Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whose side of modernity are the Taliban on?

Apposite to my screed the other day about the stupidities derived from using modernization theory to understand the Afghan situation, here we have an important article about how Pakistani efforts to "restabilize" the Swat Valley in Pakistan, which had been run by the Taliban until the recent Pakistani army offensive, are being hampered because the "landowners are still in exile."

Reading the article, it's quite clear that what the Pakistani regime wants is to reestablish the feudal land tenure system, whereas what the Taliban stands for (economically) is the dethroning of these "traditional elites." Without belaboring the point, it's quite clear that the Taliban is hardly a "traditional" force, and the Pakistani army certainly should not be assumed to be unambiguously on the side of "modernity."

The more general point is that whenever"the language of modernity/modernization" gets deployed as an alleged explanatory vehicle, it's almost always obscuring a (usually confused) ideological agenda. "Modern" is assumed to be good and desirable (though the actualy substantive content can vary) whereas its opposite is bad. But even a cursory glance at the Taliban should give pause to such analysis.

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