År 2011 kan vi skönja att Förenta Nationernas krig (genom NATO) i Afganistan drar mot sitt slut.

Interventionen var ett misstag från början som hade kunnat undvikas om tidens stormän och FNs säkerhetsråd haft bättre kunskap om hur de samhällstyper som sociologer i över hundra år i Ferdinand Tönnis efterföljd kallat Gemeinschaft och Gesellschaft.  

I min bok The Many-Splendorded Society: An Edifice of Symbols (sid 152-155 enligt paginering i andra upplagan) sökte jag förklara sammanhangen. Efter terroistnätverkets al Qaeda's attack på World Trade Center och Pentagon den 11 september 2001 utlöste NATO för första gången sitt kollektiva stödfördrag, inte med de europeiska medlemmarna som offer för angrepp, utan själva USA. Det förutsatte att USA var i krig och kunde åberopa FN-stagans rätt ill självförsvar. Kriget som FN santionerade ägde rum i Afganistan och var en fas i ett inbördeskrig mellan Gemeinschaft och Gesellschaft i denna stat. Talibanerna och deras inbjudna gästarmé, al Qaeda, stred för Gemeischaft och hade vid denna tidpunkt nått kontroll över huvudstaden och börjat nedmontera dess Gesellschaft. Den utländska Interventionen befriade Kabul, men inbördeskriget fortsatte.   

Här är min historiska parallel:

Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft in Civil Wars

We may pick an illustration of the contrast between Gemeinschaft (City Life) and Gesellschaft (Folk Life) from seventeenth century England prior to the Glorious Revolution. In those days, poets and preachers and authors of gossipy newsletters about the goings-on at the Court and in the big City contrasted these high society values with those of the healthy Country. This is an essential background to the English Revolution, a civil war. No one has described this context better than Lawrence Stone, and let us cite him in full:

"The Country is firstly an ideal. It is that vision of rustic arcadia that goes back to the Roman classics and which fell on the highly receptive ears of the newly educated gentlemen of England who had studied Virgil's Georgics at Oxford or Cambridge. It was a vision of environmental superiority over the City; the Country was peaceful and clean, a place of grass and trees and birds, the City was ugly and dirty and noisy, a place of clattering carts and coaches, coal dust and smog, and piles of human excrement. It was also a vision of moral superiority over the Court; the Country was virtuous, the Court wicked; the Country was thrifty, the Court extravagant; the Country was honest, the Court corrupt; the Country was chaste and heterosexual, the Court promiscuous and homosexual; the Country was sober, the Court drunken; the Country was nationalist, the Court xenophile; the Country was healthy, the Court diseased; the Country was outspoken, the Court sycophantic; the Country was the defender of old ways and old liberties, the Court the promoter of administrative novelties and new tyrannical practices; the Country was solidly Protestant, even Puritan, the Court was deeply tainted by popish leanings.

Secondly, the Country is a culture and a style of life, again defined and much by what it is not as by what it is. As its name implies, it stood for rural residence in a country house, as opposed to living in rented lodgings in London; for the assumption by the owner of paternalist and patriarchal responsibilities as employer of domestic labour, dispenser of charity, landlord of tenants, and member of the bench of justices. All this was contrasted with the egocentric, hedonist, carefree existence of the man-about-town. The Country also stood for an experience of the world confined to the shires of England, as opposed to the sophistication bred of the Grand Tour through France and Italy; for the maintenance of open hospitality for all, as opposed to the offering of luxurious private dinner parties in the City; for a highly conservative taste in Jacobethan architecture, as opposed the new-fangled classicism of Inigo Jones; for a highly conservative taste in portrait-painting, as opposed to the courtly continental innovations of Van Dyke; for a highly conservative taste in clothes, as opposed to the dizzily changing fashions of the beau monde at Court. By the early seventeenth century England was experiencing all the tensions created by the development within a single society of two distinct cultures, cultures that were reflected in ideals, religion, art, literature, the theatre, dress, deportment and way of life."  (Stone 1986, 105-106).

In the case of England, there was a genuine religious struggle between Catholics, favored by the King who plotted with Catholic continental powers, and the activist Protestants, who were dead set against a return to the regiment of the Pope. There was also an economic divide between food producers and consumers. There was a divide between an established landed aristocracy and a nouveau riche bourgeoisie whose wealth depended on trade and manufacture. All these divisions overlapped with folk life and city life. A civil war has many causes; the cleavage between a rural Gemeinschaft and an urban Gesellschaft is not normally by itself a sufficient cause to take to arms, but it usually sets the battle line.

What is billed as a straight class struggle is often also a struggle between a rural Gemeinschaft and an urban Gesellschaft. Even an explicit Communist revolution may have elements of Tönnies, in addition to the influences of Marx. Chairman Mao’s Long March and Revolution in China were a revolt by farmers, not primarily driven by industrial workers.

At the time of this writing, those who insist on democratic elections with majority rule in China are, in effect, asking for the farmers to come back to govern, as they did in Mao’s days. It is true that the urban population of China in the first decade of the twenty-first century had risen to be of the same size as the rural one, but it takes some time before non-farmers constitutes a comfortable majority in China with political preferences of city life. After another decade or two, however, the modern Gesellschaft of China may comfortably face a multi-party election that gives the power to the majority.

With a historical perspective, wars were rare at in the first decade of the new millennium. A war in Afghanistan is one of the most publicized and a complex one. As far as I can tell, at bottom this conflict is a civil war between clans living in Gemeinschafts and clans living in Gesellschafts. The former, the Taliban, had provided training bases for the Islamic terrorist network, al Qaeda, that destroyed The World Trade Center in New York. The operation to destroy the al Qaeda bases for terrorists was given the dimensions of a full scale "war" by President George W. Bush. If the British Prime Minister Tony Blair had remembered the history of the English civil war, Britain might not have joined the Afghan civil war, but been content to assist the CIA in the destruction of the al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.

A "police-type military raid" hitting the bases of a terrorist network was not a part of the repetoir of the Security Council of the United Nations, but it could have been made so in a calmer climate of opinion than 7/11. The Security Council  endorsed military intervention against al Qaeda and their hosts the Taliban as a "war." According to the UN charter, this is to call all member states to join in the war effort against the Taliban. I am not sure that the Council would have voted this way if it had realized that the entire United Nation thus became allied with one side in one of the numerous small civil wars in the world between a rural Gemeinschaft and an urban Gesellschaft.

The Security Council apparently did not see the many signs that the Afghan events were part of a larger pattern of Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft conflicts, well known in social science and history. On the Asian scene, a memorable rural-urban confrontation had taken place in Vietnam leading to the defeat of the US backed cosmopolitan Saigon. Cambodia still lived in the aftermath of the Pol Pot regime that emptied the cities and sent the urban population in forced marches to carry out rural projects. In Thailand a rural-urban confrontation had battle lines of demonstrators in Bangkok at the same time that the Council deliberated about Afghanistan.

© 2010 Hans L Zetterberg


Stone, Lawrence. The Causes of the English Revolution 1529-1642. London: Ark Paperbacks, 1986.
Tönnies, Ferdinand. Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft. Abhandllung des Kommunismus und des Sozialismus als empirische Kulturformen. (Translated by Charles P. Loomis as Community and Association. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1957. Reprinted 2007 by Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ with an introduction by John Samples.). Leipzig: O. R. Reisland, 1887.
Zetterberg, Hans L. The Many-Splendored Society: An Edifice of Symbols. Vol. 2 of 7 planned vols. Charleston SC.: POD, CreateSpace, 2009.