Friedrich Engels – A Glimpse

Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895) was one of the contemporaries of Karl Marx. Both worked in close association and are considered to be the fathers of Marxist theory. Engels came from a well off Prussian family. His father owned textile mills. His family raised him as a Christian yet he developed atheist ideas. More to the disappointment of his family, he showed no interest in family business; instead he published anonymous articles in Rheinische Zeitung – a newspaper then edited by Marx. Liked Marx, he also acquainted himself with Hegel and developed ties with Young Hegelians. For a short time, he also served in Prussian Army. He never married being against the institution of marriage.

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Max Weber: The Protestant Ethics & The Spirit of Capitalism

Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is undoubtedly his most acclaimed work published in 1905. It was not translated into English until 1930. In this book, Weber tried to provide an alternative narrative of emergence of capitalism which was totally different from his predecessor, Karl Marx. While Marx saw religion as just a tool of bourgeoisie to maintain the status quo, Weber placed it at the core of capitalism.

In this book, Weber tried to find a plausible rationale for the spread of capitalism in Western societies and its inhibition in the East. After observing the underlying patterns in Europe, he concluded that Protestantism was that idiosyncrasy that made it possible for the capitalism to flourish there. In his subsequent articles about Eastern societies like China, Weber argued that though these communities contained the elements necessary for the growth of capitalism like proper state, bureaucracy, open markets, intense commerce and so on yet a peculiar mindset was missing. West was simply lucky in this regards!

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Saint Simon: Intro

Saint Simon (1760 – 1825) was a nobleman by birth but renounced his title after the French revolution. He participated in the American Revolution and wrote actively on politics and society. For a short period of time, he indulged in business which he left after a feud with his partner. Then he studied physiology and surrounded himself with intellectuals and started developing his profound ideas. He was also the patron of Auguste Comte who worked as his secretary. Later on, both had a conflict which separated them. One can find similar ideas in their philosophy. As I see it, the goal of Saint Simon was set an adequate path for the advancement of industrialist society.

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Ibn Taymiyyah – State, Governance and Justice

Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328) was an Islamic legal scholar. Some people trace the roots of extremism to him but his image as a reformist is contains more truth. He lived through a time when Muslims were under direct invasion of Mongols and Crusaders. Baghdad had already been plundered and caliphate had been disintegrated in 1258. It was an era of socio-political chaos. Demise of caliphate had raised a number of doubts not only about the leadership but also about the Muslim identity itself. According to mainstream Sunnis: Ahl al-Sunna wa-l-Jama’a, it was the responsibility of community to continue to preserve Islam, even in case the Caliphate had disappeared. Ibn Taymiyyah’s systematic and thorough work, in which he tried to provide solutions to contemporary problems, emerged as a need of hour.

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The Political Thoery of Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was an outlier of his time. A statesman of Maliki rite, he spent his life in different city states of Northern Africa and Spain. He lived through the era of transition. Based on his observation of rise of fall of states, he came up with a general principle related to power and governance of a society. In his book Universal History (Kitab al-‘ibar), he formulated the concept of umran(civilization) based on madaniya and hadara (settled urban life) in contrast with badawa (rural life). Hadara is synonymous with tamaddun or way of organized life in a city (madina), just as polis. His “new science of history” addresses the dynamics within groups. A significant thing to notice is that his ideas were influenced by religious values of Islam and the concepts umma as well as jama’a hold great importance for him. However, he has also includes modern concepts like humanitas and citizenship. All in all, he was way ahead of his time yet remained ignored for centuries.

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Al-Farabi – A Political Theologian or Political Philosopher

Al-Farabi’s work, due to its extensive philosophical and religious nature – is not easy to comprehend. Scholars have contradicting opinion about what could be the nature of his political understanding. For intellectuals like Massimo Campanini, al-Farabi is a theologian and his political ideas are influenced by the religion to a greater extent. He perceives the former’s understanding about politics as political theology. Contrary to that Charles E. Butterworth comes up with a different point of view; for him al-Farabi is a political philosopher. The issue arises from the close interaction of political science, religion and philosophy in the works of al-Farabi. Though both authors are able to find a lot of commonalities about the concepts, they have a conflict about the source of his political theory. This essay will follow a linear pattern: first by explaining the common assumptions then presenting the viewpoints of authors and coming up with a personal conclusion/opinion.

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