12. Conclusion and Discussion - A New Nomos

12. Conclusion and Discussion - A New Nomos

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم

Title: 12. Conclusion and Discussion - A New Nomos

Author: Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison

Publication date: 24/11/2012

Civilisation & Society I: Politics of Power 

12. Conclusion and Discussion

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Civilisation & Society Programme of the MFAS. This is the last of 12 sessions which make up the Politics of Power module. The entire session will last approximately 1 hour and comprise a concluding summary of around 20 minutes, plus a 5 minute interval, followed by what we hope will be a useful discussion of issues arising from the summary and any questions relating the future recovery of civilisation and our role, as Muslims, in that process. You are encouraged to make a written note of any matters that may occur to you as contributions to the discussion. 


The overall shape and direction of this module is based on the seminal book The Time of the Bedouin: on the politics of power written in 2006 by the leading contemporary Muslim thinker and intellectual Ian Dallas. Broadly speaking, the first half of the module (with the exception of the initial introduction and overview) was focused mainly upon the historical context and the course of events which comprise the revolutionary period. The second part of the module went on to explore and examine the Revolution’s political and economic legacy and its consequences with respect to the contemporary configuration of world governance and the politics of power.

First Part (lectures 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)

A proper appreciation of the Dallas thesis requires an understanding of how during the French Revolution people, ideas and events combined historically to give rise to the modern State and the life-transaction of advanced Western democracy. In this respect, the approach has been to avoid the common structuralist bias of assuming that these events were simply the deterministic workings of a mechanical process.  Instead, the essential bio-political catalysts are replaced centre stage; that is, the human beings without whom there is no act of intention or activating will to power. Dr Dallas achieves an extraordinary synthesis between a totally revealing analysis of the complex vicissitudes and driving personalities of the French Revolution as the key to understanding the birth of modernity.

Another common pretension is that the Revolution was a movement for political liberation and that the Terror was a necessary and justifiable price to be paid for the progress of modernity. However, the draconian legislative measures which formalised the Terror in the name of public safety and the defence of the Revolution, remain a glaring contradiction of the notion of La Liberté and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

We have also indicated the critical process of the final transfer of political power from the aristocracy via the bourgeoisie, and into the arena of the new elite of banking and usury finance through the ownership, control and creation of wealth within the evolution of the modern state.

Second Part (lectures 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11)

We have seen that the modern nation state, of which the so-called Islamic state appears to be nothing more than a superficially ‘islamised’ counterfeit, has grown out of a determined experiment in rational structuralism requiring the destruction of the natural order of legitimate personal rule exercised within a societal context predicated upon the customary dynamics of family, clan and tribe. This has given rise over the last two centuries to the various parliamentary models of government by representative democracy that currently dominate the modern world.

Over these several weeks we have examined how the unfolding of the politics of power within the rationale of democratic systems has now led us to the point where the terrorist fanatics and the modern police state have become interdependent; they mirror one another in method and modus operandi, while the liberty of the individual citizen is everywhere circumscribed and progressively eroded.

As long as the ‘programmatic’ force of this dynamic is ignored or underestimated, attempts to impinge upon the dominant system in any significant way will continue to meet with frustration and failure. Indeed, they are likely to strengthen the system by allowing themselves to be cast as the opponents of freedom and democracy, as the necessary other, the enemy required by the State to sustain its own unity, according to the thesis of Carl Schmitt. In which case, the ‘opponent’ if it does not exist can be fabricated; if weak, it can be artificially propped up as a useful fiction; if substantial, it can be assimilated ideologically or financially into the dominant system. Indeed, we have looked at various permutations of these options in a brief survey of the complete failure of ‘totalitarianism’ to put up an effective challenge, and we have also examined ‘postmodern’ expressions of opposition and resistance such as the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and the technique of the ‘colour revolution’ as examples of fabrication and manipulation.

We have also noted how the banking crisis of 2008 suddenly made clear for all to see (and marvel at!) that almost all of the money in circulation is provided not by the State but by the banks, which through a combination of fractional reserve banking and credit manipulation are permitted to create money out of nothing. It also became obvious that the sovereignty of nation states is a sophisticated fiction designed to conceal the operations of the financial elite. In 2008 the veil was torn, openly revealing how governments have succumbed to demands for countless billions in bailouts and ‘quantitative easing’; how states have been cowed under the whip hand of credit rating agencies; how elected political leaders have been substituted with technocrats briefed to ensure that the terms of austerity measures are strictly adhered to, so that the servicing of debts owed to unelected and nameless banking oligarchs are prioritised ahead of the provision of health, education, housing and welfare services to the electorate.

We have also observed during this module that the ascendancy of the banking power elite, has been accompanied by the advancement of a technological global dominion which has enveloped all essential and non-essential societal functions and modalities into an unprecedented ‘totality’ whose independent logic serves its own purposes and marshals humanity itself into its own reserves. This is the ultimate point at which mankind has arrived in a world whose features and properties we explored in relation to Ernst Jünger’s identification of the gestalt of the ‘Worker’ and Martin Heidegger’s warnings against the “monstrousness” of the technological dispensation which has locked everything within its compass and which can only be overcome by an irresistible force of renewal arriving from ‘without’. This brings us directly to the question of what the future may hold.

A New Nomos

In a unique way Dr Dallas identifies the vital contemporary importance of the figure of the Bedouin as a key expression of the politics of power, who emerges out of the historical cycle brilliantly described in the 14th century by the great Andalusian thinker, diplomat and high ranking Maliki Qadi Ibn Khaldun. They are the people who embody the positive and politically transformative characteristic he defines as Asabiyya. The advent of the Bedouin is not a singular event, on the contrary, it has happened repeatedly throughout history.

What this enables us to realise is that a confident grasp of the historical, philosophical, political and technological ‘enframing’ which has given rise to the present we inhabit is what will provide us going forward, with the capacity in political terms to assess where we stand on Ibn Khaldun’s cycle of political renewal and degeneration, to recognise the moment and to seize the hand of opportunity. It is undeniable that humanity in general is struggling under a widespread regime of social and economic injustice. The Muslims have a pressing motivation to induce political change derived from the necessity that the Shari'ah should be uppermost in the affairs of the world in order that mankind as a whole should have the proper means to carry out its duty as guardians of the weak and the poor and custodians of the earth’s natural resources.

Central to the thesis put forward in ToB is the concept of the Great Interregnum. This represents the long interim period beginning with the destruction of the societal forms of the Ancien Régime definitively heralded by the execution of Louis XVI in 1793 (or in the case of the Khilafa the deposition of Sultan Abdalhamid Han II in 1909) and ending with the emergence of a new nomos (a new ordering of society). The interim period has seen the rapid rise to dominance of the modern structuralist State which has culminated in the entropic endgame of the late twentieth century and incipient collapse, as prefigured by Ibn Khaldun. Let us now explore the question of the recovery of a just, civilised society as envisioned in ToB. Nomos is a word of Greek origin and carries the basic meaning of law. However, its use in the sphere of political philosophy, especially as used by the influential legal theorist Carl Schmitt, comprises the idea of a recognisable order or way which governs the dispensation of justice manifest in society. A new nomos therefore, is the actual manifestation of a new societal order. 

The Dallas thesis maintains that the end of the Great Interregnum has now arrived but warns that the opportunity it presents can only be grasped by a capacity for comprehension that is independent of the processes that produced it and the analytical parameters imposed by it. (In other words, the kind of intellectual formation, education and culture on which the previous society was built will by its nature obstruct the capacity for vision and understanding that will be necessary for the task renewal). In order to achieve this independence of approach and manner of thinking free of the dialectical method imposed upon philosophy in the 20th century, he identifies four modern intellectuals whose outstanding genius in their respective fields held them above the imposition: The theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976); the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976); Carl Schmitt (1888-1985); and perhaps most significantly with respect to the way forward Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) whose visionary identification of the essential existence form, the gestalt, of the modern individual living under technique, made his genius the thread that unified them all.

Dr Dallas therefore proposes that the approach to the advent of the new nomos should be led by the combined indications of the ancient mastery of Ibn Khaldun and the modern mastery of Jünger and synthesises the untrammelled life force of the Bedouin of Asabiyya with Jünger’s response to the nihilism of modernity; the sovereign individual marked out by a particular quality of resistance whom he names the Waldgänger (the one who takes the way of the forest). By way of conclusion and as the most appropriate bridge to the discussion that will follow, let us take the following key passages from ToB. The first provides a sense of Ibn Khaldun’s model unfolding within a contemporary setting:

“Ibn Khaldun considered that the primal stage of men as society begins with what he defined as bedouinism. This First Stage of itself implies a dynamic movement of men in contradistinction to a prior settled culture […] 

The Bedou is outside the urban system. The Bedou is cut off from the urban entity even if he is in it. In modern times, by application of his model this permits of the term being applied to Districtism or Townshipism.

At a certain stage the Bedouin in their power of growth and expansion, and by a genetic vitalisation denied the passive urban community, begin to identify themselves as a new civic force. A natural need becomes wedded to a higher evaluation, an evaluation of themselves. There emerges among them the most powerful force that social man can experience It is kinship, but not of blood. It transcends the tribal and the familial. This unification of the group takes them to the Second Stage. Stage Two is defined by Ibn Khaldun with the term ‘Asabiyya’.” [ToB pp. 274-5]

The second is an extract from the Muqaddima on the political nature of the core phenomenon of Asabiyya:

“Asabiyya gives protection, defence and attack, and every enterprise required by belonging to the group. Men, by their nature, need in every social organisation an authority and arbiter to avoid mutual aggression. This person must dominate the group, depending on this, on Asabiyya, otherwise he cannot fulfil his task. That domination is power. It is more than the simple command. Indeed, with the command one is simply an obeyed ruler, but one not yet enabled to impose his orders by constraint.

Now, power is the act of domination, and governing by compulsion. When a man, belonging to a powerful group, is in the position of an obeyed leader, he will not fail to exercise domination and constraint if he has the means to do so, for it is something that the soul desires. But he can only succeed thanks to the Asabiyya which grants him permission to be obeyed.

Domination by the exercise of power is thus the ultimate end of Asabiyya. It is thus evident that power is the end of Asabiyya. When Asabiyya has attained its end, the group has attained power.” [ToB pp. 287-8] 

At this point the group attains to Stage Three, the high point of power, by the affirmation of the personal rulership of the one clearly indicated for it from amongst them. The third and final passage identifies the convergence between the viewpoint of Ibn Khaldun and the modern vision of Ernst Jünger, who explains:

“‘It is not a romantic or literal image. … The Waldgänger is the actual individual, he acts in the specific case. He does not need theories, nor laws cooked up by party legalists, in order to know what is right. … Here things become simple if any purity remains in him. We have seen that the great experience of the Forest is the meeting with oneself, the inalterable core of the self, the essence which supports the temporal and individual appearance.

This means that the new man has recognised himself as an in-time creature somehow with a beyond-time contract. However, he does not suggest such a man is an anchorite, cut off from society. He, with them is already surrounded by the bourgeois family, the friends and acquaintances from before the emergence. From his emergence, ‘There is born a resistance’.

The Resistance is precisely the beginning of the social event Ibn Khaldun identifies as the Asabiyya of the Bedouin. Jünger makes it plain:

‘If in a town of 10,000, we will be content to assume that there are 100 of them who have resolved not to submit to brute force. If in a city of one million there are 10,000 Waldgänger - this is an immense power. It is enough to bring about the fall of the most powerful tyrants.’” [ToB pp. 292-3]

I will end today’s lecture with three questions as my own contribution to the discussion which is to follow shortly:

1 What practical relevance, if any, does our presence here in the MFAS have with respect to emergence of a new nomos?

2 What role do we expect technology to play in the future of human society?


3 With the legacy of misogyny that we have inherited from the French Revolution and elsewhere, how can we succeed in the establishment of a new nomos?

Thank you for your attention, 

Assalamu alaykum.