IBN KHALDUN'S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC REALISM

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IBN KHALDUN'S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC REALISM

IBN KHALDUN'S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC REALISM

Author:
Publisher: www.perswww.kuleuven.be
English

This book is corrected and edited by Al-Hassanain (p) Institue for Islamic Heritage and Thought

Alhassanain (p) Network for Islamic Heritage and Thought

IBN KHALDUN'S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC REALISM

LouisBaeck

(1996 ) in L. S. MOSS (ed.) Joseph A. Schumpeter Historian of Economics, London:Routledge , p83-99.

www.perswww.kuleuven.be

www.alhassanain.org/english

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. HIS LATE RISE TO FAME 3

II. THE CONTOURS OF IBN KHALDUN'S WORLDVIEW 6

III. A TREATISE ON NON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 11

IV. THE SOCIAL CORE OF POLITICAL CHANGE 14

V. THE MECHANICS OF THE LONG TERM 16

1. The umran badawi 16

2. The umran hadari 16

VI. CONCLUSION 20

Notes: 22

Bibliography 23

Endnotes 25

I. HIS LATE RISE TO FAME

Since the 1950s academia has rightly hailedIbn Khaldun (1332-1406) as the greatest social scientist of medieval Islam. Moreover, in his survey onMuslim Economic Thinking , MohammadSiddiqi praises him as their greatest economist (Siddiqi , 1981:70). Being a native of the Maghreb, at a time when the lands of western Islam were torn apart by a series of dynastic struggles between rival Arab and Berber tribes,Ibn Khaldun proved to be a mettlesome and ambitious political activist. After a series of reversals and failures in his role of teacher andcounsellor to various local emirs, he quit the political scene with a pang of disappointment. For about three years he retreated into the desert castle,Qalat Ibn Salama . There, disentangled from the hurly-burly of city and court, he decided on a new course, this is on a literary career. His new ambition was to become a detached scholar with a long term view on the socio-political and economic determinants that have an impact on history.

Ibn Khaldun's major achievement was the writing of theMuqaddimah , or the long introduction serving as an analytical andsynoptical framework of his lengthy treatise on history, namely theKitab al-ibar . During his lifetime this monument of medieval scholarship was not received as an outstanding classic text destined to lift its author to the pantheon of the universally acclaimed intellectual celebrities. The bulk of theKitab al-ibar does not significantly depart from the mainstreamhistoriographic tradition of his predecessors. But in theMuqaddimah Ibn Khaldun ventured intountrodden paths. The characteristic in-depth analysis, the socio-economic realism and the masterly comprehensiveness of his essay came as a shock and startled most of his contemporaries. On several issues, the methodological innovation of theMuqaddimah broke away from the cherished canons of mainstream Islamic thinking.

Erwin Rosenthal who published one of the first socio-political analyses of theMuqaddimah , made the following important remark: "To my knowledgeIbn Khaldun was the first medieval thinker to see the importance of economics for politics and for the whole life of any societyorganised in a state" (Rosenthal, 1962:90). InIbn Khaldun's mindset, socio-political and economic development go hand in hand. His untraditional method and his prima donna-like egounabled him to build up an audience and still less a school of followers. In his lifetime he was more reviled than praised. TheAndalusian epigoneIbn al-Azraq (1428-1491) was a remarkable exception. His near contemporary, the Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi (1364-1442) admired theMuqaddimah . He also engaged in social and economic history writing but went his own way for his methodology. On some important matters like the practice of money debasement, the thirteenth centuryHanbalite juristIbn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) and also al-Maqrizi offer a more penetrating analysis. Notwithstanding thefloppyness of some factual details,Ibn Khaldun surpasses them all with his analytical sharpness and the realism of his global vision. His originality consisted precisely in the patient insight with which he described the social web (asabiyya ) as principal determinant in human history. This emphasis on the social dimension in the cyclical development of civilizations implied a more deterministic attitude than any to which his contemporaries were accustomed.

After a relatively long eclipse from the intellectual scene in the Arab world, our fourteenth century author was rediscovered by the Europeanorientalists of the nineteenth century. In the wake of this rediscovery, theMuqaddimah was translated into several languages. In 1863 Marquis deSlane translated theProlegomena into French. The English speaking world had to wait for almost a century later. In 1958, Frank Rosenthal published an English translation; this was reprinted in 1967 and prefaced with text-critic comments. The translations in other languages are the following: into Turkish 1859, into Urdu 1924, into Persian 1957, into Portuguese 1958, into Hindi 1961 and into Hebrew 1967. In the course of the last decades the secondary literature has been growing steadily. The bibliography published by al-Azmeh in 1981, registers more than 650 titles. In 1983 AhmedAbdesselem published a sort of intellectual portrait gallery of theMaghrebi scholar. This study brushes the different historical and cultural contexts as well as the viewpoints from where the readers ofIbn Khaldun have commented upon theMuqaddimah and the different ways in which they profiled the author. With the western commentators, the comparison to Machiavelli is the most frequent. But a number of readers compare him also toVico , to Montesquieu, to Rousseau, to Marx, to Hegel, to Nietzsche and to Weber.

Interesting to know is the fact that the intellectual status ofIbn Khaldun got a significant lift during and after the political decolonization of the Maghreb countries. In a series of symposia and congresses (Caïro , 1962 ; Alger, 1978 ; Rabat, 1979 and Tunis, 1980) he came to be celebrated as the founder of sociology and as the discoverer of a great number of analytical insights and theories in political science, in economics, in public finance, in the philosophy of history, in demography and in social geography ; all this a long time before their official births. In the 1960s and 1970s the development theorists following the line of the Latin Americandependencia -school, and also other authors of Third World signature, frequently invokedIbn Khaldun as the prestigious and cosmopolitan forefather of theMaghrebi social sciences. Against the penetration and domination of the western social sciences in their academic milieu, which were berated as a new form of colonization, or worse still as a drive towards intellectual "bedouinization " of local scholarship,Ibn Khaldun was posited as an historical model rooted into the Arab historical tradition. In the effort of the Arab social scientists towards cultural indigenization and in theendeavour to construct their own conceptual framework in reference to the Arab social and cultural context,Ibn Khaldun figured as a prestigious precursor ; this is as the indigenous originator, classifier, analyst andsystematiser (Irabi , 1982 ;Sabagh &Ghazalla , 1986).

Since the second half of 1970s the revival of Islam's historical, cultural and religious tradition stimulated an intensive wave of scholarly interest in the Muslim social sciences, more particularly in sociology and economics. However, with the movement in the tradition-bound intellectual milieu of the Middle East towards theislamization of the social sciences, the exegetic references toIbn Khaldun became less frequent, while the references to orthodox, some would say fundamentalist sources from eastern Islam, especially al-Ghazali andIbn Taymiyyah , came infavour . This Arabian paradigm-shift is also noticeable in the contemporary economic literature of Muslim origin,sunnite as well asshi'ite (Taleghani , 1982;Kepel & Richard, 1990;Baeck , 1994).

II. THE CONTOURS OF IBN KHALDUN'S WORLDVIEW

Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis in the year 1332 to an aristocratic family who had recently emigrated from Andalusia to the Maghreb. All his life he felt himself as an emigrant, more so as an odd man out, frequently changing jobs, masters and towns. For the Islamic lands, the fourteenth century was a time of dynastic and political strife, of social disruption and of foreign invasion. In the East, Persia had been invaded by theSeldjuks , followed by the advance of the Mongols who burst out of the Asian steppes. During one of his diplomatic missionsIbn Khaldun accompanied theMamluk sultan of Egypt, for the negotiation of a peace treaty with the famous Mongol conqueror Tamerlane.

In the lands of western Islam, the confederation of Arab and Berber states, which had since the twelfth century been ruled by theAlmohad dynasty, fell apart into several rival emirates. The Spanish princes had conquered Cordoba in 1236 and Seville in 1242. The king of Sicily occupiedDjerba in 1284. From the fourteenth century onwards, the Portuguese gradually took over the control of the African coast. The merchant oligarchies of the Maghreb and Andalusia which for centuries had been the intermediaries in the trade over land between Europe and Africa South of the Sahara, lost their trade monopoly. The caravan trade and with it the merchant class of the Maghreb entered into a crisis from which it never recovered.

Being a talented and ambitious scion of a wealthy and respected family,Ibn Khaldun received a first class education from a series of notorious teachers in the most important study domains, namely the religious canons (theQuran and the prophetic tradition), the legal focus of the different schools and the practices of law, the methods of speculative theology (kalam ), the Greek tradition of Arab philosophy (falsafa ) and last but not least the Persian political wisdom literature, a didactic genre also called "mirror of the prince" literature.

After his graduation in this classical curriculum the young man engaged in political activity with a remarkable zest, a notorious versatility and a rarely seen bent for non conformism. Frequently changing sides, he first served the emir of Tunis, followed by a post at the rival court of Fes, then by a stay atTlemcen and finally with the sultan of Granada. His audacious initiatives for radical reform and his undiplomatic language landed him in jail. Disgusted with court life and its intrigues, he "emigrated" to Egypt where theMamluk sultan offered him protection and where he became supreme judge for litigation in theMalikite tradition.

TheMalikite tradition (founded byMalik Ibn Anas , 712-796 in Medina) was one of the four major schools of law. From the beginning, the majority of theMaghrebi law doctors as well as the judges had opted for theMalikite tradition. One of the reasons being that the North African tribalorganisation and its social and economic structure were more alike to the small town situation of Medina situated in the heartland of Arabia, than to the big town context of the Persian and Syrian lands from where the other law schools stemmed. TheMalikite tradition kept to the letter of the divine law (shari'a ) revealed by the Prophet. It did not permit a too frequent use of analogical reasoning or alaxist adaptation of the law to different circumstances of time and place. During his career asqadi in Egypt,Ibn Khaldun was known to be averse to the sterile casuistry and to hermeneutics or the disputation techniques (munazara ) of the other law schools. His principled stance landed him more than once in trouble with his colleaguesqadi who adhered to other jurisprudential rites. Another important characteristic of theMalikite tradition is that it stresses more than some other schools the idea of social utility (maslaha ). The divine law orshari'a prescribes in great detail how believers should conduct their life, how submit to God and deal with theirneighbour , how they ought to sell and buy at the market place, how they should eat, sleep and procreate, etc. In all this theMalikite rite emphasized the importance of the common good.

The emphasis on social utility of this jurisprudential tradition not only influencedIbn Khaldun at the law court, where he showed a great interest for the social context of the cases, but he kept also to the same focus in his scholarly work. His sense of social justice invited him to become a sharp observer of events, with a thirst for knowledge concerning the concrete circumstances and the specific context of cases and causes. In this valuable attempt to sift the basic argument from the details he matured into a potential social scientist wary of dogmatism.

Philosophy had reached eastern Islam by the translation of Greek treatises in Arab by Chaldean Christians, who were adherents of theNeoplatonic synthesis realized by authors of Late Antiquity like Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus and others. Theislamization of theNeoplatonic falsafa through Muslimhellenizers like al-Farabi (887-950) andIbn Sina (980-1073) led to aNeoplatonism with pronounced spiritual and mystical exaltations, as well as by a stoic self-discipline. However, the lands of the western Islam leaned heavier on the Aristotelian tradition. The works of its most famous figure, namely theAndalusian Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) were hotly debated by the Latin scholars of the Paris university. The penetration of Greek or paganfalsafa aroused the outrage of the majority of theulema and the devout Muslim scholars adhering to orthodox tradition. With al-Ghazali's (1058-1111) hermeneutic attack against the Muslim brand of philosophy, the post-Ghazalian scholarly world purifiedfalsafa from its metaphysical and rationalist overtones and reduced it to bare logic. The Muslim scholastics, with a mindset to reconcile between faith and reason, tried to work out a new synthesis. This ambitious scheme, however, led to an impasse.

In the post-Ghazalian fideist climate,kalam was reduced to formal disputations. The scholastic discourse degenerated into dry logic and to hairsplitting casuistry based on pure analogical reasoning. By the time thatIbn Khaldun graduated from school he had become utterly disgusted with it. He decided to embark upon a political career where he was confronted with the concrete problems of the world. But his analytical mind continued to show a keen interest in the underlying causes and determinants of the political turbulence of his time. This led him to the works on political philosophy written by Muslim authors.

In that vein, al-Farabi's treatise on the Virtuous City (al-madina al-fadila ), an Islamic version of Plato's Republic, caught his eye. But,Ibn Rushd's famous commentaries on Aristotle'sNicomachean Ethics as well as on Plato'sRepublic interested him in a still higher degree. Indeed, theAndalusian philosopher more than the eastern utopian al-Farabi of eastern Islam, referred to thehistorico -concrete developments of southern Spain and of the Maghreb. Besides being an influentialqadi ,Ibn Rushd had sided actively with the regime, as acounsellor at the court of theAlmohad empire. His profound humanism, with anunderpining of the ethical norms by reason, inspired for a while theAlmohadan ideology of revival. This novelty, however, was of short duration.

InIbn Khaldun's time the politico-religious reform movement of theAlmohads had spent its spell. And in eastern Islam, conquerors likeHulalu and Tamerlane could hardly be identified with al-Farabi's philosopher king. Being a realist with an analytical mind,Ibn Khaldun drifted away from al-Farabi's political idealism. This was based on Plato's premise that the first best ethics and politics derive from theoretical knowledge. The author of theMuqaddimah who in his early career avidly read the Socratic philosophers and the Muslimhellenists , became in his mature age highly critical of their metaphysical stance in ethics and politics (Mahdi , 1957 ; Lambton, 1981 ;Azmeh , 1981 ;Himmich , 1987).

Not only the Platonic equation of knowledge with being comes under heavy attack but alsoIbn Rushd's rationalism. The focus of his attack was directed against the pretension of the Socratic school to equate the total-dimension of being with knowledge[1] . These idealistic philosophers, he stated, made the same error as the naturalists who only emphasize the body. In the Latin West a similar opposition against the concepts (called universals) ofThomistic , this is of Aristotelian inspired philosophy, had led to the new, more realistic paradigm ofnominalism . According to our fourteenth century scholar, the reign of pure reason is not a universal or categorical imperative ; it has natural limits. Man is not only moved by the knowledge of the good ; he is also driven by a will for power and by material aspirations such as the desire of wealth. However, if theélan vital , the competitive drive and the desire for comfort degenerate in lust for power and luxuries, they ultimately lead to destruction of man and society. This is the kernel ofIbn Khaldun's "realistic" philosophy. Its seeds germinated in medieval Islam in critical confrontation between philosophic rationalism, Muslim law andkalam (Nassar , 1967).

In keeping with this realistic focus, he also distanced himself fromIbn Taymiyyah's fundamentalist stance, more particularly theal-siyasa al-shari'a . This is a treatise on a political regime and a community ruled by theshari'a . This notoriousHanbalite jurisconsult exercised for years the function ofmuhtasib or supervisor of the markets ; with as duty the control of weight measures, prices and the quality of money. This supervision of thesuq gaveIbn Taymiyyah first hand insight in the motivation of buyers and sellers, in the practical laws of the market and in the social and economic mechanisms of society at large. In his discourse on a community ruled by divine law, theHanbalite jurist aimed at a revival of primeval Islam. In opposition to thehellenizing philosophers who dreamt of a philosopher-king as a substitute to the early caliphate, his plea was a call for devout leaders, like the early right-guided (rashidun ) successors of the Prophet, to take over political leadership.Ibn Khaldun , the realist, opined that this nostalgic idealization aimed at a renaissance of the caliphate, left a wide gap between religious zeal and thehistorico -concrete functioning of the world.

The reading and the almost uncritical absorption of the "mirror of the prince" literature enrichedIbn Khaldun's research with a tradition from Persian origin. It set his pragmatic mind upon a fruitful path[2] . With the move to the East under the Umayyad regime, and still more so under theAbbassid dynasty, Islam underwent an intense process ofIranization . One of the consequences was that their scholars came into contact with the oriental wisdom literature of Iran. In the eight century,Ibn al-Muqaffa initiated this didactic genre with two manuals. The fourteenth century al-Turtushi closed this long series of open letters to the prince (Rosenthal, 1962).

In the mirror literature, the moral principles of social justice and public equity are not conceived as absolute ethical norms, but rather as practical devices in the interest of the state, the society and of its leaders. The efficient ruler is not perceived as a religious devotee nor as a philosopher. He should rather be a practical manager with an eye to the checks and balances of reality. An efficient ruler applies the sound principle ofraison d'état ; blending political authority with propaganda aimed at popularity. The mirror-genre had as origin the courtly ethos fostered by theSassanian aristocracy. This reached unparalleled peaks of earthly wisdom andjoie de vivre ; its final aim was to obtain the willing submission andlegitimation of the sultan's subjects. The mirror books abound with discourses on public administration, on fiscal systems, on theorganisation of commerce and the economy. These essays written as manuals for the enlightened political manager (mulk hazm ) are the result of functional pragmatism in the service of socio-political realism. They are almost the opposite of the philosophical discourses on the ideal city. The mirror books also offer a reasonable alternative toIbn Khaldun's dislike of despotic rule by intriguing sultans. A manager type regime was also more to his taste than a theocracy or a regime solely based on theshari'a .

With the Persian authorsIbn Khaldun agreed that ruling a community is a rare skill ; an efficient statesman is like a manager of anhistorico -concrete society, he does not rule utopia. This requires the knowledge of the practical determinants, the specific causes and the social and economic laws of development that move it. When he retreated to a three year sojourn in a desert castle,Ibn Khaldun opined that the best way to serve the coming statesmen, consisted in the writing of a book on the dynamics of history. But it should not be a mere court chronicle destined to flatter the ruler ; it ought to be a manual useful to the statesman. The book he wanted to write would pass beyond the mere relating of the facts ; it should preferably unveil the basic dynamics of becoming[3] .Ibn Khaldun , the realist, embarked upon the study of the social and economic forms of life as they had actually existed and were known in history. He was not interested at all in idealist speculation and was averse to another version of a madina fadila of his signature. In the introduction of his Kitab al-ibar , he boldly announces without a blush, that his treatise launches a new science, namely the science of societal development ( ilm al-umran ).

III. A TREATISE ON NON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Since the time of Greek and Roman Antiquity,literators and historians had made a try to structure the unfolding of facts and events along different interpretative themes ; with the expectation of a deeper insight into the laws and the dynamics of history. In this genre, the theme of the rise, growth and decline of societies, states and civilizations had been treated already in Hesiod's three stages of development. Plato and Aristotle theorized on the historical unfolding of constitutions. Polybius, a Greek scholar living in Rome halfway of the second century BC, wrote a remarkable essay on political development (Polybius, 1923). In the sixth book of hisHistories , the Greek historian witnessed Rome's rise to power by the conquest of the central Mediterranean and set himself to expound a theory on the development cycle of regimes (anakuklosis politeion ).

To Polybius this cycle was a natural sequence of birth, growth and decline through which historical societies were bound to pass. The rise to power and the territorial expansion by conquest could not endure, since the richer and more powerful a commonwealth became, the harder it would be to maintain moral and civic virtue in proper equilibrium. With a clear emphasis on internal causes, Polybius explored the two avenues that lead to societal decadence. The first one being social and economic: the achievement of a high level of prosperity feeds the drive for luxury ; this inevitably brings decline (tes epi tokheiron metaboles ). The second, and most of the time the simultaneous cause, is socio-political. The political emancipation and later the radical claim of the people for more freedom ends in the worst regime of all, namely the tyranny of the masses (ochlokratia ). Another famousliterator , namely the Romanrhetor Cicero was also preoccupied with the historical cycle of constitutions. Being an accomplishedpopularizer of abstract ideas, he relayed the view of Polybius to the Roman intelligentsia.

ThePolybian cycle theory had been a valuable attempt to prophesize themis -development of the early Roman republic, but in theory it was tributary of Aristotle's political philosophy.Ibn Khaldun's realistic bent, supported by his intimate knowledge of the Islamic commonwealth's problematic development cycle, led him to write his lengthy volume on stability and instability of regimes and to come forward with a more comprehensive analysis. His horizon was wider and he approached his domain of study as a social scientist rather than as a political philosopher. In his view, the conditioning factors, this is the political, social and economic variables, interact in a more or less autonomous way. On the theme of realism in power politics his work illuminates a classic and universal issue: how to establish and maintain a stable state with a sustainable development model. With his hard-headed approach he came almost a century and a half ahead of Machiavelli's theses.

The scholarly commentaries of our time offer a wide variety of opinion on the object ofIbn Khaldun's new science and on the author's intentions. Indeed, the richness and complexity of the work make that it can be read and interpreted as a theory on decline. InHimmich's book,Penser ladépression ,Ibn Khaldun is profiled as a nostalgic who senses the end phase of a civilization. But theMuqaddimah can also be read as a high quality product in the genre of mirror literature. His scientific method, however, offered surer guidelines for rulers than the outright descriptive and conformist literature of the Persians. According to one's standpoint, the Prolegomena can be read as a philosophy of history or as a treatise on social dynamics.

Noteworthy is the fact thatIbn Khaldun was a deep religious man and some hesitant passages of his book end with "for God knows best". In several passages he recognizes that in the prime time of Islam, religion had welded theumma into a community submitted to the will of Allah. After the Prophet's revelation of theQuran , the believer could thrust that religion offered the final salvation for the individual and for society. In the religious view on history, Christian and Muslim alike, the social drama of decline or worse, of decadence, were sensed to be a sanction inflicted upon the unfaithful who betrayed theirthrust in God. But theMuqaddimah opened the path to a secular view of history. In fact it unveils a complex matrix of natural causes, this is of autonomous factors, who imply that with or without religion, history in itself is not linear. History is cyclical ; this for reasons which are intrinsic to the unfolding of the human socio-drama itself. When the coercive forces of a civilized state and its institutions are increasingly felt to cramp and obstruct the vigorous and creative forces in society, and it has not enough resilience to resist them, the organic alliance disintegrates. Limiting himself to be an acute observer of reality, our treatise writer refused to preach.

In my viewIbn Khaldun is the first but also a classical proponent of the non durability of development. His work offers a superposition of various cycles - the political, the social, the economic, the fiscal, the demographic - each having their intrinsic dynamics, but with a dialectical impact on each other. The interesting point is that his analysis privileged the internalmis -development of society and thedisfunctional growth of its economy as the major determinants of decline. The intrinsic laws of socio-economic development are such that all the primitive cultures who succeeded to break through the level of basic material needs, and who entered into a process where the clan solidarity (asabiyya ) dwindles as a result of detribalization, are sooner or later caught in a maelstrom.

The weakening ofasabiyya through detribalization permits the formation of a bigger scale society ; second in line comes the division oflabour , with its ensuing uplifting oflabour productivity and general welfare. After this take-off to luxury a society cannot escape for long thedisfunctional traps ofmisdevelopment . The growth fever that in the initial stages functions as a leverage to higher forms of societal and economic development, turns into a cancer. The message ofIbn Khaldun is clear: the intrinsic laws of growth and development have the inevitable consequence that, viewed in the long course of history, they prove to be non durable. In the long course of history there are no known forms of development that proved to be sustainable. This thesis, ably demonstrated by a medieval scholar, brings a clear message for the economists interested in theproblematics of our ownlongterm development.

IV. THE SOCIAL CORE OF POLITICAL CHANGE

In the beginning of the seventh century the revelation of the prophet Muhammad had given rise to a spiritual and social revolution in Arabia. Islam imposed itself as a novel response to the political crisis resulting from the continuous feuds between the desert people in theHijaz and the urban merchant oligarchy in Mecca and Medina. The social conflict was defused by the new religion with its binding element of a higher order, namely theumma or the spiritual link of believers. In the space of barely one century, Islam, driven by a holy zeal for Allah and lust for booty, would conquer an area stretching from Persia to Morocco and up to the Pyrenees in Europe.

After the death of Muhammad a vicar orKhalif presided over the community of believers. According to the ideal model set by the rightly guided leaders of primeval Islam, the caliph was the supreme spiritual authority who also served as the temporal ruler and judge. In the course of time the caliphate gave way to mere earthly power relations. Sultans, emirs and in due time despots gripped the reins of power with the aid of military force. The spiritual guidance was gradually monopolized by the interpreters of the revealed message and of sacred law. The history of medieval Islam is a tale of a magnificent civilization regularly torn apart by new conquerors, most of the time tribal leaders of desert nomads. These brave newcomers toppled the exhausted urban rulers with the cohesive military clout of their unspoiled clansmen.

Ibn Khaldun who in his schooling had absorbed all the available knowledge and who as a political activist had participated in some major power struggles of his time, became fascinated by the natural development cycle, this is by the genesis, the flourishing and the decline of political power and authority. In his search for the operational foundations of this repeated cycle he singled out its underlying social dynamics as the prime mover. As a medieval scholar he drew more than he admitted on the prescriptive norms of thefukaha , on the apologetic literature ofkalam and on the metaphysical schemes of thehellenizing Muslim philosophers. But in the social contextualization of his thesis he proved to be all himself. He came up with a new science in order to explain how and why things are as they are in the natural development course of human societies.Ibn Khaldun , the realist, sided with the facts of life while thehellenizing philosophers cherished the utopian schemes of an ideal state. According to his mindset also thejuridico -religious norms of thefukaha seemed to be more apt to offer guidance to the believer for his salvation, but were no match for the despots and their power holders.

InIbn Khaldun's socio-political dynamics,asabiyya or the primary group cohesion and solidarity based on blood ties, is the pivotal concept. The kinship ties lead to affection and support in one's social relations. The members of the nomadic tribes concentrated on the satisfaction of the primary needs, like food and shelter. The socialorganisation of the clan guarantees that each member gains the means of subsistence and moreover it secures the mutual protection of the group. As a result of the natural vicissitudes of the subsistence economy the clan member necessarily has to fall back on the solidarity of the group. Consequently he takes its cohesive power structure for granted.

Asabiyya alone, however, is not sufficient to found a great civilization. With the development of cities where several tribes are clustered together and with the formation of the state a different social organization and an additional force is needed to buttress the cohesion of this multi-ethnic entity. According toIbn Khaldun the primevalumma was linked together with God's help. But in the course of time, a multi-ethnic empire developed and after the charismatic founding fathers, the cohesive impulse of religion weakened. Ambitious rulers monopolized power and some behaved as despots. They were set to keep the community together with a paid army and with an exacting state bureaucracy.

The development of urban agglomerations (tamaddun ) resulted in a process which may be called detribalization. This entails a gradual loosening of natural solidarity ties. In order to safeguard the state authority of the ruler, the army and the bureaucracy assisted by a learned power elite became the instruments of law and order. In due time this coercive machinery could not function without considerable financial means. The prodigality and the luxury of the court and of the ruling class swallowed an exorbitant mass of resources. The tax levies beyond the rate admitted by the canonical prescriptions created a fiscal overload eliciting the moral disapproval of dissidentfukaha . In order to fill the void the state authorities felt obliged to take over some of the most profitable economic activities and by doing so alienated large sectors of the business community. The resulting dissolution of the socialfibres weakens the state to the point of exhaustion. The times are ripe for a desert tribe, still unspoiled by civilization, to open a new cycle.

The inductive method of the author and the realistic contextualization of the development cycle, based upon the pivotal changes inasabiyya , have lead some modern readers to hailIbn Khaldun as a sociologistavant lalettre . True, for his time he was an original social analyst. This does not make him yet a sociologist in the modern sense. He was after all a medieval scholar deeply rooted in Islamic culture.