Monday, July 26, 2010

Theoretical Overstretch and Oligarchic Gnosticism

(To Yukari Ryle whose son's HS teacher praised Neil Ferguson)

The High School Teacher is wrong, the "Imperial Overstretch" theory is like Global Warming, an interesting narrative that lacks causality. It also fails to explain any benefit from restraint in the face of rising threats. It also fails to consider the role of culture in enabling a society to be efficient at administration and restrained in resource allocation. The profligacy of unproductive Ottomans does not mean that productive democracies are self destructive. This is the kind of topic that the Belmont Club used to cover better than anyone else.

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Perhaps there is a link between various theories propounded by the Left to justify a sense of despair leading to a sense of fatalism and surrender to a managed decline under aristocratic control. Consider Imperial Overstretch, or Anthropogenic Global Warming, or Keynesian Monetary Theory, or Classic Marxism. In each case, despite the appendage of a vast and complex apparatus and claims of scientific rigor, they are ultimately dependent on arbitrarily defined categories and the uncritical acceptance of undefined terms or the expectation of results that are not predictable with the tools available. In each case they depend upon a faith in a self selecting elite with access to secret knowledge to make decisions for the greater good. Each is a form of Gnosticism. The outcomes all resemble the Oligarchic Socialism of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The appeal of Islam may partly rest on its' granting a similar exalted role to the qadis or scholars of the sacred texts. Despite temptations and lapses the expounders of esoteric doctrine in Judaism and Christianity have tended to lose influence over time. The reasons for this disparity need more investigation.

2 comments:

stormcrow said...

I was catching up on your blog posts this evening and this struck a chord ~

"Despite temptations and lapses the expounders of esoteric doctrine in
Judaism and Christianity have tended to lose influence over time. The
reasons for this disparity need more investigation."

I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the longstanding
Western tradition of doubt?

Islam, insofar as I understand it, does not allow for doubt, whereas
the ancient rabbis and church elders were willing enough to confront
doubt and even seemed to thrive on it, even became stronger for it,
because they they were unafraid to be tested, to be tempted.... Islam
appears to be strong but I suspect it is brittle at its core, in fact,
much as the idea appalls me, because of the necessarily attendant loss
of life, I've no doubt at all that if that rock in Mecca were to be
destroyed, all our problems with Islam would end. The Islamic world
would be thrown into a kind of mass ineptitude deriving from a
fundamental confusion. I say this because I am no stranger to fatalism
and pagan sympathies - my great-grandmother was a strega from Buccino
in southern Italy and I was schooled in her world-view as a young
child - and Islam is as pagan and ritualistic as it gets.

So even though this willingness to confront doubt is a strength, (at
least insofar as as you and I may look at things) the appearance of
certainty in Islam gives thinkers of the leftist persuasion the
impression of an unanswerable certainty. This is largely reinforced by
the left's prejudice in favor of the outsider. The more foreign, the
better. The closer to home, the worse. For all their crying about
matters of principle, in the end it's really more about aesthetics,
and pretty shallow ones at that.

~ marymcl

stormcrow said...

I was catching up on your blog posts this evening and this struck a chord ~

"Despite temptations and lapses the expounders of esoteric doctrine in
Judaism and Christianity have tended to lose influence over time. The
reasons for this disparity need more investigation."

I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the longstanding
Western tradition of doubt?

Islam, insofar as I understand it, does not allow for doubt, whereas
the ancient rabbis and church elders were willing enough to confront
doubt and even seemed to thrive on it, even became stronger for it,
because they they were unafraid to be tested, to be tempted.... Islam
appears to be strong but I suspect it is brittle at its core, in fact,
much as the idea appalls me, because of the necessarily attendant loss
of life, I've no doubt at all that if that rock in Mecca were to be
destroyed, all our problems with Islam would end. The Islamic world
would be thrown into a kind of mass ineptitude deriving from a
fundamental confusion. I say this because I am no stranger to fatalism
and pagan sympathies - my great-grandmother was a strega from Buccino
in southern Italy and I was schooled in her world-view as a young
child - and Islam is as pagan and ritualistic as it gets.

So even though this willingness to confront doubt is a strength, (at
least insofar as as you and I may look at things) the appearance of
certainty in Islam gives thinkers of the leftist persuasion the
impression of an unanswerable certainty. This is largely reinforced by
the left's prejudice in favor of the outsider. The more foreign, the
better. The closer to home, the worse. For all their crying about
matters of principle, in the end it's really more about aesthetics,
and pretty shallow ones at that.

~ marymcl