Category Archives: Quotes


“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan


“The conflict between King and Parliament in the Civil War gave Englishmen, once for all, a love of compromise and moderation and a fear of pushing any theory to its logical conclusion, which has dominated them down to the present time.” pg 581, History of Western Philosophy, Russell.


“About thirty years ago there was much talk that geology ought only to observe and theorise: and I well remember someone saying that at this rate man might well go into a gravel pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service.”

Charles Darwin to Henry Fawcett, 1861.


“For [Tahtawi]. as for Islamic thinkers of the later Middle Ages, law was a negative restraining factor. It set the limits within which the ruler must act, not the principles in accordance with which he should act. Muhammad ‘Ali and Isma’il did not infringe those limits. They were benevolent autocrats of a type familiar to Islamic thought and posing no new problems. They issued no new statement of principles which might be , or seem to be, in contrast with those of the shari’a, and their innovations were mainly in the sphere of economic life and administration, about which the Shari’a says little, rather than in the basic administration of society or the realm of personal status, about which it says much.” pg 83

“Like other Muslim thinkers of his day, he was willing to accept the judgement on Christianity given by European free thought: it was unreasonable, it was the enemy of science and progress. But [al-Afghani] wished to show that these criticisms did not apply to Islam; on the contrary, Islam was in harmony with the principles discovered by scientific reason, was indeed the religion demanded by reason. Christianity had failed – he took Renan’s word for it; but Islam, being neither irrational not intolerant, could save the secular world from that revolutionary chaos, the memory of which haunted the French thinkers of his time.” pg 123

“In general, a certain definition of European civilisation was accepted: Europe was taken at the value it put upon itself – or more specifically, the value put upon it by the liberal thinkers of the nineteeth century. The bases of European civilisation , the ‘secret’ of its strength and prosperity, were taken to be such factors as these: the existence of the national community, ruling itself in the light of its own interests; the separation of religion and politics; the democratic system of government, that is to say, the prevalence of the general will as expressed by freely elected parliaments and ministries responsible to them; the respect for individual rights, particularly the right to speak and write freely; the strength of the political virtues, of loyalty to the community and willingness to make sacrifices for it; above all, the organisation of modern industry and the ‘scientific spirit’ which lay behind it.” pg 324

Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age.


“I say we have not become fully part of Western Civilisation because we have only taken from it what is in conformity with the traditions and customers of the various races which make up our state. This has caused both material and cultural harm.. For if we just copy Europeans, we will disavow our origins and acquire an antipathy towards our [past]. Instead, we should follow them as closely as possible in the way in which they protect their own race and homeland. We should strive to protect our noble language and ways just as they protect their languages and ways.” Fathallah Qastun, al-Sh’a’b, Aleppo, 1910 as quoted in Watenpaugh, 2006.


“..the proletarian drunkard whom we feared… because we did not understand from the inside the workings of a mind befuddled by alcohol and could not calculate what it would do.” Kalooki Nights, Jacobson, pg 271.

The Success of Open Source

In “The Success of Open Source”, Weber contrasts the Kissinger question of “When I call Europe who answers the phone” with the equivalent of “When Microsoft calls Linux who answers the phone” to show what is really being asked is “how does a hierarchically structured (government) deal effectively with a powerful institution structured in a fundamentally different way. Take this one step generalisation further and the question becomes what are the dynamics of increasingly dense relationships between hierarchies and networks”. He further asks “what happens at the interface, between network and hierarchies, where they meet?”

“Dimaggio and Powell…developed a powerful argument about isomorphism, detailing some of the pressures driving organisations that are connected to each other in highly dense relationships to change so they come to look more like each other structurally.”

“In the foreign policy and security field, David Rondfeldt and John Arquilla have for almost ten years been making prescient arguments about the rise of networks in international conflict and the implications for what they call ‘netwar’. Their policy propositions – ‘heirarchies have a difficult time fighting networks, it takes networks to fight networks, and whoever masters the network form first and best will gain major advantages’ – track the institutional isomorphism literature by encouraging hierarchical governments to remake their security organisations as networks to interface successfully with their network adversaries.”

“In international relations theory, Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink have asked similar questions about relationships between transnational ‘advocacy networks’ and national governments. Other studies of global social movements talk about the emergence of ‘complex multilateralism’ to describe a form of governance that emerges in the interaction between international organisations and transnational networks. These are valuable perspectives as far as they go. But they still suffer from an unfortunate ‘bracketing’ of the hierarchical structure as that which is somehow ‘real’ or concrete, while trying to prove that networks ‘matter’ vis-a-vis more traditional structures. The next question they naturally ask, ‘Under what conditions do networks matter?’ is premature unless the answer can be well structured in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. To get to that point requires a good conceptual articulation of the space in which the game of influence is played out. And that is still lacking.”

“The open source story as I have told it here points to a different way forward. Two distinct but equally real organisational forms exist in parallel to each other. The dynamic relationship between hierarchies and networks over time determines both the nature of the transition and the endpoint. One form may defeat the other through competition. Both may coexist by settling into separate niches where they are particularly advantaged. Most interesting will be the new forms of organisation that emerge to manage the interface between them, and the process by which those boundary spanners influence the structure and function of networks and the hierarchies that they link together.”

“If my generic point about creativity at the interface is correct, it is then my strong presumption that this is a problem suited for inductive theorising through comparative case study research. The war against terrorism, the relationship between open source and proprietary models of software production, and the politics among transnational NGO networks and international organisations share characteristics that make them diverse cases of similarly structured political space. I am certain that some of the most interesting processes in international politics and economics over the next decade are going to take place in this space, at the interface between heirarchies and networks (rather than solely within either one). Comparing what evolves in diverse instantiations of that space is one way forward.”

Far Enemy

Gerges, Chapter 2, note 33:

“Islamists, not just jihadis, have not made the transition from being a protest movement to one providing alternative leadership and a well-delineated sociopolitical program (sic). They suffer from a paucity of creative ideas, particularly in the field of political theory and governance and political economy. Their belief in social justice is no substitute to constructing a theory of justice broadly defined that encompasses political-economic freedoms.”

Introduction, note 44:

“.. Unlike some modernist and enlightened Islamists, jihadis offer no intellectual blueprint or paradigm of their envisioned Islamic order.”

Chapter 5, pg 228

“The inner workings of both mainstream and militant Islamists tend to be more autocratic than that of their ruling tormentors. Measuring the compatibility between democracy and political Islam must await the democratisation of the internal Islamist decision-making process, even though few mainstream Islamist groups, which aim to build their envisioned Islamic state via constitutional or electoral means, have well-established internal democratic mechanisms, like Jama’at-i-Islami of Pakistan.”


‘Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) defined ‘asabiyya as “a corporate spirit orientated towards obtaining and keeping power”.

Hourani expands with:

“To borrow and adapt an idea from Ibn Khaldun, it could be suggested that the stability of a political regime depended upon on a combination of three factors. It was stable when a cohesive ruling group was able to link its interests with those of powerful elements in society, and when that alliance of interests was expressed in a political idea which made the power of the rulers legitimate in the eyes of society, or at least a significant part of it.”

Political Theories on IR

“The Peace (of Westphalia) did not mark the emergence of the modern international system of states, which begun much earlier, nor the emergence of a system of nation-states, which came much later. Instead it constitutes the emergence of a society of states regulated by self-imposed and acknowledged rules and institutions.” (pg 219)

“A statesmen, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by circumstances.” Burke, Religious Opinions.