stable state

Liberal presumptions re Egypt offer textbook examples of “logocentrism,” but in this world one book bounces against another.

William Partlett (@WPartlett) points to Mohamed Ibrahim’s offer of support for the proposed Egyptian Constitution: “yes for stability and sharia.” The “stability arg[ument] has worked throughout history,” says Partlett. Other observers concur, though with varying degrees of approval of what they deem the likely near-term course of Egyptian events.

The reason the “arg” has worked is that “achieving stability” and “forming a state” are two different expressions for the same thing. The words “stability” and “state” refer us to the Indo-European “sta-,” the phoneme in “stand,” “status,” “statement,” “structure,” and “strategy.” This deep etymology is a visit to the roots of Western and so-called Near Eastern languages that is simultaneously a visit to the roots of civilization, the historical form of the same essential process of “seeking the foundation of the state” ((…a seeking of the foundation of foundation and the legitimization of legitimacy)). The “sta-” will, for instance, re-appear in whatever next observations ((For that matter, the sta– re-appears in “for instance,” too.)) we might wish to make as to how different sides in the Egyptian debate under-st-and the st-ate, in the st-ruggle to con-st-ruct the st-atutes that would e-st-ablish and con-st-itute a st-able one.

These critical terms appear to be in flux for Egyptians and for ourselves observing Egypt: Such is the nature of “in-st-ability.” If everyone already recognized or was prepared to recognize the state in the same way, as states recognize a new state in international law, or according to the precepts of Western liberal democracy or according to the precepts of Islamist democracy, or according to some of the precepts of one or the other in some adequately intellectually as well as functionally st-able melange, there would be no instability, by definition: The st-ate would already be “con-st-ituted” in fact, and constitution-writing would be easy, if not a mere formality, or, to extend the lexical redundancies even further, all would understand “the state” in its actual “state” as “stably” “constituted” and “e-st-ablished.”

The stability of the state would be established, the establishment would be constituted, the status of the constituted establishment would be understood, and so on: The point of the word game is not to make an absurdity of Egyptian difficulties – since the decision on the state will directly affect the lives of millions as whatever new stability or Egyptian state of things emerges. The state is not just the government. The struggle is properly understood to be over the very possibilities, the shape down to the day to day experiences, critical decisions, greatest dangers and highest aspirations of life. That also means or should remind us that the “state” and the “stability” in question will far exceed, but also must precede, its merely written constitution.


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  1. No, it means nothing of the kind, and we’re not going back to the tradition of consultation as Bernard Lewis, described in Ottoman times, you agree that Sharia is the objective, ‘welcome to the party, pal,’

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