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Functional Requirements of Levantine Polities

If we start from the assumption that the western Nation-State ideal type as model, is the cause of current political dysfunctionalities, (Such as suicide bombing, Sectarian tensions, economic failures, paranoia, cultural irresponsibility, authoritarianism, domestic repression) or at least has not been functional in producing desired outcomes, what foundations would best service the functional requirements that we desire?

It is true that the ideal type of the state is not the only problem, the legacy of colonialism, imperialism, domination, economic structural subordination, and all sorts of external interventions have a large, perhaps the largest role to play in dysfunctions. But it is also true that the Sykes-Picot division of the region and the ideal of the strong state have also contributed. This is true for both Muslim and Secular activists and their imaginings of the ideal strong central state.

Now one we put this to one side and take it as given, what functions must a new political arrangement meet?

If we begin with the assumption that political units are meant to provide security, a shallow reading of Hobbes we will get one outcome.

Building on Locke we will focus on the maintenance of property rights.

A deeper reading of Hobbes however, will see that the Leviathan is not simply there to dominate and secure, but the central purpose of the Leviathan is the provision of Justice. The rule of law, the equitable treatment of all subjects based on clear criteria. That is the reduction of uncertainty. So security may be incidental to this, but in my opinion it is the ideal of justice that the Leviathan must meet as a functional requirement. Justice here for Hobbes meaning equitable treatment of all (except the sovereign) under a clear law.

Putting aside such things as freedom and liberty, in my opinion these are the functions that a succesful state must fulfil.

At base: Security from external direct invasion and indirect intervension. The creation of an inside and outside and the successful maintenance of this border. True that globalization makes this economically untenable, but this is an ideal function of self-determination, and to the extent that it increases self-determination it is more functional.

Security on the inside from the state itself. This is crucial and often forgotten, any state or political unit must ensure that those inside the state are themselves not subject to arbitrary action  by the state. And it is in this second dimension that Arab states have failed, even while succeeding at the first. This is perhaps a result of the historical primacy of colonialism as defining the political purpose of states.

Third: Providing the possibility  for development, if you like defined in terms of infant mortality, health, employment, education. This is a controversial one. Are these part of the functions of the state? Does a state need to provide these as well? Perhaps not, after all these are related more to levels of economic development than security.

Fourth: Establishing the non-arbitrary rule of law. This is crucial because it also links to security not just from the state, but from other citizens as well.  Maybe the rule of law will not be the form that a state takes, perhaps it is better to redefine this as the protection from other citizens, and it is this that Hobbes had foremost in his mind when he wrote of the Leviathan.

Arab states have successfully met the first and third of these requirements but failed at the second and had variable performance at the fourth. Any alternative to the nation-state model must meet these four functional requirements. Perhaps one can envision a non-territorial, non- mutually exclusive polity that can fulfill these requirements. It would be quite a thing to behold.

On the state as Justice provider: Ibn Khaldun defined Government as: “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself” Pretty good.

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