In this final episode of series 1 (we will be back next year) of the Social Theory Podcast I spoke to Morteza Hashemi about the great Arabic scholar Ibn Khaldun.

See the end of this post for links to the episode.

Khaldun was around in the 14th and 15th century and lived and traveled across the Islamic world including Tunisia, Egypt and Andalusia. Khaldun is a hugely important thinker who has sadly been underappreciated in many parts of the world. The innovative critical and philosophical approach to history he took revealed sociological insights which would not be matched or built on for at least four centuries. In this chat we focus on some of his most important analysis which focuses on the movement from nomadic to settled communities and how these different social forms produce different kinds of societies. Most crucially these different contexts are associated with different kinds of group feeling or what he calls ‘assabiya. For Khaldun the higher levels of intimate group feeling in nomadic societies (such as the Bedouins) helps to make them stronger, braver and more resilient. But when such groups become settled over time their group feeling reduced and as a society (and as individuals) they become more indulgent and weaker. This leaves such settled groups open to being attacked or overthrown by groups with higher levels of ‘assabiya.

Morteza also tells me about some of his own excellent work which has applied Khaldun’s analysis to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg. He suggests such tech giants might have become too “settled” and might be leaving themselves open to becoming unseated by more entrepreneurial upstarts. This article was published in The Sociological Review (also available open access).

Probably Khaldun’s most influential work (and the one we mostly refer to) is The Muqaddimah or “The Introduction” which is available online. Below are some of the other books Morteza mentioned in the episode.

The Orange Trees of Marrakesh by Stephen Dale

Muslim Society by Ernest Gellner

Applying Ibn Khaldun by Syed Farid Alatas

Apologies, there are a few minor sound issues. Hopefully these aren’t too painful as they are just tiny cuts in the sound.

Theme music is Wirklich Wichtig by Checkie Brown used on a Creative Commons license

Incidental music is Disco Stomp by Jonas78 used on a Creative Commons license

You can follow me on Twitter @chrishtill

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