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30 November 2015


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The golden age of feudalism - free men with equal rights on the basis of the village organisation; the lord not as owner, but as trustee with definite obligations under the social bond

Ernest Belfort Bax was very succint and illuminating to me.
The introduction to his German Society at the Close of the Middle Ages I find quite valuable in evaluating the time we live in:

"The old feudal relations had degenerated into a blood-sucking op-
pression ; the old rough brutality, into excogitated and elaborated cruelty (aptly illustrated in the collection of ingenious instruments preserved in the Torture-tower at Nurnberg) ; the old crude superstition, into a systematised magical theory of natural causes and effects ; the old love of pageantry, into a lavish luxury and magnificence of which we have in the ** field of the cloth
of gold " the stock historical example ; the old chivalry, into the mercenary bravery of the soldier, whose trade it was to fight, and who
recognised only one virtue — to wit, animal courage. Again, all these exaggerated characteristics were mixed with new elements, which distorted them further, and which foreshadowed a coming change, the ultimate issue of which would be their extinction and that of
the life of which they were the signs."


William R. Cumming



Well, ok, and I am just a small-town lawyer--interesting story for sure but given that I don't want an infinite number of immigrants I still prefer Koreans to Syrians. Something seems wrong that that preference being ignored in politics bc I think that must be the overwhelming democratic preference of Americans. Koreans seem OK but Syrians are gonna cause trouble.


Tartars, Tatars, Mongols, Turks, Khazar- steppe nomads. The Saker points out that Russians sometimes call them all Tatars. Interestingly he once posted a painting of Russians battling Tatars and the two sides were indistinguishable, in physical features and weapons.

But the Soviet film, Alexander Nevsky, shows the golden horde as Asiatic Mongols. I doubt that by then, they looked as portrayed in the film. Also the Turks in Anatolia are genetically largely Greek. I doubt that the orginal Orghuz or Seljuk Turks looked like Erdogan. I have a feeling that Turcoman tend to be more racially pure turks, but I need to research that further.


Lady Mary, she of epistolarian fame, was jealous of the freedom of movement (+ perfect skin) the burqa vouchsafed her Ottoman high-society counterparts


"My conclusion is that most Syrian immigrants who have made in into the USA already were former Arab Spring types. But I'm a little surprised at the naïvete about ISIS."

Magical thinking sums it up nicely. They're buying their own propaganda, and couple that with a general tendency leaning towards ready acceptance of pretty wild conspiracy theories.

In that greater context, the theme that Assad and the IS are bosom buddies comes across as conservative. It's absurd, of course, and false, of course - but there actually is a lot stranger nonsense finding widespread acceptance in the Middle East. The average US tinfoil hat nutter has nothing on these guys.

I have been disabused of taking Middle Easterners at face value certainly since one Turkish lady insisted to me and that her aunt had been divorced from her husband unfairly - virgin birth happens! - her aunt said so. It was quite a revelation to me, so to speak.

There are many more amazing stories like that around down there and people like to tell them.

The worst about it is that with such types you have American pols and media personalities who couldn't find Syria on a map but will say that they have 'spoken with Syrians' and they told them this 'firsthand'.

Babak Makkinejad

I had an analogous story told me by a friend of mine who played volleyball regularly in a London Sports Club about 15 years ago. He stated, at that time, he stopped playing against Muslims because they were so angry and aggressive.

Babak Makkinejad

Try these two books - one very short, the other very long:




The Twisted Genius


No. Taras Bulba was a fictionalized Cossack.

The Twisted Genius


That I can understand. There are around a million Korean immigrants here now. I don't think any of them came as refugees.


I would recommend Birth of Europe by Lopez as the starting point. It's a fairly old, relatively "conventional" (for historians, but probably not for lay people), but very thorough introduction to early to high Middle Ages, with focus on economy and society that segues nicely to more focused material.


I always had this fanciful notion (mind you, completely groundless fanciful notion) that at least some of the Lipka Tartars were in fact Korean, sort of.

Lipka Tartars were descendants of Mongols and their subjects/allies who invaded Russia and Eastern Europe in the 13th century. On the opposite side of Eurasia, after being overrun by the Mongols, Koreans actually became rather enthusiastic subjects of the Mongol Empire, becoming, literally, "son-in-law" country and all, with many Koreans actually joining the Mongols and participating in some of their wars. No documented evidence that they went so far as Eastern Europe...but they could have.

The only "evidence" (like I was saying, this is just a flight of fancy) I have for this is how similar pierogie and pelmeni are to regional variants of Korean dumplings, not just in appearance, but also some subtleties in cooking methods...but there are so many ways to cook a dumpling, so that's just that.

David Habakkuk

CP, TTG, kao_hsien_chih and all,

My own knowledge of these issues, as of many others things, is very thin.

However, the origins of my interest may have some relevance to arguments on this blog. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a result of an odd combination of circumstances, I found myself reading Tocqueville.

At the time, an American academic at Oxford, Larry Siedentop, published a short study of the writer, which placed his thinking in the context of the arguments in post-revolutionary France. It's a very good clear and lucid little book, which can be purchased for a few dollars on Amazon, and I would recommend it to anyone.

A central problem for Tocqueville was why it had proved possible to combine egalitarianism and political liberty in the United States, while the egalitarian promises of its French counterpart had led on to the Terror and the imperialistic 'Caesarism' of Napoleon.

So the question Tocqueville was confronting was that of what are the preconditions for the successful working of an 'individualistic' society.

But ironically that was precisely the question that was raised by the retreat and collapse of Soviet power. The answer that was given by American – and to a large extent British – élites was that implicit in Fukuyama's notorious 'end of history' essay.

This was based upon the reading of the philosopher Hegel by the Russian émigré Stalinist-turned-EEC bureaucrat Alexander Kojève, according to which history really ended with the defeat of the Prussian monarchy by Napoleon at Jena in 1806, because at that point the 'vanguard' of mankind had attained 'consciousness'.

Ironically, this actually represented a realisation of one of Tocqueville's nightmares – that politics might become a religion. And granted Fukuyama's central premise, the question that was central to Tocqueville about the preconditions for the successful working of an 'individualist' society disappears. The implicit assumption is that the key to the creation of such a society is the 'consciousness' of the 'vanguard'.

Opposition to their purposes is naturally to be explained in the same terms as opposition to those who possess religious truth: either by ignorance or evil will.

Implicit also – and here the allusion to Napoleon matters – is an image in which 'modernity' can be spread by force.

If these arguments seem academic, simply look at the spirit in which 'shock therapy' in the former Soviet Union was carried out, or indeed our military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But here, another element of Tocqueville came to interest me. In essence, he was deploying an aristocratic critique of monarchical absolutism for democratic purposes.

At the risk of caricature, a central argument of his study of the 'ancien régime' was that such absolutism had destroyed what one might call 'feudalism' – defined as a system of unequal reciprocity. In so doing, it had both left the aristocracy with privilege but no function, and thus vulnerable to savage resentment. And it had also created a society of atomised individuals, in which there was no effective countervailing power to despotism.

This is doubtless a very crude summary – particularly since it is years now since I was actively looking at these arguments. And much can be, and has been, said against Tocqueville's accounts of the relevant history.

But it seemed to me then, and seems to me now, that the questions he raises – what are the preconditions for the successful working of an 'individualist' society, and what does one do if they are absent – are absolutely critical if one is to think seriously about the world.

Obviously, implicit in the possibility of their absence are a range of further possibilities. Among them is the possibility of a – very traditional – apologia for a despotic government, in which for all its cruelties and stupidities, it still protects people from anarchy: which is in general much worse.

Another is the possibility that an authoritarian regime may in certain circumstances hold out more prospects of creating the preconditions for a viable democracy than a democracy created in conditions where those preconditions are absent. Yet another is that those preconditions may, over time, vanish even in societies where they have been strongly present.

Critically, whatever the simplicities of the framework, it enables one to get away from the idea that somehow history has a single direction, leading towards us. And it also enables one to get away from the complacent assumption, implicit in Fukuyama's nonsense, that the less savoury elements of European history since 1789 – or even, some might say, since the late fifteenth century – can simply be dismissed as atavistic relics of pasts we had not yet 'sloughed off'.

And one may also then find it easier to look at the ways in which different societies throughout history – including those of medieval Europe – worked and did not work, in solving problems which are still with us.

It is in my view a great mistake to see 'modernity' as either something unequivocally good or unequivocally evil. The changes associated with it are both often somewhat less drastic than people imagine, and deeply ambivalent. More understanding may have some role in enabling us to realise the more constructive potentialities, and avoid the more destructive ones.

And then finally, already in Tocqueville there is the argument that the 'individualism' characteristic of Western civilisation is Christian in origin. A great deal has been written about this, and I have only skimmed the surface. But once one frames issues in that way, a question has to arise as to whether this Christian 'individualism' naturally turns on the religion that gave it birth, and what happens if it does.


KHC,Glupi, BM

Thanks. I'll have some holiday reading between carols and pudding.

Babak Makkinejad

I think that is an excellent idea for a historical TV series - like the Jewel in the Crown - or a Manga series - or a series of novels in which a few patriotic Koreans are forced to flee Korea for the fear of their lives and join the Mongol hordes.

This could be a tremendous franchise - modeled after the "Travels of Jimmy McFitters (sic)". You can envision an entire clan fleeing, or just a few people, or a combination of families and individuals.

As they move West, some die (tear-jerker scenes for the benefit of the tender of heart), some manage, and some rise to glory - and get the girl(s) too.

And through, there would be scenes with this old mysterious halmoni who prepares them dumplings.

Later, when they are settles somewhere in Poland - and given Slavic maidens for their wives, the wives learn to make those types of dumplings - and the camera fades to a scene where a family in Poland or Lithuania is preparing the same meal...

I think you need to copy right all of this.



You bring up some interesting points.

There is a lowered birthrate in numerous Western countries that is often brought up as a reason to accept -- sometimes to even encourage -- more immigration. But it seems to me that there's a lot interfering with women choosing to have children. Those things would include increased working hours for parents (especially mothers), and stagnant or lowerer household income and the greatly increasing costs for housing and education. That would be especially true for our working class and middle class people who traditionally been such a big percentage of our population.

I don't see how the people of any country are going to agree to pay for newcomers and their families while they themselves feel they are financially insecure and unable to have the second or third child they really want.

You are right of course about EU. Promises were made, and subsidizes were accepted. In the future, though, I do not see how the EU can keep on subsidizing the poorer countries at the same level they did in the past. There are more of them and the richer countries, for the most part, now have financial and employment problems themselves. Germany cannot prop everybody else and I would think that whether they admit it or not, the poorer EU countries have some sense that they will be more on their own in the future than they ever dreamed they'd be.

It seems to me there are many changes in the works for the First World that will not be positive. With each passing year it becomes clearer to me that our current ways of thinking about many things are now clearly inadequate and our assumptions of continued good times are wrong. I am afraid self-interest and selfishness will become more evident in the actions of the First World countries as they realize that they cannot be generous without sacrifice anymore.

Are there any European and/or First World countries where the people themselves (not their elite volunteering them) will willingly lower their standards of living permanently in order to help others?


"Maybe the local employers can be convinced to hire locally, but I don't know how that could be done."

I think we are going have to figure that one out and upset a lot of business owners who have grown used to the many benefits -- to them, of course, not the rest of us -- of using illegal immigrants and temporary foreign workers.

I have no doubt that we will legalize all the illegal immigrants we already have. Once they are legal, though, many of their employers won't want them; they'd rather have new people from overseas they can exploit.

If we don't crack down and make the employers use the people who are here, we'll have another 10 million illegal immigrants in no time and tens of million of newly legalized Americans and their kids competing with the rest of us for the jobs employers are "willing" to give to Americans. We don't have enough jobs or money to support the jobless to allow that to happen.


Funny how none of the black politicians see things that way.

I think both of our major parties are in big trouble and yet I don't see any sign that the Democrats realize that by turning away from their long time white and black voters they can lose them someday. They are so focused on the potential new voters to be gained from immigrants and their descendants and so gleeful that Republican Party seems doomed that they seem blind to many other things.

I will bolt from the Democrats, given the right opportunity, without looking back. The Party has largely left me already, just as it has tens of millions of others.


Tocqueville was being massively rediscovered when I was in university/grad school (mid to late 1990s), with a great deal of attention being paid to his emphasis on the "institutions" over "ideology." (a slightly different angle from what you are describing.) Earlier conventional histories essentially repeated a variant of the Revolutionary propaganda that they represented, as consequence of their different "ideology," something very different from the old regime. Certainly, the argument was refracted through various historical prisms (e.g. the notion that the Revolution brought formerly marginalized middle classes to power etc.) but Tocqueville's argument, as it was being rediscovered, was that the important thing is not their differences in ideology but approach to political power. Whatever their ideological motives were, at the end of the day, the Monarchists and Revolutionaries alike wanted to centralize power and subvert their competitors, be they nobles, free cities, or whatever. The one key difference is that the monarchy could not overtly disregard the legal legacies of the feudal. They had to come up with ever increasing legal loopholes to justify the expansion of their power. The revolutionaries, having declared all the old laws and practices obsolete, could simply take power by fiat and declarations of righteousness.

The revolutionaries' actions had two consequences, as I remember. First, a system of checks could not be easily established. If the justification for actions by the French state was that they were "right," whoever that opposes them had to be "wrong," whereas the kings were restrained by the laws and customs of the past. As such, the kings could actually obtain at least some willing compliance from others on the basis of legal "legitimacy," while the revolutionaries could not except by threats and force. Second, the defeat of the revolutionaries and Napoleon did not restore the old balance because the old legal framework depended on everyone at least pretending to abide by them, and after a few decades where nobody bothered, "legitimacy" could not be restored just by declaring it so.

I see parallels between this line of analysis and today: the "moral" justification for the West comes from their self-claimed righteousness. Like the French revolutionaries', it has to be, in the end, backed up by force and threats since one can't argue with those who are "right" without being "wrong." With all the old legal legitimacy being thrown aside, no legal framework is left to restore it, even if the "revolutionists" can be defeated.


Ha, I did have such a notion. I don't know much about screenplay writing, though, let alone how those for Korean TV shows come about. I'd try my hand at fiction writing but I realized that I don't have that much talent at it.


I've seen enough survey studies that show how different the positions taken up by black politicians are from black voters, on all sorts of issues. The main reasons this gap can persist are a lack of credible alternative (given the lack of credibility on the part of the modern Republican Party towards the blacks) and the continuing import of various symbolic politics. Even so, there isn't all that much enthusiasm for participation: one could almost understand why turnout among blacks should be so low on average. For an enterprising politician with the right kind of credibility, this is another venue for a "populist revolt." Altogether different matter if anybody really wants to see it, though.


This is highly tangential, but your story about the Turkish lady reminds me of what always puzzled me about Orwell and 1984 (the novel). The main character has to be tortured to start believing that 1+1 = 3 (or whatever it was). It is only natural and self-evident that 1+1 = 2 and it is impossible, or so Orwell believes, that it should be otherwise. Everyone who is "normal" should obvious see and agree that it is so. To Orwell, it was "obvious" that the only way to get them to think differently was to torture them.

But the reality is not usually very obvious, nor, even if it is, people should say so (or even believe so). Dostoevsky has an extensive discourse in Brothers Karamazov about why people, facing the kind of reality that they don't want to acknowledge, are readily and willingly embracing of comfortable or convenient beliefs that make sense. Dostoevsky, perhaps because he was from the east of the Diocletian line (to borrow BM's argument) was far more understanding of how people around the world. The "truth" is not self-evident or obvious: it is no guarantee that everyone will see it as such.

I'll acknowledge that I am also cribbing from the argument by Fr. Stan Jaki, SJ, a priest-physicist who argued that (if I remember correctly) western Christianity was instrumental to "science" because it valued the absolute truth, independent of power, needs, circumstances, etc. In the East, "truth" was subordinate to the political power. It was normal that as the son of heaven commands, science should be rewritten to fit his wants and needs (for an example, somewhat ironically, when Jesuit priests working as scientific advisors to the Chinese emperor produced a world map incorporating all the European discoveries up to that point for the imperial court in 18th century, the emperor was annoyed that China was not at the center of the world. The priests satisfied him by producing another map that placed China at the center. They were aided by their knowledge that Earth was round...but in so doing, they suppressed the real, actually relevant truth that there is no such thing as the center of the world.)

I don't know if the distinction between the West and the East is as stark as BM insists: I'm in social sciences, and I am always shocked at how much the field is willing, even eager, to bend the "science" in service of the (politically) "relevant." Whether China or Rome should be the center of the world winds up taking up too much time, so to speak, never mind if the Earth is Round. (although, I suppose, the "relevant" answer is that Earth is flat now, so we should be rightly debating where its center is...) Some natural sciences are also under pressure from the politically "relevant" from all sides to pay attention to the "science." If BM's argument has any merit, the West has increasingly become like the East.

Babak Makkinejad

Try this:


Babak Makkinejad

I think Tocqueville is interesting but is he not rather dated now due to the course of events?

Between, say, 1860 and 1939 Democracy failed in US, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Argentina, Mexico - to name the more prominent ones; plunging them into war or civil war.

Let us face it: the democratic National Front Government was directly responsible for the defeat of France in 1940 while the communist dictatorship of Stalin successfully defended Russia.

Should democracy even be considered relevant to the essence of a country?

What is this thing, Democracy, if it fails in encourages civil war or is unsuccessful in preparing and successfully defending against a foreign enemy?

Balint Somkuti

Polish and hungarian migrants were much lower in numbers were willing to integrate were from the same culture and were thankful for every little bit of support they recieved. Your population were also eager to help them with almost no exception. None of the above is true for current situation

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