Putin and Xi as Patrimonial Rulers: Ancient Traditions Trump Marxism – J. I. (Hans) Bakker


Both Putin and Xi are Patrimonial rulers. That is important to note. Psychohistorians can think about the importance of Ancient Traditions for both leaders. Max Weber (1922) develops Ideal Type Models (ITMs) of Patriarchy, Patrimonial prebendalism Pf) and Patrimonial feudalism (Pf). It is part of his “mature theory of the emergence of modern capitalism in the 17-18th centuries.” Both Russia (RF) and China (PRC) today have superficial layers of global goal-rational, instrumental capitalism. They partially fit into the world capitalist system that emerged after WWII. But they lean more heavily on purported Ancient Traditions than on aspects of Marxist theory and “Communism.” The end of the Soviet Union did not result in Russia becoming a fully “modern” nation-state. The end of strict Maoism in the PRC did not eliminate a strong reliance on the Legalist-Confucian dynastic traditions associated with Confucianism that preceded the Republic of China. Neither Russia nor China were ever truly “feudal” in the Weberian sense (Pf). Their “prebendal” version of Patrimonial rulership is not an aberration, but actually the most common type of governance. It should not be confused with “Tribalism,” which as an anthropological concept Weber associated with an early form of Patriarchy. (Weber also recognized Neo-Patriarchal elements in both Pp and Pf.) It is not enough to think entirely in terms of rigid “egos” or biographical trajectories. It is also insufficient to rely on journalistic reified binaries like “democracy: versus “autocracy” or Cold War rhetoric about “totalitarianism.” The Ideal Type Model allows for subtle nuances. A leader who rises to the top in a Patrimonial system is hardly ever likely to think clearly about the steps that occured in world history after Patrimonial feudalism provided a basis for the emergence of a powerful haute bourgeoisie and then modern capitalism. Capitalism itself has continued to evolve. It has also spread around the whole world in ways that Marx himself predicted were necessary to move away from what he called “Oriental Despotism.” What Marx did not fully grasp, however, is that “despotism” is not just “Oriental.” It is also “Occidental” (e.g., The Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire in parts of Europe.) Magna Carta (1215, 1217, 1225) in England and the Thirty Years War in parts of Europe are symbolic of the major transformation that took place as the Patrimonial rulership of Emperor Charles eroded. His son became known as the King of Spain and that led to the Dutch Revolt, an early example of the break from strict Patrimonial rulership to incipient bourgeois rule by the non-aristocratic elite of the Province of Holland. Aristocratic elements remained in the House of Orange, but until 1815 they were “stadhouders” and not Monarchs. The exception is William, who became a King of Great Britain and Ireland, but nevertheless remained a stadhouder in the Dutch Republic. These remarks are part of my work on “Semiotic Sociology” as an attempt to create a viable Meta-Paradigm in sociology that will to some extent move us away from the fragmentation of more than 54 sections of the American Sociological Association (ASA) and a similar number of divisions in the International Sociological Association (ISA) and International Rural Sociological Association (IRSA), My edited book (2015) on: The Methodology of Political Economy: Studying the Global Rural-Urban Matrix (Lexington-Rowman & Littlefield) was a step in this direction. Bakker (2023) is a highly abstract theoretical paper about “Semiotic Sociology [based on C. S. Peirce, Marx, Weber, Mead, Blumer, Dowd (1991) and others] that moves the key idea of a “general sociology” with a “grand theory” further along.

Short bio:

J. I. (Hans) is a Professor of Sociology, Rural Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph. He retired in 2012 but then taught for one academic year as the Stanley Knowles Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Brandon University in Manitoba. His recent edited books (Bakker 2015, 2016) were finished while at Brandon. He has continued his academic work with the broad theme of Comparative Historical Sociology (CHS) using Max Weber’s Ideal Type Models (ITMs), especially the ITMs of prebendal and feudal forms of Patrimonial rulership (and their oscillation around the world for thousands of years). His 2013 paper on Semiotic Sociology attempts to link Symbolic Interactionism and Interactionism generally with CHS, using Peirce’s triadic episemology and semiotics. (Peirce’s semiotics needs to be distinguished from the dualistic, Cartesian French semiologie of certain Postmodernist thinkers.) Most of Hans’ empirical work has been about Indic Civilization. He has lived and worked in India (1 year, with the Gandhi Peace Foundation on a Ford Foundation grant) and Indonesia (3 years). He speaks Indonesian at an advanced intermediate level. He taught comparative religious studies for 33 years and has a deep interest in the ITMs we call “Hinduism” and “Buddhism” in English. The Neo-Weberian sociological theorist Randall Colllins has influenced his CHS studies of “philosophies” (worldviews, intellectual orientations, theological views, etc.). He studies with Stuart Hauser at the Judge Baker Children’s Center (affiliated with Harvard Medical School) for eight months during a sabbatical in Boston/Cambridge, MA. Born in the Netherlands (June 24, 1947) his native languages are Frisian and Dutch. He is married to a psychologist (UCLA Ph.D.) and has a son who is studying art and design.