Friday, August 21, 2015

Open and closed state systems: the geography of regional unification

Recurring periods of unification were a notable feature of the history of China; notably the Qin-Han (221BC-220), Sui-Tang (589-907), and Yuan-Ming-Qing (1271-1912) periods of unification. (The Northern Song [959-1126] arguably do not count as a full unification, since they never controlled the northern regions, which was under the control of the Liao dynasty [907-1125].) Indeed, of all the major civilisation centres, China was unified more frequently than any other.

Conversely, Europe was never unified and the Mediterranean basin was unified only once--under the Roman Empire. So, why was China repeatedly unified, while the Roman Empire was a one-off?

Unification propensities
The first thing to note, is that we are looking at different propensities to be unified. There were centuries-long periods of Chinese history when it was not united: nevertheless, compared to other civilisation centres, it showed a relatively high propensity for unification. Conversely, the Mediterranean basin had a low propensity to being unified (it was unified once) and Europe as a whole effectively no propensity to being unified (as it never was).

Size of largest and second largest empire.
Note also that propensity to unification is not the same as any more general propensity to large states or mega empires. The former is about the propensity for a specific region to be ruled by a single state, not mere state size or capacity. (Though, of course, state capacity matters in the sense that the region has to be within the possible ambit of control by a single state, given the level of organisational capacity achieved by states in a particular time period.)

Both historical demographer Peter Turchin (here) and historian T. Greer (here) have posted on the contrast between China and Europe. Both of the them reject what Greer calls the fractured land hypothesis, which Greer describes thus:
... they suggest that China's political unity and Europe's perpetual disunity are reflections of the unbroken terrain of the first and the disparate geography of the second. Two prominent examples can be found in Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Powers and Military Change, 1500-2000 and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Society.
Turchin and Greer both argue that the geography of China is more similar to Europe's than the hypothesis requires.

I completely agree with them, the fractured land hypothesis is not at all a satisfactory explanation of the different propensities to unification. Greer concludes his post with:
A close examination of the geography of East Asia suggests that there is no geographic feature capable of explaining the divergent paths of European powers like Germany, France, and the Netherlands that cannot be found in China. Chinese unity did not come because of its geography. It came in spite of it.
While completely agreeing with the unsatisfactory nature of the fractured land hypothesis, I completely disagree with Greer's wider conclusion. China's geography does explain why it had a relatively high propensity to unification--provided we look at in terms of the interaction between geography and state systems.

State systems: how bounded?
In using the concept of a state system, I am adopting the terminology and definition of historical sociologist Charles Tilly in his seminal Coercion, Capital and European States: AD 990-1992:
States form a system to the extent that they interact with each other regularly, and to the degree that their interaction affects the behaviour of each state (p.162).  
To explain varying propensities to unification, we have to examined how open or closed, how bounded, a particular state system is. A state system is completely open if it has no borders without effective states (or power projection by states). The contemporary global state system is completely open, it has no such geographical borders. But we have not always had a global state system: in fact, far from it.

A state system is completely closed if it is bounded on all sides by borders without effective states (or power projection by states). Apart from some early periods of state formation in various regions, this has essentially never been the case. A state system can be relatively closed, however. If, for example, all but one border is without effective states (or power projection by states).

The closed and controllable state systems of China
Which is precisely the situation that China was in for most of its history. Until the C19th, no state projected significant state power across its coasts. With the exception of the relatively brief Tibetan Empire (618-842)*, no state projected significant state power into China across a South-to-West-to-North arc from the Vietnam border to the steppes. For most of its history, the only open border for the projection of state power into China was the steppes border.

The interaction between the people of the plough (the Chinese) and the people of the bow (the pastoralist nomads) has been central to Chinese history. But it has been central to Chinese history precisely because, for the overwhelming majority of Chinese history, it has been the only open border across which external state power was projected into the farming lands of China. And that was most emphatically been a product of the geography of China. That its agrarian heartland is a series of river valleys bordered by coasts, jungles, mountains and deserts across which state power was not seriously projected from outside (with the above noted relatively brief Tibetan exception) and by the steppes, across which it was. 

Why does that matter for the propensity to be unified? Because the area that is so bounded was able to be controlled (given the transport and communication technology available) by a single state. So, in a period of disunity, if and when one state gained a military advantage over the others, the geography of China meant that the period it needed to sustain that military advantage to roll up the other states in the bounded state space was relatively short. Short enough to generate China's relatively high propensity to be unified. And, since there was effectively only one border across which rival state power could be projected, there were considerable economies of scale in military effort to be reaped once unification was achieved.

As we are looking at the interactive dynamics of state systems--that is, their movement through time--both military and administrative technology matter. In particular, what level of resource mobilisation states in the relevant state space have the organisational capacity to do, matters. It may take considerable time before one participant develops the organisational capacity to overwhelm the other states in the relevant state space. Hence centuries of disunity even in the case of China. Since we are looking at varying propensities, while geography remains essentially a fixed constraint, only explanation in terms of dynamics--specifically, state system dynamics, given that we are looking at the propensity for the state system to evolve into a single state--has any chance of explaining the pattern.

The Roman exception
If we look at propensity to unification in terms of characteristics (and the dynamic possibilities and patterns therefrom) of state systems, we can see why Europe had effectively no propensity to unification. Once state formation had spread beyond the Mediterranean littoral, it was never a closed state system in the above sense. There were too many borders across which state power could be (and was) projected into too large an area for establishing and maintaining unified control. Which meant too many directions from which unity could be blocked and (especially) military dominance blocked (as a series of would-be hegemons found).

The centuries earlier Mediterranean world that the Roman Republic confronted was quite different. There were no states beyond the Mediterranean littoral, except in the East. The forests of Europe, the deserts of the Sahara, were either empty of states or too much of a barrier for effective projection of state power. Only eastwards--in particular, the Iranian plateau--were there state(s) able to project state power into the Mediterranean littoral. Which was not enough to block Mediterranean littoral unity if one state had enough of a military advantage for long enough. 

The Mediterranean littoral was a large area, even given the utility of the Mediterranean itself for transport and communication. So, a state had to sustain a significant military advantage for a significant period of time to roll up all the other states and unify the Mediterranean littoral. But, if a state did, then the only border confronting significant state power was with the Iranian plateau. A geographical pattern which could generate significant economies of scale in military effort, if and when unification was achieved.

Which it was, because the Roman Republic did sustain such a military advantage for a long period of time, winning every external war for about three centuries. Long enough, indeed, to roll up every other Mediterranean littoral state and unify the entire Mediterranean littoral under one state.

Success that blocked replication
But the very success of Rome ensured that such a unification was a one-off, as the example of Rome spread the techniques of state formation beyond the Mediterranean littoral, which never again became a closed state system.  The Umayyad Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire made notable attempts at unifying the Mediterranean littoral, but it was precisely the Sahara-flanked region of the Mediterranean littoral--not that bordering the now too-deep European state system--which they united with the Middle East. Though neither controlled the entire African coast of the Mediterranean for as long as the Romans did.

So, I agree, the fractured land hypothesis does not explain the relatively high propensity for unification of China and the effectively zero propensity for unification of Europe; or why the Roman Empire was a one-off. But the interaction between geography and its effect on the dynamics of state systems does very definitely explain those patterns.

Geography matters in history; particularly before the Growth Revolution (to use T. Greer's nice phrase) from the 1820s onwards: for geography provided powerful, continuing constraints on human affairs. Only with steamship and railroads, from the 1820s onwards, (along with the development of telegraph systems from the late 1830s onwards) did humans develop any significant technological capacity to overcome the constraints of geography. It is not surprising that a recent study found that, prior to said Growth Revolution, geography appears to have dominated institutions in explaining the average long-run incomes of regions.

China was a relatively closed state system, with blocking boundaries, so had a high propensity to unification. The Mediterranean basin stopped being a relatively closed state system, so never repeated the Roman unification. While, once there was a European state system, it was never sufficiently bounded to be unified. All the results of the interaction of state system dynamics with geography.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

* The period of the Tibetan Empire coincided with the Sui-Tang unification, so China was already unified.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lenin, Luxemburg and Gorbachev's failure (a Vladimir, Rosa and Mikhail story)

Vladimir Lenin gave his name to Leninism, a way of operationalising revolutionary socialism. In fact, essentially the only way that has proved effective, based on adopting the Jacobin model of political action. That is, totalist politics--no limit on the range, or means, of political action in pursuit of a specific political project.

Lenin was happy to adopt the title of Jacobin:
A Jacobin who wholly identifies himself with the organisation of the proletariat—a proletariat conscious of its class interests—is a revolutionary Social-Democrat (1904).
And also:
Bourgeois historians see Jacobinism as a fall ("to stoop"). Proletarian historians see Jacobinism as one of the highest peaks in the emancipation struggle of an oppressed class. The Jacobins gave France the best models of a democratic revolution and of resistance to a coalition of monarchs against a republic. The Jacobins were not destined to win complete victory, chiefly because eighteenth-century France was surrounded on the continent by much too backward countries, and because France herself lacked the material basis for socialism, there being no banks, no capitalist syndicates, no machine industry and no railways.
“Jacobinism” in Europe or on the boundary line between Europe and Asia in the twentieth century would be the rule of the revolutionary class, of the proletariat, which, supported by the peasant poor and taking advantage of the existing material basis for advancing to socialism, could not only provide all the great, ineradicable, unforgettable things provided by the Jacobins in the eighteenth century, but bring about a lasting world-wide victory for the working people.
It is natural for the bourgeoisie to hate Jacobinism. It is natural for the petty bourgeoisie to dread it. The class-conscious workers and working people generally put their trust in the transfer of power to the revolutionary, oppressed class for that is the essence of Jacobinism, the only way out of the present crisis, and the only remedy for economic dislocation and the war (1917).
Lenin was also clear on what that political approach involved:
Of course, the application of this principle in practice will sometimes give rise to disputes and misunderstandings; but only on the basis of this principle can all disputes and all misunderstandings be settled honourably for the Party. ... The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party (1906).
In shorthand terms, Leninism was Karl Marx + Robespierre.

Revolutionary Marxist Rosa Luxemburg famously disagreed with Lenin's approach to political organisation:
Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege. ...
Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc (1918).
Looking back on the history of Leninism, Rosa Luxemburg seems absolutely vindicated, prescient in her criticism of Lenin's approach to politics. 

Both correct
The arrest of Robespierre.
The problem is, this was a dispute where both disputants were correct. Yes, Lenin's approach led straight to the brutalising dictatorship and rule by Party-bureaucrats, so Rosa Luxemburg was correct.  But Lenin was also correct; the Jacobin model of totalist politics was (and remains) the only way to make revolutionary socialism operational.

Which makes the entire revolutionary socialism project deeply problematic. Given that revolutionary socialism has been reduced in Western capitalist countries to undergraduate parlour politics, a few academic fossils and some lingering tiny networks of activists without supporting masses to activate, that seems to be a widely held judgement about the lessons of history. 

One of the earliest obituaries on Lenin's project was delivered in July 1920 by former radical socialist Benito Mussolini:
Lenin is an artist who has worked men, as other artists have worked marble or metals. But men are harder than stone and less malleable than iron. There is no masterpiece. The artist has failed. The task was superior to his capacities.
Coming out of the same revolutionary socialist milieu as Lenin (they even both had been in exile in Switzerland; Mussolini as a draft-dodger from 1902-4: Lenin as a political exile 1903, 1904-5, 1907-8, 1913-1917), Mussolini was an informed and acute observer of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The collectivism of nation
The experience of the Great War convinced Mussolini that the collectivism of nation was more powerful than the collectivism of class. This led Mussolini to create Fascism, which was Mazzini + Ropespierre by way of Charles Maurras's "integral nationalism"; identifying nationalism with the power of the state. In Mussolini's words:
All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state (1928).
The citizen in the Fascist State is no longer a selfish individual who has the anti-social right of rebelling against any law of the Collectivity (1928).
If the 19th [century] was the century of the individual (liberalism means individualism), you may consider that this is the "collective" century, and therefore the century of the state (1932).
And by way also of Georges Sorel on violence as activism and ideology as energising myth. As Mussolini was quoted as saying:
I owe most to Georges Sorel. This master of syndicalism by his rough theories of revolutionary tactics has contributed most to form the discipline, energy and power of the fascist cohorts.
As Mussolini's project of Italian national greatness was a much more limited project than Lenin's, the death toll of Italian Fascism was a tiny fraction of that of Leninism.

Uncooperative nature
In the 1920 quote on Lenin's failure, Mussolini puts his finger directly on the problem of the revolutionary socialism project--to work, revolutionary socialism required human nature to be malleable in specific ways. For Leninism to work, human nature has to be malleable by Lenin's vanguard Party. Neither was true, hence Lenin's project failed in its own terms and, in so failing, fulfilled Rosa Luxemburg's predictions, becoming a vehicle for brutalising dictatorship and rule by party-bureaucrats, the nomenklatura.

In the case of North Korea, Leninism even became a vehicle for dynastic rule under the Kim dynasty. (We shall see if Cuba is also going to be a case of Leninist multigenerational dynasticism, depending on who succeeds Fidel Castro's brother Raul Castro.) There is nothing stopping the control of the mechanisms of totalist politics being captured by a particular family. The would-be transformers of human nature are as caught in its consistencies as is their project--hence what their project becomes. 

Failed reconciliation
That Lenin and Luxemburg were both right also, ironically, framed the end of the Soviet Union. Historian Stephen Kotkin, in his Armageddon Averted: the Soviet Collapse 1970-2000, argues that Gorbachev was both much the cleverest political operator in the Soviet Politburo and a sincere Leninist. Indeed, his actions make much more sense if we see Gorbachev as someone who wanted to reconcile Lenin with Luxemburg. That is, he wanted the transformational project of Lenin without the problems presciently analysed by Luxemburg.

It is possible that Gorbachev envisaged something like a Leninist "Deep State" on the Iranian model. That is, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) would continue to set the boundaries of political action, within which more freedom and openness would operate. If that was so, there was a series of basic problems for any such project.

The first was the burden of history. When Ayatollah Khomeini set up the Supreme Leader system, the Islamic Republic of Iran was a new state (in the sense of a new constitutional order), fresh out of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It had all the excitement of a new revolutionary project without any burden of past failure.

By contrast, that Gorbachev was trying to change so much was a massive signal that the CPSU had a legacy of failure. Why would anyone believe in its capacity to guide Soviet society when the entire enterprise of reform, of perestroika and glasnost, was an admission of failure? As Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out, the most dangerous time for a bad regime is when it attempts to reform:
The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediate predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform.
Not only is there the burden of past oppressions and failures--which the attempt to reform itself is an admission--but there is also the signalling effect between people, as Tocqueville also noted:
It is almost never when a state of things is the most detestable that it is smashed, but when, beginning to improve, it permits men to breathe, to reflect, to communicate their thoughts with each other, and to gauge by what they already have the extent of their rights and their grievances. The weight, although less heavy, seems then all the more unbearable.
Which steadily and increasingly became a problem for Gorbachev; particularly as national identities and grievances came to the fore. That national identities had far more enduring power than Soviet identity would have surprised Mussolini not at all. People simply did not believe in Leninism: at least not insofar as it was built around the vanguard role of the CPSU. Conversely, in Iran, Islam has continued to have the coordinating power of shared belief.

Loss of asabiyyah
After the coup attempt of August 1991, Gorbachev had a much more personal problem. The leaders of the coup were the people he had picked, and they had attempted to overthrow him. Nor could he take credit for the defeat of the coup. Boris Yeltsin, who could and did, mercilessly and publicly used that Gorbachev himself had appointed the coupists against him. Gorbachev's personal authority was fatally undermined, and with it any lingering notion of a Leninist "deep state" melted away.

Indeed, so weak had the power of Leninism as a coordinating belief system become, even the coup plotters themselves were pathetically unable to act effectively. As Rosa Luxemburg had predicted, the only "live" element left in Lenin's project was bureaucracy, and it turned out that bureaucratic self-interest alone simply could not provide the coordinating impetus needed in a crisis situation.

Leninism is a secular philosophy, promising transformation in this world. After 73 years of the CPSU's failure to achieve any such transformation, why would anyone believe in it or its motivating ideology? Even if their own position rested on that claim. (In some ways, especially so--at least in a crisis situation.)

Gorbachev might had believed, since it buttressed his authority, but it could no longer provide him with the necessary number of sufficiently dedicated cadres. Not least, because his policies were so overtly a departure from the past, that it became very unclear where he was leading people to.

Ibn Khaldun (Cairo).
To use the language of the first (and arguably greatest) of historical sociologists, ibn Khaldun, the asabiyyah of the Party-State elite had dissipated and so the regime crumbled. (A nice discussion of ibn Khaldun's concept is here.) Especially when Gorbachev's own policies allowed folk to publicly signal how much they did not believe, while propaganda was no longer signalling the strength (pdf) of the regime.

The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be able to use Shia Islam as coordinating belief for its necessary controlling cadre running the "Deep State". The contrast with "we are the end of History" Leninism is a rich irony for those familiar with modernisation theory.

A doomed project
But any project of trying to marry Lenin with Luxemburg was doomed. The project of social and human transformation requires such a concentration of social power that any attempt to bridge the gulf between those doing the transforming and those being transformed must fatally undermine the entire project. For if those being transformed have sufficient standing to have a serious say, how can the transformers possibly have the knowing authority to undertake the transformation? If mechanisms are created that give those being transformed as serious say, how can those doing the transformation have sufficient power to do so?

Which is why Lenin and Luxemburg were both right. Yes, that level of concentration of power is needed for the project to be attempted (Lenin) but doing so creates brutalising dictatorship where bureaucracy (the power of the Party-State apparatus) becomes the only "live" element (Luxemburg). So, you have to pick one. You either go with the Jacobin model as updated by Lenin and give up any notion of significant popular participation in politics. Or, you accept the human costs are too high and accept the primacy of popular participation in politics--the Social Democratic option. Which, given the limitations of command-and-control for economic coordination, means going down the capitalist road of market economics.

Though there is, in fact, a third option. You keep the political domination that totalist politics involves but give up the transformation project; accept the limitations of command-and-control for economic coordination and go down the capitalist road without popular participation in politics. The path that the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are on. Both are states with ruling Leninist parties presiding over market economies but retaining their political domination. A path where national greatness rather than social transformation becomes the central political project.* Hence contemporary China resembles the vision of Chiang Kai-shek far more than it does that of Mao Zedong. [See also.]

Mussolini would approve. He would also feel vindicated. For that is precisely how he built Fascism--accepting the totalist model of politics Lenin had updated but changing the political project. You might even call it the Third Position.

* Of course, Slobodan Milošević of Serbia also went down that path. Wasn't that fun.

[Cross posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Serfdom versus slavery

Slavery remains a live issue, as discussed in the Global Slavery Index. The Index uses the following operational definition of slavery:
Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion (p.11).
That is a definition of labour bondage, rather than slavery as such, but as all human bondage is an offence against people as moral agents, one can understand the attraction of slavery as catch-all term. Especially as the inaugural edition of the Index (conservatively) estimates that 30 million people are in such bondage world-wide.

The economic scholarship on slavery and serfdom usually starts with Evsey Domar’s classic article (scroll down), summarised here by Paul Krugman. See an updated version of Domar’s model. (And further.)  Economic discussions of the choice between slavery and serfdom tends to be somewhat unsatisfactory, as the key factor--whether the source population for the labour in bondage is local or imported--is rarely given the significance history suggests it should have. The American experience of mass multi-generational slavery, along with the myth of no slave smuggling, perhaps distorts perspectives.

Return to labour
Historically, labour bondage (from slavery through to serfdom and similar arrangements) occurred when the return to labour was sufficiently high that the policing costs of bondage were more than covered by the reduction in the cost of labour from imposing bondage compared to the cost of free labour. (The effects of coercion on productivity is a more complex issue.) Typically, this occurred due to either a drop in the population (e.g. the rise of the coloni in the Roman Empire after the Antonine plague and the plague of Cyprian) or to an expansion in land available for farming (e.g. after the advent of gunpowder weapons led to the retreat of the pastoralists in Eastern Europe). In these cases, the return to labour increased because it became relatively scarcer compared to land: to put it another way, labour's marginal productivity went up because there was more land per provider of labour. So coercion blocked labour's ability to get the full return therefrom.

The expansion of export markets (also a factor in the Eastern European en-serfments), so an increase in the demand for the products of labour, and development of gang (or other easily-supervised) production methods (increasing the output for a given level of coercion) could also encourage use of labour bondage. In the former case, increased demand for the product increased the return to labour. In the latter case low supervision costs increased the return to bondage.

Pre-industrial mining and cotton harvesting were both often done by slaves or other bonded labour. In both cases, the resource was unpleasant to gather but said gathering was easily supervised. Sugar harvesting (which was particularly easily supervised) was even more prone to use of slave labour.

So, effort-intensive (unpleasant but relatively simple) production was much more prone to bondage, particularly slavery. Care-intensive (more attention complex) production tended more towards serfdom or free labour; although an "open" slave system (i.e. freed slaves then integrate into the society) would allow care-intensive slavery--such as the labour market of (pdf) the Roman Empire. It would even permit slave agents if a lack of corporation law or equivalent made free-but-controlled agents problematic. In the words of (pdf) economic historian Stefano Fenoaltea:
Another of the principal consequences of the slave's legal incapacity is that the slave is legally an extension of his master, so that a sum paid to the slave of Titius is considered paid to Titius himself. Nowadays, this would matter little: legal intermediation by an agent is not difficult, and in any case most of our bills are paid not directly to individuals but to abstract legal persons (which in substantive terms are also intermediaries). In classical antiquity, on the other hand, both legal agency and abstract-legal persons were restricted to very special cases where they were recognized at all; but an effective substitute for the nonhuman person or the legal agent was found in the human nonperson, who was legally but his master's instrument. Slaves thus also had a specific advantage in the role of agents, and slave agents were common even where slaves were generally scarce (p.657). 
Economic historian Peter Temin makes a similar point (pdf):
As [Sir John] Hicks noted, slavery was the most common formal, legally enforceable long-term labor contract in the early Roman empire. A person with a long-term relation to a principal would be his or her most responsible representative. Slaves were more valuable than free men in that respect. Witness the frequent references to literate, skilled slave agents in the surviving sources (p.536).
Slave-serf spectrum
The difference between serfdom (in its various forms) and slavery is that a serf is bound to the land or workplace (the Soviet Union operated a system of workplace industrial serfdom from 1940 to 1956) while a slave is property. That distinction seems clear enough, except that (pre-revolutionary) Russian serfdom was perilously close to slavery in several senses--serfs were bound to owners more than land, and could be bought and sold (or, at least, the right to their labour could be). Forms of bondage have been historically so varied that the distinction between owning a person (slavery) and owning their labour services (serfdom) is not always very clear-cut.

Another difference between slaves and serfs is that serfs could legally own property, slaves could not (being, themselves, property). Russian serfs could own property, for example. Except that distinction is more de jure than complete. Slaves could have economic property rights (i.e. effective control over goods or attributes thereof), even if said property rights were not legally recognised or protected--otherwise slaves would not be able to buy their freedom, as some did. (The point also works in reverse: inmates of labour camps may not be legally slaves, but they functionally are.)

Both serfs and slaves could be born such. Indeed, serfs were typically born into serfdom. This was less true of slaves, who were often enslaved, as slave populations generally did not fully reproduce themselves. Roman slavery had significant slave breeding (pdf). Indeed, judging by the age data of slaves, it is possible that a significant proportion of Roman slaves purchased their freedom in part by raising children to replace them. There was also significant slave breeding in the Antebellum South, hence it received a relatively small proportion of enslaved Africans transported across the Atlantic, even including smuggling (mainly via Cuba).

That both systems had significant slave breeding was true despite Roman slavery being an "open" slave system (relatively high levels of manumission with ex-slaves being integrated into the wider society as full citizens and economic participants) and American slavery being a "closed" slave system (very little manumission and ex-slaves were not integrated into the wider society).

But it is highly doubtful either slave population was able to fully reproduce itself. The claim that the slave population of the Antebellum South was an exception to this principle seems to be based on ignoring or downplaying the (apparently considerable) smuggling of slaves.

That the family status of slaves had no standing, so they received little or no economic benefit in extra labour or provision for old age from raising children--remembering that children have to be not only brought to term, but then nurtured--militated against full internal reproduction of slave populations.

Serf populations never had that drawback. Serf populations had little difficulty reproducing themselves, having the normal economic incentives for raising children (extra labour and provision for old age) given that they could own property and their family status was fully recognised.*

Local or imported?
The clearest difference between serfdom and slavery is that serfs were local populations bound to the land, while slaves were (at least originally) imported. If the supply of bonded labour is local, that means:
(1) things have to be arranged so that the population continues to locally fully reproduce itself; and
(2) the costs of reducing said population to being property will be particularly high, due to the size and propinquity of the population. (This will include possible threat to the legal status of other members of that society.)**
Binding people to the land or workplace was a lot cheaper and safer than stripping them of all legal rights and standing--given that most of the advantage of bondage is gained simply by blocking the ability to offer their labour elsewhere. Which led to the further advantages of requiring significantly less ongoing policing while allowing said population to unproblematically locally reproduce itself. Thus, while debt slavery did occur (selling yourself or your children into slavery to pay a debt), debt bondage is more commonly a form of serfdom--due to reduced policing costs and much increased possibility of multi-generational labour services.

Conversely, if the supply of bonded labour is foreign or otherwise scattered:
(1) the process of enslaving will have already stripped them of rights and standing;
(2) the expectation of further imports will reduce any need to arrange for full local reproduction of the slave population; and
(3) the more tradable they are, the more the cost of more complete stripping of rights will be ameliorated. 
Policing costs will be higher, however, and the cost of the enslaving will be reflected in the purchase price. So slaves will have to be more productive than serfs to be profitable, reflecting the higher acquisition and enforcement costs. Which, in return, requires either extracting more output or doing so at lower cost, or both. (Use of slave labour to reduce the costs of oppression--as in the labour camps of totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union or North Korea--is a somewhat different case.)

Serfdom will therefore dominate slavery, as the policing costs of serfdom will be substantially lower and acquisition costs will be entirely contained within the return to the serfs, who will retain the normal reasons in farming societies to have children. So, the more use of serfdom (or its cognates), the less use of full slavery. Which is what we observe historically.

Since serfdom dominates slavery, slavery--particularly mass slavery--will typically occur when some effective constraint blocks the enserfing of local population. Such as a simple lack of such population; as in the Americas after the disease catastrophe of the Columbian exchange. (Though a form of serfdom was enacted while and if significant indigenous populations remained.) Or substantive political constraints--such as wanting poor locals to row warships or serve in the army, giving them the status and bargaining power to avoid bondage (classical Athens and Rome). The very notion of citizenship militates against enserfing.

Conversely, Sparta did not use mass slavery, as it already had an enserfed local population--the helots.  (It is notable that the coloni of the later Roman Empire evolved after Roman citizenship had become universal, so of much less moment, and the Roman Empire was on the defensive, so fewer slave imports.)

Imported bonded non-slave labour did occur--in the case of "blackbirding" and other indentured labour in the colonies. A little surprising, since the importation costs would at least partly replicate enslaving costs. But slavery being illegal would give space for use of imported "serfs". And importation costs may not fully equal enslaving costs, especially if lower policing costs also operate, given that these indentures were often entered into quite voluntarily, looking to a desired outcome (such as being paid to move to a society with improved income prospects).

Where the possibility of imported bonded-but-not-enslaved labour exists as an alternative to slavery, other factors may play a role. If there is a mode of production--such as gang-production--where the return to using slaves more than compensates for extra policing costs, then slavery will be favoured. Moreover, if the bonded labour is ethnically distinctive, that reduces policing (and psychic) costs of slavery. So, if physically distinct slaves are available, but physically distinct serfs or other bonded labour is not, slavery will also tend to be favoured (as the policing costs advantages of servitude over slavery is reduced). Thus, in most American colonies of European states, (African) slavery was comparatively favoured against (European) servitude.

Even so, indentured labour was imported into the more northerly British American colonies even while slavery was entirely legal and slaves were available. The key factor seems to have been the nature of production: indentured labour was preferred for care-intensive production (typical of the small farms and businesses of the northern colonies) while the balance of advantage shifted towards slavery when the expansion of gang-production methods made slavery more economic for various crops in the southern colonies.

The enserfment that did not happen
One of the historical puzzles about the use of labour bondage is the (re)enserfment that did not happen after the massive population loss of the Black Death (1346-1353). Here was a society which had had extensive labour bondage confronting a sudden labour scarcity (since lots of people had died, but the land and capital was still there). There was a clear increase in wages as a result of said labour scarcity. Yet the attempts to re-impose bondage failed.

Looking at the historical record, two elements seemed crucial:
  1. The landlord cartel was insufficiently coherent because there were too many alternative ways of deriving income from land.
  2. The crowns had become much less dependant on landlord military service, so lacked sufficient interest in enforcing such a landlord cartel (which is what mass enserfment essentially is).
A paper on the economics of labour coercion (pdf) suggests that my intuition was on the right track but not quite broad enough. The paper argues that effort and coercion are complements; that is more coercion means more production. But the paper also argues outside options are crucial, because that affects the alternatives available to coerced labour.  In the words of the paper:
Labor scarcity creates a labor demand effect: it increases the marginal product of workers in the coercive sector, and thus encourages employers to use greater coercion and extract higher effort from their workers. It also creates an outside option effect: it increases the outside option of the workers in the noncoercive sector, and reduces coercion because employers demand lower effort and use less coercion when workers have greater outside options. ... Whether the labor demand effect or the outside option effect dominates simply depends on whether the population change has a larger direct effect on the market price or the workers’ outside options (Pp587-8).
In post Black Death Western Europe, the paper argues that the relatively high degree of urbanisation increased the outside option effect, reducing the use of coercion. While, in Eastern Europe in the early modern period, the lack of urbanisation meant a minimal outside option effect, increasing the use of coercion.

Which is fine as far as it goes, but it was not merely urbanisation. Western Europe also had commercially more complex economies, which also increased the outside option effect. A commercial complexity that was in part a result of more extensive states, able to mediate and facilitate such complexity: a point which particularly applies with the comparison to Russia (which had much fewer officials per given number of population), where serfdom lasted longest.

As for my above point about what the crowns wanted, at the deepest level, it is the same point; that the societies had become sufficiently commercially complex also meant that armed forces were increasingly dominated by monetary taxes and payments independent of the return to landlord coercion. And it is enforcing (or not) the landlord cartel which is the key element. Not merely to block shifting between landlords but also to block alternative contracts (as the basis of mass bondage is that essentially the same conditions are imposed across controllers of labour), as both effects reduce outside options and make coercion more profitable.

Constraints and returns
So, slavery, particularly mass slavery, will occur when there some effective constraint blocks the enserfing of local population and the option of imported "serfs" is not suited to the mode of production, has insufficient advantage in policing costs or is otherwise not practical. For example, because passage is too risky to be attractive or contract enforcement is too problematic. A West African labourer had no capacity to contract with a potential American employer and, when slavery was legal, no protection against being enslaved on route. Conversely, moving from one part of the British Empire to another as indentured labour had much better contract enforcement possibilities.

Hence the slavery versus serfdom choice--in a situation where labour bondage is practical, and the return to bonded labour is positive--will be primarily a matter of the source of the population on which bondage is imposed. If the source population was local, serfdom (or some cognate) would be used. If the source population was foreign in origins, then (with the caveats noted above) slavery (i.e. being reduced to merely property, so more tradable) would be used to compensate for the increased acquisition costs, despite the increased policing costs of slavery over serfdom.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

* Slavery implied sexual bondage, as family status was not recognised; serfdom did not, as family status was recognised. This provides a particularly clear contrast between being property oneself and having one's labour services owned (in part or full). [Added footnote in response to a Facebook discussion.]
** As Yoram Barzel points out (pdf), this made slavery most problematic when it threatened the legal status of members of the domestic population. Unless, of course, such threat was the point--as in labour camp slavery. Modern servitude (amounting at times to slavery) among illegal immigrants operates precisely because they are isolated from the domestic population.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Frustrated status and bigotry

Bigotry (in the sense of prejudice-by-category) is a form of moral exclusion--one excludes some group from the moral consideration and standing given to other people. As I have noted before, bigotry is always and everywhere a moral claim--a claim about some category of people's moral status or standing. A claim not based on specific individual actions against others, but on either some alleged essential flaw they all share or some shared transgression against a conception of social order or human nature. (A classic formulation of such bigotry is Carl Schmitt's aphorism that not everything with a human face is human.)

There are three basic motivators for such moral exclusion.  One is social cartels--blocking the excluded group from social participation available to others; typically so as to stop the excluded group from competing for social goods or so as to derive some other (typically exploitive) benefit from said exclusion. The "cleanliness of the blood" laws of Christian Iberia blocking Jewish converts to Christianity from holding various positions or receiving various benefits were a classic example of the former. Jim Crow laws in Southern US States provided both the former and the latter, as it increased the ability to extract income from disenfranchised African-Americans.

Certifying not being of Jewish descent for the requisite number of generations.
Slavery is a particularly invidious form of social cartel, allowing the extraction of labour surplus from an entire category of people. Its effect on bigotry is more complex, depending somewhat on whether it is an "open" or a "closed" slavery system. In an "open" slave system, there are relatively high levels of manumission, with ex-slaves being integrated into the wider society as full citizens and economic participants; Ancient Rome ran an "open" slave system. There was some prejudice against freedmen (ex-slaves) but not their children. In a "closed" slave system there is very little manumission and ex-slaves were not integrated into the wider society: the Antebellum South ran a particularly intensely "closed" slave system. This both manifested and reinforced that slavery across a colour line is a powerful generator of bigotry.

The second motivator for moral exclusion is creating and maintaining the authority to exclude--what I call being "gatekeepers of righteousness". Priests and clerics are classic examples of such, though secular clerisies are hardly immune from either the temptation or the role.

Righteousness in this sense is a normative claim to override basic moral considerations. Deuteronomy 13 6:11 is a classic text of such righteousness:
If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known,  gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.
Frustrated status
The third motivator for moral exclusion is social status; a sense of superior status both generating, and generated by, said exclusion and so accruing to the non-excluded with little or no effort on their part. Thus slavery across a colour line is a powerful generator of bigotry precisely because it separates physically distinct people into such starkly distinct categories--"real" people and property. The more stark the felt status gap, the more the "insult of equality" potentially arises: that people can feel actively insulted in being treated as the equals of the excluded group, in being subject to the same rules and treatment as the despicable, or at least "obviously" lesser, them.

I have previously suggested that low status people are particularly drawn to the effortless virtue (which is effortless status) of bigotry. A better formulation would be frustrated status--that is, people whose functional status in their society is significantly lower than the status they believe they should have; the disjunct being a source of negative emotions, with the level of emotional intensity generated being the key factor.

After all, it is eminently possible for people to be of low status without investing in effortless virtue. Conversely, people of some (or even considerable) status in society can well experience intense status frustration if they believe such status is nevertheless significantly lower than the status due to them.

Note this is not a point about some status merely aspired to, but status that one feels one is, in some sense, entitled to. The effortless virtue, the effortless status, of bigotry can provide a substitute sense of status. Although, ironically, if those regarded as morally excluded are nevertheless socially successfully, that can set off, and intensify, a further spiral of negative emotions as the morally excluded group's success becomes even more of an insult to an aggrieved sense of status.

A question and answer on Razib Khan's gene expression blog is pertinent to the power of frustrated status. A commenter asked, regarding a documentary on escaping ISIS slaves:
…concerning ISIS, I just don’t get what makes people who have grown up in Western democracies join a movement whose members openly brag about having re-introduced slavery.
Razib Khan replied:
they’re in the country, but not of it. they feel marginalized. islamism provides a cultural exit strategy to being members of a society that can’t/won’t/isn’t able to absorb them or the way they insist on being (the second is key, because there are plenty of people of muslim background who are assimilating into european norms). a lot of the radicals of the late 19th century were from jewish backgrounds. they were outsiders, and millenarian political radicalism offered a way to make an end around the system.
Yes, quite. Particularly the way they insist on being point. One of the striking feature of the Islamic world, particularly of Middle Eastern Islam, particularly Arab Islam, is the continuing strength of various moral exclusions--Jew-hatred, misogyny, xenophobia of various forms, even anti-black racism. The last being (yet another) example of the poisonous legacy of slavery. Within the West, Muslim communities are epicentres of the upsurge in Jew-hatred.

While forming social cartels (reserving various social goods for male believers, for example) is something of a factor, most of the excluded groups are already so marginal that there is not much gain to be specifically had from such social cartelisation. Apart, that is, from gender-exclusion; but that perhaps says more to how systematic misogyny tends to be, rather that its comparative emotional power.

The authority to exclude is a much more lively factor. Islam is such a part of the public life in Muslim countries and communities, that Muslim clerics are both in a position to act as effective gatekeepers of righteousness and to have their social authority enhanced by doing so.

But it is frustrated status which has the real kick. Islam is easily read as saying that male believers are not merely entitled to be at the top of the human social pyramid, but mandated by God to so be; moreover, not merely mandated locally, but globally.

Clearly, they are not. Hence frustrated status. Which Islamic clerics can both generate and exploit. The problem with living in a global village is that some may decide (and clearly have) that they have a divine mandate to take over that global village--Allah being the sovereign of the universe and Sharia being His law, so applicable everywhere and to everyone. A status of local and global dominance that beckons, but is so patently not how things currently are.

Indeed, I would put frustrated status at the centre of understanding the violent pathologies within Islam, particularly within Middle Eastern Islam. Thus, the success of Israel--the Jewish state--becomes a cosmic insult, rubbing the noses of believers (particularly male believers) in how much they are not the top of the human social pyramid in their own region of the world. But so much of our globalised world conveys such a message about the contemporary world as a whole.

Much of the complaints about "Islamophobia" are in fact claims for a protected, indeed superior status, for Islam. Hence, as historian Bernard Lewis points out in his classic 1990 essay The Roots of Muslim Rage, many Muslims:
... demand for Islam a degree of legal protection which those countries no longer give to Christianity and have never given to Judaism. Nor, of course, did the governments of the countries of origin of these Muslim spokesmen ever accord such protection to religions other than their own. In their perception, there is no contradiction in these attitudes. The true faith, based on God's final revelation, must be protected from insult and abuse; other faiths, being either false or incomplete, have no right to any such protection.
As for the patterns of violence and massacre within the Middle East (and elsewhere), lashing out violently not merely assuages rage, it expresses on-the-spot dominance in the most visceral fashion. In the case of the revival of slavery, the appeal of slavery to such status-mongering is obvious. That is so even without the social cartel of slavery allowing for exploiting those stripped of most basic legal standing; and so stripped on righteousness grounds.

The current cycles of massacre are part of a larger pattern going back to the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s and directly connected to an ongoing sense of insult that non-believers could be considered legal, social and moral equals of believers; especially within Dar al-Islam.

Women signalling religious piety by wearing restrictive clothing that goes well beyond anything specifically mandated in Quran or hadiths appeals to, and reinforces, the sense of proper social order being the dominance of male believers.

The use of violence to police public space--and to do so globally, from the Charlie Hedbo killings to hacking to death Bangladeshi bloggers--is also a statement of "proper" dominance.

This is likely why the conveyer belt model of jihadi recruitment works at best weakly as a description of the path to jihadi recruitment. [Or not at all, really.] There are too many direct paths to the energising and viscerally dominating violence of jihadism; extending to its role as a pathway to eternal superior status in Paradise.

A civilisational trap
Islam has an interlocking series of problems. The medieval defeat of Aristotelianism within Islam, with the triumph of al Ghazali's critique, meant that mainstream Islam came to hold that revelation defines the ambit of the good, that there is no realm of morality beyond revelation. Hence the Islamic states being the only collection of states who felt compelled to issue their own version of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.

It is that much harder to argue for a secular public space if the very notion of moral principles not anchored in revelation is deemed to be against Islam; indeed, an offence against Islam--as in the case of the targeted Bangladeshi bloggers but extending to intellectuals, journalists and cartoonists through out Islam and beyond. As Bernard Lewis notes in The Roots of Muslim Rage:
The war against secularism is conscious and explicit, and there is by now a whole literature denouncing secularism as an evil neo-pagan force in the modern world and attributing it variously to the Jews, the West, and the United States.
The medieval defeat of Aristotelianism also meant that mainstream Islam accepted the view that there was no inherent causal structure to the universe, that everything we see is just the habits of God. When Muslims say "if God wills it" (or some similar formula) it is not merely a pious formula, it has an embedded metaphysical claim. In Wikipedia's useful summary of al-Ghazali's formulation, that:
There is no independent necessitation of change and becoming, other than what God has ordained. To posit an independent causality outside of God's knowledge and action is to deprive Him of true agency, and diminish his attribute of power. In his famous example, when fire and cotton are placed in contact, the cotton is burned not because of the heat of the fire, but through God's direct intervention
It is that much harder to sustain a notion of science, of secular knowledge, if all action in the universe is understood in such a theological fashion. Ideas have consequences.

As noted in my previous post, the state history of Islam militates against well developed habits and patterns of institutionalised bargaining: so Islamic politics has tended to fail to provide countervailing patterns. On the contrary, scapegoating "enemies of Islam" (most obviously, the "Zionist entity") has tended to be used to pander to, and reinforce, such patterns.

All of which leads to a pervasive sense of frustrated status--a sense of not having proper (even divinely mandated) social dominance--fuelling the politics of hate and violence. Egged on by Muslim clerics all too eager to claim the role of gatekeepers of righteousness. Such preaching extends, at worse, to the implicit or explicit condoning of violence but, even without that, rejects inclusive and egalitarian values which itself narrows the possibilities for social bargaining.

The dominant issues and patterns here are not Western policy, globalisation, the existence of Israel; it is the history and internal patterns of Islam. It there that the explanations of the continuing power of moral exclusions within Islam lie. As Bernard Lewis notes in The Roots of Muslim Rage:
The Muslim has suffered successive stages of defeat. The first was his loss of domination in the world, to the advancing power of Russia and the West. The second was the undermining of his authority in his own country, through an invasion of foreign ideas and laws and ways of life and sometimes even foreign rulers or settlers, and the enfranchisement of native non-Muslim elements. The third—the last straw—was the challenge to his mastery in his own house, from emancipated women and rebellious children. It was too much to endure, and the outbreak of rage against these alien, infidel, and incomprehensible forces that had subverted his dominance, disrupted his society, and finally violated the sanctuary of his home was inevitable. It was also natural that this rage should be directed primarily against the millennial enemy and should draw its strength from ancient beliefs and loyalties.
Gender dynamics are so much at the heart of current patterns within Islam, that feminists of Muslim heritage--writers such as Karima Bennoune (Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here) and Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Teheran)--are indispensable to understanding what is going on within Islam; both in Muslim countries and in Muslim communities.

Patterns specific to Islam
Regions outside Islam experienced Western colonialism, live in a predominantly capitalist global economy, have migrant communities within Western states; they do not manifest the specific homicidal pathologies that emerge out of Islam (including among converts to Islam). The narcissistic sense of divine entitlement that Islam is prone to generate; the sense of frustrated status such gives rise to; and the embrace of being highly differentiating gatekeepers of righteousness that so many Islamic clerics are so keen on, are key factors.*

Islam's history of states weakly integrated with the societies they rule, with very limited histories and institutions of social bargaining, has led to states which often fail to provide compensating social mechanisms while readily adopting modern techniques of social control and repression--repressive security states as modern substitute for the slave warrior states of the past.

Emerging from this fraught history neither has been, nor will be, an easy process: for Islam or the rest of us, their global neighbours. But pretending that the fundamental dynamics arise from anywhere other than within the religion and civilisation of Islam does not, to put it mildly, help.

* Palestine provides a microcosm of all this; particularly the ludicrous "right of return" whereby Palestinians--alone of all the myriad displaced peoples of the C20th--get to be hereditary refugees with claim to reside in the territory of someone else's sovereign state that somehow should be (in that one and only case) taken seriously. While Palestinians cling to this delusion (itself driven by a sense of entitled status) Israel can quite reasonably infer that no serious peace is possible, so it may as well continue to, slowly but steadily, grab what it can.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The hollow states of Islam

Reading Norman Davies's Vanished Kingdoms, it struck me how much Islamic states--across most of the history of Islam--resembled the fluid warlord states of Europe in the centuries immediately after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, but did not resemble the institutionally resilient Christian states of the later medieval period. These divergent paths came from the very different internal dynamics of Islamic and Christian states, particularly, the very different roles of law within the two civilisations.

Subjects but not participants
Once the Abbasid revolution (750) had broken the link between the Arab tribes and the Caliphate, by establishing the common status of all believers, Islamic states became very poorly linked to the subjects they ruled. Law was overwhelmingly the province of Islamic scholars, so Islamic states could not use law as an integrative mechanism. Sharia mandated the division of inheritance among heirs, which blocked the creation of substantive warrior aristocracies or powerful merchant families. Sharia did not recognise juristic persons, which blocked the creation of corporate bodies able to bargain with rulers. As law was overwhelmingly the province of Islamic scholars, but derived from the words and example of Muhammad, that meant there was no group of people who could sit down and change the law.

So Islamic rulers did not face powerful interest groups outside the state apparatus with whom they could bargain (or be forced to bargain) while what they could putatively bargain over was hugely attenuated. Thus Islam remained dominated by ruler-and-agents states where political processes and decision making were essentially entirely interior to the state apparatus.

Hence, until the late C19th, Islam never moved (with the exception of the Ottoman Empire, of which more below) beyond the fluid warlord states analogous to those of Christian Europe in the centuries immediately after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. For example, there was continuously a state in Egypt; the FatimidAyyubid and Mamluk states from the Fatimid conquest in 969 to the Ottoman conquest in 1517. But the ruling dynasties, their soldiers and warriors were all overwhelmingly (and continually) foreign. There was a state in Egypt, but there was no Egyptian state.

Which was the typical Islamic pattern, especially anywhere slave soldiers were used in significant numbers (mamluksghilmanjanissaries). But not only there. Thus, whenever the dominant Islamic state in Iberia collapsed, it would fracture into the small taifa states. There was none of the institutional resilience or continuity of a kingdom of England, or France or, for that matter, a kingdom of Castile or Aragon.

Which gave the Christian states a decisive and continuing advantage over the Muslim warlords, hence the Reconquista. But Christian rulers dealt with warrior aristocracies, continuing merchant families, legal persons, had states with specific laws and could bargain with all the former over the latter.  Of course the Christian states were much more resilient; they had far deeper institutional links with the societies they ruled.

Ottoman (partial) exception
The Ottomans were able to develop a state that balanced sipahi tax-collector mounted armoured warriors with royal sipahi household cavalry and Janissary slave soldiers. The Janissary corps was founded in 1383 and abolished in 1826. It was primarily recruited (until 1683) by the devşirme child-levy.

The Ottoman state was organised in its internal operations by Kanun (state law operating in the silences of Sharia). The combination meant that the Ottoman dynasty and its agents could organise a state large and durable enough to successfully compete with Christian states. So successfully, that the Ottoman Empire advanced steadily into Europe until the disastrous Battle of Vienna in 1683.

Especially by using ghazis on the borders to continually soften up Christian borderlands by raiding (including slave raiding) them. Once the population and revenue of the Christian borderlands had been degraded or driven away, invasion and incorporation into the Ottoman Empire would follow. Whereupon the ghazis moved to the new border and the cycle would repeat.

Which worked fine, until the Serene Republic of Venice and the Habsburg Monarchy recruited grenz Serb peasant militia to hold the border, the Military Frontier. After that, the superior institutional power of the Habsburg monarchy (and the Romanov monarchy) were able to continually push the Ottomans out of Europe. Eventually, even relatively minor European states could do so. Processes which essentially replicated the dynamics of the Iberian Reconquista, except that the Ottoman state never fractured.

Note that I am not claiming the Ottoman state was more or better institutionally engaged with its subjects than other Islamic states; merely that the Ottoman state apparatus itself was more capable and resilient than was normal for Islamic states. Indeed, a recent paper (pdf) found that being ruled by the Ottoman Empire after the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) has persistent (negative) effects today in higher rates of corruption and lower economic development.

Institutionally attenuated
All of which meant that Islam did not indigenously develop the institutionally resilient, social bargaining states of Christendom. Indeed, significant strands of Islamic thought reject the entire approach. In the words of the most prominent Salafi scholar of the C20th, Muhammad Nasir-ud-Din al-Albani (1914-1999):
Elections according to democracy are unlawful, and parliaments that do not govern in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunna [orally transmitted traditions of Muhammad], but rather on the basis of the majority’s arbitrariness, are tyrannical. Parliaments cannot be recognized and Muslims can neither seek nor cooperate to found them, for they contend (combat) God’s revelation. And they are a Western technique made by the Jews and the Christians, who cannot be legally emulated (p.37). 
It is harder to develop democracy when the entrenched habits of social bargaining are, at best, only weakly developed and significant strains of belief reject the entire enterprise. The point is not whether many Muslims support democracy--they do, which is precisely what horrifies and enrages the Salafi. The point is whether the social habits and institutional patterns exist to support the politics of broad social bargaining and how strongly.

Not very, which does much to explain the serial conflicts and tyrannies of the Middle East. Though the examples of Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia all suggest that Islam can get there, eventually.

ADDENDA: Not only was law not a mechanism that Islamic states could use to integrate their societies, it tended to work against such integration because the actions of rulers were often seen as against the letter or spirit of Sharia, of God's law. As the great Muslim thinker Ibn Khaldun wrote in The Muqaddinmah:
Royal authority … requires superiority and force, which express the wrathfulness and animality (of human nature). The decisions of the ruler will therefore, as a rule, deviate from what is right (p.154).
Lacking means to engage in compensating social bargaining, this tended to encourage withdrawal by pious Muslims from political life. Historian Daniel Pipes argues that the conflict between what Muslim rulers did and what Sharia rule was supposed to entail encouraged the development of slave warriors (pdf) by Muslim rulers, as they could not induce systematic loyalty from local Muslims. I would argue that the gulf between rulers and subjects had broader causes, but would agree that said gulf did encourage developing slave warriors: warriors whose scale of use, and status, were very much distinctive to Islam.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]