Across the Bay

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Juan Cole's Social Protest

So who's more prone to terrorism and violence, people who are well off or poor people? Well if you're Juan Cole everything is flexible.

Cole is at his absolute funniest when he tries to project academic seriousness. And, once again, he does not fail to deliver. This time, it's a hysterical rant against Martin Kramer over a talk that Kramer recently gave.

After arguing that Kramer was a Nazi, a scientific racist and an advocate of genocide, Cole puts on his academic robe and belittles Kramer for his lack of depth in the "social sciences," (when in fact, Kramer relies on mainstream "social scientists" and ideas; maybe Cole thinks Alan Richards [pdf] also lacks that "depth") submitting the following dictum:

"Studies of groups that deploy violence against civilians for political purposes show that they are characterized by higher than average education and income, which correlate with smaller family size."

Needless to say, as with the rest of the post, this has nothing to do with what Kramer was actually talking about. However, I found that quote rather curious in that it struck me as undermining everything Cole and his ilk have been saying for years. For instance, wasn't Shiite "radicalization" supposedly a product of socio-economic deprivation?

To answer that question I went straight to the source. In 1986, Cole edited a book with Nikki Keddie entitled Shi'ism and Social Protest. In the introduction of the book, Cole and Keddie wrote:

The differential impact of capitalism, or of modernization, on various groups and classes, usually involving growing gaps in income distribution and life-styles, often brings forth protest, especially in a context of rapid social change. ... Similarly, economic development in Iraq and Lebanon did not proportionately benefit Shi'is, who remained predominantly proletarians and subproletarians or peasants. (Pp. 12-13.)

Then, the following corresponding remark was made about this "impact of modernization":

Fundamentalism and Khomeinism seem stronger in places that have undergone disruptive modernization. (P. 22)

So the "impact of modernization" led to "growing gaps in income distribution." etc., that "did not benefit Shi'is," which brought forth "social protest," and it was in this "social context" that "fundamentalism and Khomeinism" seemed "stronger."

I don't know about you, but it doesn't quite add up with Cole ca. February 2010: "Studies of groups that deploy violence against civilians for political purposes show that they are characterized by higher than average education and income, which correlate with smaller family size."

It does, however, enhance the overall comedic value of the post and of Juan Cole in general. But it creates a dilemma: which is more hilarious? Juan Cole blogger extraordinaire and El Presidente of the "global Americana institute," or Juan Cole the academic (whose bitterness that Kramer is somehow affiliated with Harvard while he was denied a position at Yale is quite palpable in the post)? It's a tough call. Either way, both characters offer the consistent delirious derangement that makes Cole such an endless source of entertainment if one actually had time to kill.