LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Understanding clan-based cultures is critical to the survival of modern democracies, says a legal historian who has won the 2015 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Rutgers University law professor Mark S. Weiner earned the prize for ideas set forth in his 2013 book, “The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom.”
Clans, societies based on kinship, have existed throughout history. Often found in nations with weak governments, they exist today in many predominately Muslim countries, including those in the wake of Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
Because these groups developed their values from tribal principles, they place collective strength above personal freedom – a clash that puts them in tension with liberal societies and causes them to resist “reform” by outside forces, Weiner says.
If clans and liberal societies are ever to share common ground, he argues, they first need to understand one another’s legal and political traditions.
“Weiner offers a highly original explanation for why clan-based groups and democracies see personal freedom so differently, and he does a good job of explaining why it’s important to maintain a strong liberal state to preserve liberty,” said award director Charles Ziegler.
Weiner, the Sidney I. Reitman Scholar at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, began work on his award-winning book while a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Akureyi, Iceland, in 2009.
Five Grawemeyer Award winners are being named this week. The university presents the prizes annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education and gives a religion prize jointly with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
This year’s awards are $100,000 each.