreign languages, three nice discussions of The Rule of the Clan appeared recently in Sweden, in Dagens Nyheter, here, and in Svenska Dagbladet: a full review here and a mention here. I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the attention given to the book there.

Finally, my friend Ulrich Haltern and I recently published an article in the EUtopia Magazine about liberal identity in Europe after the terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. We wrote most of the piece back in mid-January, so we’re glad to finally see it available. It was originally written in German, and it reads better in that language, but an English translation is also available.

From Salzburg to Louisville and Back Again

In Constitutional law, Corporations, Europe, Rule of the Clan on May 9, 2015 at 11:08 am

Greetings from Austria, where I’m spending the semester as a Fulbright scholar at the law school of the University of Salzburg. My wife and I have had a grand time getting to know this beautiful city and the mountains and valleys of the nearby Salzkammergut. If you’d like to find us, we’re living in a little baroque garret right about here:

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Just behind that blue dot, up a sheer cliff, is the house where the author Stefan Zweig used to live, so we’ve been thinking a lot about The World Before Yesterday—and, in an American spirit, about the director Wes Anderson, too. Across the river is the Salzburg old town, with its winding cobblestone streets, and our favorite bakery, and our favorite butcher, with its staff who wave to us warmly on the street when they see us walk by. Read the rest of this entry »

Rule of the Clan Wins Grawemeyer Award

In Rule of the Clan on December 2, 2014 at 11:16 am

I am over the moon to share the news that The Rule of the Clan has received the 2015 Grawmeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

The award is the greatest honor of my professional life, and I am so grateful to everyone who supported me in ways large and small over the years.

There is great celebration taking place here in Hamden, Connecticut.

Book and Cava

For background about the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, click here.

And here is more about the Grawemeyer Awards generally, from the Grawmeyer Awards website: Read the rest of this entry »

ROC discussed i svenska i na hrvatskom jeziku

In Rule of the Clan, Sweden on November 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I’m very pleased that The Rule of the Clan was the subject of two reviews in languages other than English this week. One review, in the Swedish magazine Axess, is by the writer, journalist, and filmmaker Bengt G. Nilsson, who calls the book “a powerful plea for the strong state governed by liberal principles.”

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The second review is by Zvonimir Šikić, professor of mathematics at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and appears in Banka.hr. Šikić writes that “libertarians, who regularly assert that the opposition between individual autonomy and the state is insurmountable, especially should consider the modern paradox of individualism, which Weiner excellently explains and documents.”

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And thus the world grows smaller …

 

Odds & Ends

In Conversations, Rule of the Clan on April 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm

5 Nuts

Five odds and ends today:

1) My discussion “The Legal Foundations of Individualism,” which I presented as a talk at the annual Telos conference in January, is now available on TELOSscope. As I explain at the start of the piece: “I’ll be addressing two questions about democracy raised by our conference description: first, ‘the reasons for its rarity and volatility’; and, second, ‘the factors that are essential for its stability.’ For each question, I’ll try to provide a concise, mildly provocative answer from my perspective as a writer and scholar about constitutional law and comparative legal history.”

Regarding the first question, “why is democracy so rare and volatile,” I write: “I think one answer we could give to this question is that democracy is volatile because the modern self is a legal achievement. There is nothing outside of law, including individual subjectivity.”

2) ICYMI (in case you missed it): the forum last month about The Rule of the Clan on Cato Unbound was really interesting—and great fun. I was very fortunate to have three thoughtful commentators from different parts of the political spectrum engage with my work: libertarian blogger Arnold Kling, American Conservative editor Daniel McCarthy, and Yale Law School professor John Fabian Witt. There were also many lively comments from readers. The editor of Cato Unbound, Jason Kuznicki of the Cato Institute, posted his own very interesting response on the website Ordinary Times, speaking to some debates within libertarian theory.

3) There were a number of responses to the Cato Unbound forum in various corners of the blogsphere, including an especially interesting discussion on The Sweep, which published another post today that comes into dialogue with my work.

4) My lead essay on Cato Unbound is now available in Spanish on La Tercera Cultura. There seem to be a number of interesting comments en español. To the translator and editors: abrazos!

5) This coming week I’ll be speaking at the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues at Dickinson College. My fellow panelists will be Prof. Carol Horning of the U.S. Army War College, Prof. Erik Love of the Sociology Department at Dickinson, and Prof. Andrew Wolff of the Dickinson Political Science Department. Earlier that day I’ll be speaking to one of Prof. Horning’s classes on international development at the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.

6) Totally apropos of nothing I’ve discussed above: I’m looking forward to spending the weekend at a course on wilderness first aid sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club. If any of my readers have taken one of SOLO’s wilderness first responder courses, do let me know. See you on the trails!

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Rule of the Clan Unbound

In Conversations, Rule of the Clan on March 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

The Rule of the Clan

There’s a symposium this month about The Rule of the Clan on Cato Unbound, the online journal of the Cato Institute. My contribution is now online. In coming days there will responses by Arnold Kling, on March 12; Daniel McCarthy, on March 14; and John Fabian Witt, on March 17. I hope readers will join in the conversation, which promises to be lively and controversial.

In other news, I’ll be speaking tomorrow at Yale Law School beginning at six o’clock, and the paperback of The Rule of the Clan is now available from the good folks at Picador.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t …

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Conversations, Individualism, Law and music, Rule of the Clan on March 7, 2014 at 5:56 pm

“What can the jazz process tell us about life?” That’s the overriding theme of Trading Fours on Blog Talk Radio, hosted by Drs. Jackie Modeste and Wesley J. Watkins, IV.

I had a lively conversation about The Rule of the Clan on the show today, and in keeping with the spirit of Trading Fours—and trading fours—our discussion ranged widely. You can hear the full one-hour show through this media player (or by clicking on the link in the first paragraph):

In the course of our conversation, the three of us had a lively exchange about jazz and democracy I thought worth sharing. Among other things, it seemed like an American version of the discussion I had with Prof. Stefan Kirste about the relation between law and musical aesthetics:

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation, which in the audio file begins at about 33:00:

Me: What liberal government has to sell has to be better than what’s on offer from other social theories.

Jackie: Right.

Me: And if liberal government is working, if it’s corrupt along any lines, certainly those of nepotism, if it’s ineffective, then liberal government deserves to lose. But I don’t think it should. And that’s why I think it’s important to defend central government, to defend modern liberal ideals of robust government capable of vindicating the public interest and thereby liberating individual energy.

Jackie: OK, yes. Yes! So what I’m thinking about is when we—

Me: Jackie, sorry to interrupt you. Something that Wes said … maybe we could play with this a little bit. I’m trying to draw connections to the jazz concerns that you have here on the show. Maybe government is like a band leader. And so if you’re thinking about Duke Ellington, right, and the kind of music that he was able to enable, if you don’t have a good band leader, then someone is going to steal that show and the swing is going to be undermined. I’m not sure if … is that the case in jazz?

Jackie: Wes, do you want to talk about that? Read the rest of this entry »

Beginning

In Individualism, Rule of the Clan on February 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

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This weekend, I began work on my next non-fiction book by giving a talk at an excellent conference hosted by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute. The title of the conference was “The Difficulty of Democracy: Diagnoses and Prognoses.” I gave the following remarks as part of an evening discussion about “The Individual and the Collective,” which included fellow panelists Ulrike Kistner, Timothy Luke, and Frances Fox Piven (though because of much stimulating back-and-forth, I actually delivered my remarks the following morning). This is what I said:

As the final speaker after a fascinating day of talks, I’ll keep my comments brief. I’ll be addressing two questions about democracy raised by our conference description: first, “the reasons for its rarity and volatility” and, second, “the factors that are essential for its stability.” For each question, I’ll try to provide a concise, mildly provocative answer from my perspective as a writer and scholar about constitutional law and comparative legal history.

So why is democracy so rare and volatile? I think one answer we could give to this question is that democracy is volatile because the modern self is a legal achievement. There is nothing outside of law, including individual subjectivity. Instead, the modern self that lies at the center of liberal democratic practice developed only after a long historical process of dialectical negation and synthesis. In that process, a handful of societies, beginning in western Europe, transcended what in my most recent book I call the “rule of the clan.”

The rule of the clan is a form of governance that unites a radically decentralized constitutional structure with a culture of group honor and shame. In doing so, it makes the extended family the constitutive unit of society, politics and law. Under the rule of the clan, an individual’s legal rights and obligations depend significantly on his or her place within the kin group—his or her “status” within the extended family, to use the language of the nineteenth-century legal historian Henry Maine. As a result, personal autonomy is radically circumscribed, as exemplified by constricted life possibilities for women.

Modern individualism could develop only once central governments were capable of vindicating the public interest over the power of extended families—only once they could supplant the rule of the clan with a form of socio-legal order animated by what Maine called the principle of contract. Modern selfhood requires the existence of public institutions that protect persons as individuals, not as cousins. Thus if we look to the laws of Alfred the Great in Anglo-Saxon England, we see that the public-regarding notion of the King’s peace grew alongside the monarch’s extension of special protection to persons without kin, most notably monks and traveling merchants.

From this historical perspective, individuals didn’t create the state; the state created individuals. In loosely Hegelian terms, the growth of modern subjectivity depended on the development of a neutral state dedicated to principles of universal as opposed to particular altruism. This view naturally cuts against theories of social contract. It also points to some of the challenges democracy faces to its emergence and stability.

Read the rest of this entry »