Functionalism and Stratification, Socio-Cultural Evolution and Revolution

Functionalism and Stratification, Socio-Cultural Evolution and Revolution

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9731-7.ch004
OnDemand PDF Download:
List Price: $37.50
10% Discount:-$3.75


In the previous chapter we argued that the conception of creatio ex nihilo is the determinant of hierarchy and stratification in Judaism and Christianity; Islam teaches that God created divisions as a way for human beings to recognize each other. The metaphysical origin of sociality and the reality of tribal and clan structure are reflected in the Islamic conception of community, gamaat; on a larger scale it is called ummah. Members in Islamic ummah are set apart from non-Muslims. This is dissimilar to the ancient Judaic racial and ethnic symbiosis which came to be known as the “chosen people,” an early manifestation of stratification in monotheistic religions. Among the Muslim scholars of the Middle Ages, Ibn Khaldun approached the objective foundations of sociality, attending to an implicit conception of stratification by appropriating detached observational methods to explain the rise and fall of dynasties. Principally, his work demonstrates the possibility of synthetically a posteriori, based on his personal experience and analytical a priori by which he asserted that the rise and fall are part of the definition of all dynasties. However, since Ibn Khaldun's day, our notion of the objects of structure and function of societies requires that we distinguish many variables in order to understand Islamic societies – particularly the way that their stratification systems are affected by globalization, or their transition toward, or their opposition to modernity. Using geometry metaphorically, it is true that we have departed from Euclidian theorems with the advent of various geometries. Yet Euclidian geometry still has many functions, a point that amplifies the intersections of both Euclidian and non-Euclidian geometries. Notwithstanding the various intersections among political, economic, religious, cultural and social matrices that provide multiple logics to understand the operations of societies, the Khaldunic notion of rise and fall has survived to this day.
Chapter Preview


The rise and fall of governments or states, as a more composite form of socio-political and economic institutions, are not minor socio-political events. By the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic defensive posture towards modernity manifested itself in an aggressive attitude or rejection of whatsoever things were un-Islamic. This posture was fed by recourse to Sunni jurisprudence and nostalgia to return to the pristine Islamic caliphate. From 1500 B.C. forward, once the Islamic societies’ assets of rigorous learning and scientific inquiry that relied on power of intellect as their foundation were depleted, liabilities germinated.

Whereas change from monarchical systems was happening in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, the Iranian case led to the emergence of various theories, ranging from Marxian, to conspiracy, to liberal, to interpret and explain the changes. The socio-cultural and political change in Iran indicates the extent to which emotionalism and intuitionism took over on one hand and on the other hand directed intellectuals and academics to reconsider the power of religion for social change, an idea that Marx obfuscated but was corrected later on by Max Weber’s attention to the contribution of religion to social change, its siding with the state or its functioning when outside of the political or economic order. It is helpful to consider religious movement as it took place in Iran in contrast to the American experience of the rise of the religious right and its desire to establish theocracy. In American religious history, the religious right movement for homogenous theocracy dates back to the Puritans who tried to impose their vision of moral order on all society in 17th-century in Massachusetts. The Puritans were frightened by pluralism as were the Protestants of the 19th century in the face of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Italy. America, as Balmer noted, has been receptive to religion, not because the government has imposed religious faith or practice on its citizens. Instead, religion has flourished in America because religious belief and expression have been voluntary, not compulsory. We are religious people precisely because we have recognized the rights of our citizens to be religious in a different way from us, or even not to be religious at all. When religion identifies too closely with the state, Balmer suggests, it becomes complacent and ossified, and efforts to coerce piety or to proscribe certain behavior in the interest of moral conformity are unavailing (Balmer, 2006). What Weber carefully noticed about Protestantism and capitalism was that the connection was contributory, not a revolutionary one, and in America religious zeal and its emotional concomitants did not turn to social change to strike down socio-political stratification as it happened in Iran. The new regime co-opted a zealous generation of young and middle-age Iranians to structure a revolutionary guard in parallel with other military wings to function as safeguarding the Islamic Republic in its infancy. The leadership, to eviscerate the threat of future ossification of revolutionary zeal, encroachment of pluralism by an Islam without clergy, as well fear of external challenge from the West, particularly the U.S., formed a revolutionary guard side by side of the national army.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: