Saturday, August 20, 2005

Networked tribes

Don't miss John Robb's excellent piece on how the enemy we face in the radical Islamists represents a marriage of modern communications and economic infrastructure with ancient loyalty patterns, constituting what he refers to as networked tribes.

The one thing I might take issue with is Robb's notion that there is no hierarchy to a tribe. It's true that tribal hierarchies can be more fluid than in more complex institutional settings, but they are functional hierarchies nonetheless -- with those at the top gaining greater benefits (in terms of prestige, or lucre, or sexual privileges, or whatever) than the rank and file. But in terms of penetrating a tribal structure, Robb is no doubt right that the fluidity of the hierarchy presents unique challenges.

No comments: