The Failed Asabiyya and Cultural Suicide in Michel Houellebecq’s Submission


This article identifies the correspondences that Ibn Khaldun’s concepts of asabiya, mulk and dynasty have in Michel Houellebecq’s 2015 novel Submission. It analyses the work of a contemporary author through the method sketched out by a Muslim scholar of the 14th century, thereby provincializing a European text, and showing the continuities of cultural thought in the Mediterranean. While putting the role of asabiya at the centre, the article deploys Dipesh Chakrabarty’s understanding of provincialization, and Fernand Braudel’s concept of encounters in the Mediterranean. In Submission, Houellebecq describes a France in which a Muslim candidate has become the president. As the perceived source of Western European culture, Mediterranean has become uncanny, and Houellebecq’s novels reflect this uneasy relationship between the continent and the basin. Houellebecq’s narrator reflects how the decline of France and its apparent cultural suicide is due to lack of solidarity between the classes, how White French people are very quick to adopt the ways of the Maghrebi immigrants, and how, ultimately, the Maghrebi immigrants who are now in power will suffer the same loss of vitality as their White French predecessors. These observations comply with the cyclical social behaviour that Ibn Khaldun has mapped out in the Muqaddimah.


Michel Houellebecq Ibn Khaldun asabiya provincializing Mediterranean speculative fiction comparative literature