Reviews

What role, if any, does kinship play in modern political life? Such is the subtle question to which this detailed, well-informed and speculative article provides some answer.  Stressing the central place of ‘informal relationship’ in a number of recent publications on the political science of Central Asia, the author embarks on characterisation of clan politics in this region of the world—clan being defined here as a kinship-based social division.  Using evidence from the Kazakhstan case, his study calls into question the assumption that when clan relationships persist they necessarily stand in opposition to state authority.  He does so by making a distinction between clan practices that serve to undermine the functioning of states (what the author calls clan clientelism), and practices that play no such negative role (what he calls clan balancing).  He argues that the two practices often coexist in the same polity, and suggest that both and the discursive political battle surrounding them are the features that distinguish clan politics from other forms of identity politics.  Among his numerous conclusions, the author notably stresses that if clans and states are not necessarily at odds, then new possibilities emerge for clanship to be mobilised for developmentally useful purposes.  See also by the same author: Modern Clan Politics: The Power of “Blood” in Kazakhstan and Beyond, Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 2004 (a review of this book will be included into the volume 2 of the Central Eurasian Reader).

The Redaction
CER: I-7.4.C-636