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Loyalty and Leadership in An Early Islamic Society
An updated classic study of 10th- and 11th-century society in Buyid Iran. Arguing that medieval Islamic society must be understood in its own cultural terms, the author explains how it was able to function in a stable manner without the type of political institutions familiar to the West.
Paperback, 239 pages
Published April 14th 2001 by I. B. Tauris
(first published June 1980)
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A fascinating book on the various kinds of social bonds that tied men (yes, no women mentioned in this book as far as I remember) together during the Buyid dynasty of Western Iran/Eastern Iraq during the 10th and 11th centuries. He starts the book right off the bat by saying that he will not employ modern sociological theory in approaching Buyid society. Rather, he is more interested in how people themselves at the time classified the different social bonds that held their society together. This ...more
Made for the historical novelist. For other people too, I guess. He wants to tell us about the 'self-understanding of the societies discussed' - through 'self-description'. We see the society in its own terms. He says, I do not call a certain kind of status 'ascriptive' or a certain kind of social bond 'dyadic'. Great, because I don't know what the f*** that means. And I don't want to: I want to see the society in operation, to watch how people behave - how they understood themselves, yes. That' ...more
A bit dry for my taste (3.5 stars, really). But I have to give it credit. It rightly feels like a thick, sturdy thorn in many modern retrospective ideas about premodern Islamic/Muslim (...semantics...) cultures, bolstered by an attention to details, particulars, and facts. Although--I also found it difficult to see it as an encompassing portrait of "an early Islamic society" when Mottahedeh admits that he can't really say much about lower or more "humble" categories of the society or its peoples ...more
There are several major problems with this book. The author's intention is to use the social categories used in the sources to discuss tenth century near eastern society, rather than the categories of modern social science since the use of such categories is anachronistic ad can be misleading. However, he is insufficiently reflective regarding the possibility of "entering fully and imaginatively" into the culture of another time and place. (vii) Also, throughout the book he describes loyalties a ...more
Roy Mottahedeh is Gurney Professor of Islamic History at Harvard University. An internationallly renowned expert, his academic awards include a Guggenheim and a MacArthur Prize Fellowship.More about Roy Mottahedeh...