Millet systems are stable (relatively)

Comment below:

Furthermore, Millet systems are extremely unstable, to say the least. There being a reason there’s no longer any Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires.

I take a different lesson. The Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungary (if you include its de facto predecessor the Hapsburg Empire in its longevity) were extremely stable. Their institutional lives extended for ~500 years (lopping off the initial periods when both state systems were compact). The American system is only a few decades over 200, and it is has the longest continuous history as a liberal democracy in the world today.

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9 Responses to Millet systems are stable (relatively)

  1. Polichinello says:

    Well, they’re stable as long as the top dog is so over the top that the millets won’t even bother to rebel. Once you get to parity, or even close to it, the centripetal forces holding the whole thing together fatally weaken, and it all flies apart. Indeed, putting the whole thing together can be pretty messy, too.

  2. David Hume says:

    #1, three points

    – the habsburg/austro-hungarian case illustrates the power of collective mobilization. german cultural hegemony was viable because they were the advanced civilization of emulation in central europe. kind of like persians in much of the turkic world. the main ethnic group who disputed this were the magyars, who had their own national identity, often tied to a reformed protestant affiliation. the magyars were finally placated with the rise of a ‘dual monarchy’ where the austrians and hungarians divided the empire into explicit rather than implicit zones of hegemony.

    – modern post-french revolutionary nationalism sent this system collapsing. but even after the revolutions of 1848 the system managed to continue for decades.

    – the fact that there’s not a dichotomy, but a graded system of subordination, seems to maintain stability. the hungarians and bohemians were subordinate to the germans, especially the later, but they were certainly above the hierarchy from the slovaks and south slavs. one can make a similar case with greeks vis-a-vis other christian orthodox groups in the balkans.

  3. JackC says:

    The Ottoman and Hapsburg Empires held together until the Age of Nationalism tore them apart by politicizing the masses and subverting loyalty to the dynasties.

    Multiculturalism is itself an ideology of sub-state nationalism.

    In other words, they were stable under conditions that no longer exist.

  4. David Hume says:

    In other words, they were stable under conditions that no longer exist.

    millets will be sub-national within nation-states instead of national within imperial entities. the structure is the same, the scale different.

    but you’re probably wrong about the conditions no longer existing. there is a movement of european muslims based out of the netherlands to become recognized as a europoean ethnicity within the EU framework. so that’s probably how millets would play out in the EU super-state….

  5. JackC says:

    I don’t understand how your example trumps the large number of multinational states and empires that have disintegrated into rump ethnic or religious states over the past century. Due to popular appeal, the overall movement’s been toward smaller states, not multinational systems. Even given more influence over their own communities to counteract the appeal of ethnic or religious nationalism, peoples have consistently come to the conclusion that the logical end is their own state. I say this as someone who does not personally believe in ethnic nationalism.

    I think the EU itself is a bad example to use because the chances of it existing in its current form over the next few decades are low. And that’s though even now it’s barely a state as we understand it, being unable to coordinate, for example, foreign policy in any coherent manner. Its leaders, like ours, have great lofty ambition but it’s likely to fail in the face of local/national divisions nonetheless. It’s likely just a matter of when and how.

  6. David Hume says:

    Due to popular appeal, the overall movement’s been toward smaller states, not multinational systems.

    i’d like to see some social science data on this. i don’t think this comports to the historical data. e.g., the collapse of german and italian states into nation-states was a scale upward. the centralization of france, the nationalization of borders in southeast asia, the crushing of inner asian tribes between the russian and manchu empires. multi-national systems like that of the habsburgs and ottomans were actually very loose systems of governance. so the EU might be a better analogy than not.

  7. Maju says:

    What was stable before 1789 does not matter since then. We are in a wholly new era. Defending the Ottoman system today is like defending the Hadza lifestyle, which has been stable for much longer than all the Ottoman and Habsburg empires together: it is the typical conservative/reactionary bad custom of grabbing a burning nail instead of facing reality as the rapid stream of change it is under Capitalism.

  8. JackC says:

    If you want a large x-scale study, I can’t give it to you. However, just take a quick survey.

    Both the German and Italian states were smaller than the Habsburg Empire and (going back) the multinational Roman Empire. The current German state is itself a rump of the German Empire. The Habsburg Empire’s experience in the 19th century was a long retreat to self-government on cultural and other matters on the part of the central dynasty to the Hungarians, Slavs and other nationalities. The Dual Monarchy was a way to get around this by buying at least one of the minorities into the system over the others.

    The Ottoman Empire’s experience is a little different because so much of its identity was based on Islam. As a result, it’s fragmentation was into what were in effect Muslim warlords or local dynasties. As a result, by the 19th century areas such as Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, and increasingly the Arabian peninsula were no longer under its control. Those areas that weren’t majority Muslim, such as in the Balkans, were in constant revolt until they gradually attained their independence (Greece, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgarian…) from guerilla warfare and foreign intervention. Non-muslim minorities in Muslim lands (Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Greeks) have obviously been either exterminated or are kept under rule by force. Since then, the Muslims themselves have divided themselves into individual states along invented / pseudo real nationalities, with others (i.e. Kurds, Berbers) also kept in line at least temporarily through force). The same factors which prevented the uber-nationality “pan-Arabism” from gaining any real traction. Under the surface, as we’ve seen, they are fragmented even further into local tribalisms.

    Yugoslavia’s a little different because everything seemed to be under the rug until it all exploded post-Tito. But today the Balkans as a whole are a byword for sub-state tensions and instability. The Russian Empire and then Soviet Union broke apart largely due to nationalist agitation, helped by the leadership’s and Russian people’s growing disinclination / inability to hold it together by force. Czechoslovakia obvious divorced, albeit peacefully, under similar circumstances. Most of the other Eastern/Central European states were “rationalized” into ethnic or ethnic-religious states in the 20th century due to forced population transfers and border re-writes. Even in the West, you had/have nationalist agitation in British occupied Ireland, Basque, and today, in Belgium.

    There’s also the disintegration after World War II of the large multinational Western European Empires (Britain, France, Portugal) in the face of nationalism in Asia and Africa. Today, Africa’s usually little more than a collection of competing tribes with flags, let alone full states. Sometimes its done with votes, sometimes it’s done with guns. Either way they aren’t stable. Latin America’s much less ethnically diverse (basically indigenous and Spanish), but even here Bolivarism and other attempts to create larger entities have faltered due to nationalism and local allegiances.

  9. JackC says:

    Sorry for the sort of rambling/stream of consciousness form of that last post, but I’m typing all of that up before work. 😉

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