Society, State, and Urbanism: Ibn Khaldun’s Sociological Thought probes the nature, scope, and methods of ʿilm al-ʿumrān, the new science of human social organization, as it is developed in Ibn Khaldun’s 14th-century masterpiece, the Muqaddimah. It explores his ideas and observations on society, culture, socialization, social control, the state, asabiyah (social solidarity), history as a cyclical movement, urbanization, and the typology of badawa (primitive life) and hadara (civilized life or urbanism).
Through a comparative perspective, this study illustrates that Khaldun’s ideas about society have conceptually preceded those of Machiavelli, Vico, and Turgot, as well as those of Montesquieu, Comte, Durkheim, Gumplowicz, Spengler, Tonnies, and even Marx. Society, State, and Urbanism demonstrate that Ibn Khaldun’s thought is relevant to contemporary sociological theory and that his very language differs little from that of classical and modern sociologists.
Society, State, and Urbanism: Ibn Khaldun’s Sociological Thought does not indiscriminately praise everything Ibn Khaldun wrote in his Muqaddimah, nor does it criticize his whole work in a few dogmatic statements. Furthermore, it refrains from assigning any idea to him that is not found in his work; such activity is unethical and unprofessional. This study endeavors to present and evaluate Ibn Khaldun’s ideas objectively. To quote him: “Little effort is being made to get at the truth … No one can stand up against the authority of truth, and the evil of falsehood is to be fought.”
Several writers believe that Ibn Khaldun was the first to lay down the foundation of what we call sociology, and accordingly, he is “the first sociologist” and “the father of sociology.” However, none of these writers presented a detailed explanation to convince their readers of Ibn Khaldun’s contributions. A detailed, comprehensive, and documented study is needed. Hopefully, this treatise will satisfy that need; and by emphasizing the sociological perspective of this Arab thinker’s contributions, the challenges and rewards that can accompany such a work will be realized.
The arguments presented herein are based on two points: (1) Ibn Khaldun himself realized that he had established a new science; and (2) large portions of his contributions are relevant today, and his very language differs little from that of classical and modern sociologists. That is, the link between Ibn Khaldun and other social thinkers is primarily a conceptual, rather than a historical, one.
Admittedly, some of the data in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah are not related to his new science. The same is true of Comte’s Positive Philosophy, which contains large sections unrelated to sociology. Furthermore, because Ibn Khaldun’s work represents the writing style of his era, the author had to reassemble his contributions from bits here and there in his Muqaddimah.
Arguably, Ibn Khaldun belongs to the fourteenth century and, hence, should not be studied in the light of “modern” thought. In this work, Ibn Khaldun is seen against his medieval background, and accordingly, some of his generalizations are not applicable today. However, this should not prevent one from selecting those segments of his work that currently appear relevant, and that can be compared with “modern” and recent thought. In this case, neither are Ibn Khaldun’s ideas exaggerated nor are modern writings belittled. One major task of the sociologist is to identify the similarities in different events at different times. Through this approach, one can arrive at verifiable information that may serve as grounds for prediction. That is, if some of Ibn Khaldun’s ideas help one to formulate an accurate (scientific) theory about human social organization, then they ought not to be ignored. In science, the connections between the different stages of its development are not overlooked.
While one discovers that some of the “fathers” and “pioneers” of sociology are not considered sociologists, one also realizes that some six centuries ago Ibn Khaldun declared that he had founded “the science of human social organization,” which is independent of philosophy, political science, and other disciplines, and which is very much equivalent to what is now called sociology. Following Chapter 1, which concerns Ibn Khaldun’s life and work, the book may be divided into three parts. The first part (Chapters 2 and 3) deals with the nature, scope, and methods of Ibn Khaldun’s new science “of social organization.” The second part (Chapters 4 through 6) can be considered a unit dealing with the Khaldunian cyclical theory. Asabiyah is regarded as the seed that leads to the rise and fall of the state. The third part (Chapters 7 and 8) is concerned with the ways of life, especially urbanism.