07 August 2004

Political Clans in Central Asia (and the U.S.)

The Argus, which anyone interested in Central Asia should read regularly, has a post on the Clan system in Central Asia: threat or opportunity?
I think it is impossible to build civil and democratic societies in Central Asia without taking into account this informal, but decisive paradigm of central Asian politics. My idea is that the existing clans are the only forces capable to create opposition, which is the basis for any further democratic change.

However, this political confrontation between clans should remain peaceful and constructive, or else, it can lead to catastrophic results, like the civil war in Tajikistan, which was, basically, the result of competition between Leninabad-Kulyab alliance against Pamiri-Garm group.

In any case, what I am absolutely sure of is that any political change in central Asia in the foreseeable future will be fashioned and led by the dynamics between and within the clans.
Noting that many Americans in Central Asia tend to regard the role of clans as detrimental, a commenter reminds us of the role of political clans in the U.S.: the Kennedy clan from Massachusetts, the Bush clan from Connecticut and Texas, and the Daley clan in Chicago. And what about the Roosevelts of New York and the Rockefellers of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, and Arkansas?

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Emeritus Stephen Hess wrote on this topic before the 1978 election, and things haven't got any better since then.
In Minnesota, the son of Hubert H. Humphrey is opposing the son of Orville Freeman for a Democratic congressional nomination. In Virginia, the son-in-law of Lyndon B. Johnson has just been sworn in as lieutenant governor. Last fall in New York City a third-generation Robert F. Wagner was on the ballot....

We seem to be surrounded by the scions of great political families. A second Edmund G. Brown is governor of California. There is a third Rockefeller governor, this time in West Virginia. The acting governor of Maryland, Blair Lee, is the 21st member of his family to have held elective office in America since a Lee entered the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1647.

The U.S. Senate has a Stevenson of Illinois, a Long of Louisiana, a Kennedy of Massachusetts, a Byrd of Virginia, a Talmadge of Georgia.

The membership of the U.S. House of Representatives includes another Hamilton Fish of New York, another Albert Gore of Tennessee, another Clarence Brown of Ohio, another John Dingell of Michigan, another Paul Rogers of Florida. There is also a Kentucky Breckinridge, a Virginia Satterfield, a Dodd from Connecticut, and, of course, a Long of Louisiana.

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