Bryn Hammond's Reviews > Loyalty and Leadership in An Early Islamic Society

Loyalty and Leadership in An Early Islamic Society by Roy Mottahedeh
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it was amazing
bookshelves: steppe-history, website-widget

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's exactly what he does for us, through heavy use of anecdotes.

It's 10th-11th century in Iran and Iraq, but his effective descriptions are such that you can use this for far wider purposes. I'm set in the 13th century but this is valuable, because he gets into the groundwork, into the human axioms, behind/beneath the politics. If you need a look at medieval Islamic society, this is for you, and even... even outside Islam. If you need to know about loyalties, about obligations, in a time when people ran their lives on these, you can come here.

We have a sense how important oaths and vows were in old days: he gives much information - by example - of how oaths functioned, of how seriously people took them, and the cynical usages too. This is a society that works person-to-person - you didn't have a loyalty to institutions or to abstractions. He piles up examples and you start to see how that hangs together. He looks at leadership in operation, too. It's the first time I've felt I have a grasp on the who, how and why of these very often unofficial, non-government (in my sense) leaders I meet in the sources - where did they come from, why does the city take these as spokespeople?

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 10, 2012 – Shelved
January 10, 2012 – Shelved as: steppe-history
October 26, 2012 – Shelved as: website-widget

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