Review of Donald Harman Akenson, God's Peoples. Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel, and Ulster

July 1, 1994

In this article, José Casanova reviews Donald Harman Akenson's God's Peoples. Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel, and Ulster (1992). Casanova argues that Akenson presents a masterful narrative that is convincing at various points, but that his overall framework has multiple weak points. Akenson's general theory is that the Hebrews had a covenantal cultural grid, comprised of a henotheistic war god, a chosen people, conquest of a foreign but chosen land, and the crushing of the native population. Casanova raises some questions about Akenson's conclusion that culture is the deciding independent variable in his examples, instead raising the suggestion that the conquest came first, followed by the religious and cultural explanation for the conquest. Casanova also suggests that such logic might emerge from a "might makes right" scenario. In addition, Casanova argues that modernization clearly played a role in the decay of the structure of Ulster and South Africa, a conclusion Akenson explicitly rejects. Finally, Casanova refutes Akenson's prediction that more such structures will arise, pointing out that future conquests of other peoples will hopefully be rare. This review was published in the American Journal of Sociology.

PDF

back to top