Sunday, June 3, 2007

Learning from 'his own words': Baruch Kimmerling

From Haaretz:
By Yitzhak Laor
In the conclusion to his book The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society and the Military (University of California Press, 2001), Baruch Kimmerling writes: 'To understand what is happening in the Middle East today, it is necessary to note the existence of a number of social and political limits to Israeli democracy, which paradoxically also serve, by reason of their multiplicity, to present a sort of pluralist facade and thus provide the Israeli state with a veneer of democratic legitimacy.' Kimmerling notes the five limits of Israeli democracy: Jewish law (which the state has embraced); the limitation of Jewish female citizenship (which includes discrimination even against Ashkenazi Jewish women); the limitation of Israeli citizenship (that is, discrimination against Israel's Arabs); the ethnic limitation (that is, Israel's Ashkenazi hegemony); and the limitation of the Israeli control system (namely, the occupation). ...

But what does the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory even mean, after 40 years of wild, unbounded rule, whose defenders like to say that it is "more enlightened than any other occupation," forgetting that this "enlightened" quality has yet to be examined from the Palestinian side of the boot and failing to note that no other occupation in modern history lasted this long? What is it precisely, this 40-year occupation, what is it in historical or sociological terms? ...

Here, for example, we can learn something about Kimmerling's effort and courage; not because he defined himself as being one thing or another, and not because his model of democracy was a state for all of its citizens, in the American style, but especially because he insisted on toppling the ideological house of cards that his fellow Israeli sociologists, those residing in the offices along the same hallway, had built and even took pride in.

What about Weber?

The pattern was provided by the enterprise of Shmuel Eisenstadt, because of the way he undertook to be part of the state's projects, without factoring in that a state, any state, is primarily a control mechanism of the elites. Is it possible to write sociology as though Max Weber never wrote what he wrote, as though Emile Durkheim never studied what he studied? We can't, unless we are the exception. That was the scientific effort Kimmerling made in his sociology: to hold us up to the general rule.

No comments: