Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince By Patricia Springborg

Patricia Springborg takes as the centre of her history of Western politics kingship instead of the city state, Egypt and Mesopotamia instead of Greece and Rome, and obliges us to look at the Greco–Roman West in a Hellenistic and Nilotic perspective. The result is a

brilliant inversion of what she considers to be a perversion of history, and may well become a classic of post–liberal or neo–liberal thinking. -- J. G. A. Pocock, Johns Hopkins University A bold book ... Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince is a call to modern historiography to be more open–minded on the one hand, and more sceptical on the other.′ -- Times Higher Education Supplement From the Publisher: The East/West divide seems to be as old as history itself, the roots of Orientalism and antiSemitism lying far beyond the origins of modern Western imperialism. The very project of Western classical republicanism had its darker side: to purloin the legacy of the Greeks, distancing them from Eastern systems deemed "despotic" and "other." Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince is a thoroughly revisionist book, challenging both the West's comfortable view of its own political evolution and its negative stereotypes of non-Western systems. Not only did these stereotypes serve to legitimate early modern European nation-states struggling for an identity, but they also served to justify slavery and other forms of domination over subject peoples. Drawing upon archaeological and epigraphic evidence, Springborg discusses the Mesopotamian and ancient Egyptian contribution of political forms and cultic institutions to classical Greco-Roman civilization, an Eastern legacy to the West that has long been obscured for political reasons. A different reading of the foundation myths of Athens and Rome and of certain texts of Plato and Aristotle, as well as the writings of Herodotus, Isocrates, Plutarch, and Diodorus Siculus, permits us to restore possible lines of affiliation. Springborg demonstrates that Renaissance thought, long believed to have ushered in the Western classical republican tradition, demonstrates a curious ambivalence toward powerful Eastern systems, which it viewed with fascination as much as fear. The great divide between Western democracy and Oriental despotism, which post Reformation thought has set in stone, was not yet sedimented in the Renaissance. This major new study will be of interest to students of political history and theory, Middle Eastern studies, and East-West relations. "

Table of Contents: Acknowledgements. Introduction. Part I. The Greek Polis Versus the ′Great King′ 1. Pluralistic Structures and State Power. 2. Greeks and Barbarians, Freedom and Slavery. 3. Ionian Historia and Kulturgeschichte. 4. Polybius, on Monarchy, Freedom and Tyranny. 5. Patronage, Magnificence and Title to Rule. 6. Plato and the Egyptian Story. 7. Hesiod and Oriental Cosmogonies. 8. Foundation Myths and their Modes. 9. Philological Evidence: Gods, Goddesses and Place Names. 10. Herodotus, Diodorus, Isocrates and the Historical Record. Part II. Renaissance Republicanism and the Eastern Marcher Lord 1. Republic and Empire. 2. Aristotelian Republicanism or Renaissance Platonism?. 3. The Roman Legacy: Justice, Peace, Harmony and Grandezza. 4. Machiavelli on Hellenistic Expansionism and Economic Needs. 5. Machiavelli, the Marcher Lords and War. 6. Machiavelli and Polybius on the Predatory and Personalistic State. 7. Polybius and Machiavelli on Patronage and Corruption.

8. The Islamic Mirrors of Princes. 9. Ibn Khaldun and the Cycle of Regimes. 10. La Serenissima and the Sublime Porte. Conclusion. References.

Review by S. Parvez Manzoor:
Behind Huntington's opportune political theory [clash of civilisations] lies of course the polemical enterprise of Orientalism, whose tendentious and overwrought sources he has skilfully, if somewhat disingenuously, exploited. Needles to say, Orientalism's epistemological and moral pretensions have been effectively deconstructed by Edward Said whose insights are indispensable to any discussion on Huntington's theory. Another work which may prove out to be equally indispensable and seminal in this regard is, I believe, Patricia Springborg's Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince. A feat of monumental scholarship and formidable analytical acumen, Springborg's study demasks the Western discourse of power, of the construction of Western identity and Oriental difference, in a masterly fashion and by so doing hammers the last nail in the coffin of Orientalism. Though in the revisionist tradition of Edward Said, as a scholarly work it is far

bolder, far more ambitious in scope and far more imaginative in its handling of the immense historical sources that it probes, be these ancient and Greek or medieval and Latin or modern and European, than anything known previously. It brings to surface the submerged mass, the protohistoric subconscious, of the iceberg of Western self whose visible tip was displayed by Said in his Orientalism. A highly demanding though extremely rewarding work which no serious scholar of world-history can afford to miss. Though Springborg presents a polemical argument and challenges the West's comfortable view of its evolution, her work belongs to the best in the tradition of critical historiography. It both overwhelms by the sheer weight of its facts and persuades by the chaste logic of its argument. Just as myth-making provides greatest incentive to the writing of history, the author confesses, myth-unmasking lies at the heart of her critical enterprise. And the myth she unmasks is that of Western republicanism and the oriental prince, of the contractual Rechtsstaat and the autocratic despotism, that shapes the East-West divide which is as old as history itself. This myth poses for us boundaries, she claims, 'some of which are self-erected walls, others ancient lines of demarcation between conceptual systems, and yet others are like mirrors through which Alice in Wonderland can step - they reflect distortions which disappear under examination and sometimes reverse images.' What Springborg's study tries to accomplish is, by her own standards, 'an appraisal of these boundaries, their historical basis and the purpose they serve.' The surprising finding of Springborg's investigation is that the ideological 'Berlin Wall' between the East and the West was not erected until after the Reformation. Prior to that, from Antiquity to Renaissance, the boundaries between the two, intellectual as well as civilizational, were quite fluid. Only with the rise of the early modern European states in the post-Reformation times does the East become a constant reference point for the West and acquires its characteristically 'despotic' physiognomy. And yet the roots of this 'Orientalism' - Islamophobia and anti-Semitism - go far back into ancient times. From seemingly innocent, archaic, quaint and apparently arbitrary elements in the writings of the ancient sages, she discovers prototypes for later racial and cultural stereotypes. For instance, Aristotle's defence of slavery, which in her opinion was 'treated more benignly than it deserves by conventional commentators', shows upon scrutiny to contain thinly veiled 'racial imperatives' to treat "Greeks like brothers, barbarians like plants and animals". The slave by nature, Springborg makes no bones about the meaning of the Aristotelian text, 'was quite simply an Asiatic.' The 'self-assumed identities' of the modern Western European states, insists Springborg, were theorised in a specific historiographical tradition, that of republicanism. It was out of the struggle between weak, concession-dispensing monarchies and the economically dominant classes - a contest that was ultimately decided in favour of the Bourgeoisie - that the specifically ideological theory of the modern European state was generated. The Bourgeoisie laid claims to inheriting the mantle of the ancient polis and managed in the process to create oriental despotism as a foil for classical republican theory. Yet the irony is, notes Springborg, that all the evidence suggests that 'the ancient Middle East may well have pioneered city-republican forms, of which the Greek polis was only an example.' The list of borrowed institutions included: 'the bicameral legislature, eligibility to which was decided on property qualification and birth to free citizens; rule of law, an

independent judiciary, procedures for holding magistrates to account and trial by jury; the rotation of magistracies among an isonomous elite; voting by ballot and by lot; private laws of contract and commercial law.' The state in the East, then, was 'essentially pluralistic, aggregating the institutions of civil society in a classical Hegelian manner.' Needless to say, this is true of the classical Muslim empires as well. In fact, the Islamic East experiences the authoritarian state in its pure form only with the coming of the Western colonialism. Following Hannah Batatu's lead (The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton, 1978) Springborg convincingly asserts that 'nineteenth-century European colonisers were the first with the technological capacity and the long experience of authoritarian rule to have both the ability and the will to smash the institutions of civil society, destroy the old social order, and create the vacuum into which first the colonial power, then its stooges (transplanted and faked-up kings, shahs, etc.) and finally the revolutionary one-party state could step up.' Compared to the pluralistic East, the state in the West, according to Springborg, was 'classically authoritarian' and 'rested on the absence of participatory structures.' The ubiquity of autocracies in the Muslim world, then, is not due to any inherently despotic disposition of the Oriental mind, but a gift of Western colonialism and modernity. Among other potent myths whom Springborg squarely lays to rest in this exciting study is Marx Weber's claim (advanced in the Preface to his celebrated work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) of the 'rational' - administrative, technical and scientific - superiority of the West over the East. For all his advocacy of separating 'facts' from 'values', she shows with a summoning of formidable historical data, the great sociologist was surprisingly lax in checking out his own facts! (A similar charge against Weber has been made by Bryan Turner: Weber and Islam. London, 1978.) To the favourite Orientalist query - or taunt - as to why, despite a finally graduated division of labour, capitalism did not emerge in the East, Springborg, following Goitein, retorts that 'it was because business generated a specific professional form, the partnership, neither based on division between owners and non-owners, nor giving rise to employer-employee relation.' Centuries of small business organised in partnership, 'in which some partners contributed capital, others labour, but all were happily "owners"', simply shut out large-scale industrialist as a dominant type. Not surprisingly, the emerging discipline of Islamic economics takes 'partnership' as the pivotal idea of its entrepreneurial system. It is obvious from the above discussion that this is a very learned work which deals principally with the modern West's appropriation of the ancient East, while at the same time creating the myth of its backwardness and despotism. (Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, Machiavelli and others form the focus of its investigation. Islam, by contrast, is restricted to a brief discussion of the traditional 'Mirror of Princes' and Ibn Khaldun. In other words, this is not a work that addresses the specialised Islamic scholar, though obviously anyone with an interest in the history of ideas and politics, Islamist included, ought to find it extremely stimulating.)

The five basic categories of this myth which tells the deep origins of Orientalism and antiSemitism, according to Springborg are: race, property, oligarchy, aetieology and economy. The greatest of the ironies, Springborg remarks further, is that 'property, among the liberties on which "freedom of the Greeks" was said to depend, should have the jealously guarded ruling oligarchies within Graeco-Roman systems. Freedom for the many was defined politically, for the ruling few it was defined politically and economically.' As to the bigger question about the nature of the relationship between myth and reality, or the distortion of historical truth in historiography, Springborg believes, that 'such historic inversions are due less to malice or a predilection for untruth than they are due to the ideological status of the claims involved - as provisional truths staking out territory and hoping, thereby, to create facts. They are also to the nature of stereotyping: the characterisation of the East as the "other", or merely as the negation of all that was being claimed for the West, by polemicists knowing, in fact very little about it.' http://www.algonet.se/~pmanzoor/Polemics-Sec-Ornt-Chrst.htm

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