My earlier entry (Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain) established that there are deep distinctions between Northwestern European peoples and most of the rest of the world, and that these differences have a huge impact on the world, including on levels of human development, the strength of democracy and democratic institutions, scientific output, and levels of social trust. If you’re unfamiliar with this division, the previous entry and materials linked within cover it all in extensive detail.
But the question is, how did it happen? How did these divisions come to be? Well, of course, my answer is evolution through natural selection – specifically, gene-culture co-evolution.
Before we can ascribe these differences to evolution, it must be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. We should be clear that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”. See my Behavioral Genetics Page for more. The rest of this entry proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.
Now, it’s also very important to understand that evolution proceeds quicker than you’ve been led to believe. Certainly a lot faster than mainstream ideology posits (i.e., claiming that human evolution somehow came to a halt 50,000 years ago) which is demonstrably nonsense:
As seen in both the age of genetic variants and the distribution of lactose tolerance, much human evolution took place within the last 5,000-10,000 years.
But evolution can proceed within the space of a few centuries, as governed by the breeder’s equation. A few centuries of sustained selective pressure can make a considerable impact on the characteristics of a human group. We see that with Ashkenazi Jews, whose high IQ (and many other traits) evolved only within the last 2,000 years.
With all of this out of the way, what selective pressures explain the differences between Northwestern Europeans and the rest of the world? Here, we can, for now, only hypothesize. As opposed to the reality of the differences, which is easy to establish, how these differences came to be is a harder puzzle to untangle. That said, we do have some good ideas.
One aspect is that cousin marriage rates were historically very low in Northwestern Europe as opposed to the rest of the world. This would have an effect on the relationship coefficient between related individuals, having an impact on the returns for kin altruism and hence kin selection (see a table and short discussion in my earlier entry “Ethnic Genetic Interests” Do Not Exist (Neither Does Group Selection). Now while kin selection was involved, it couldn’t have been a dominant force, because kin selection is relatively weak in humans. But maybe factors that came into play along with this were involved.
In Northwestern Europe, that was likely predominantly bipartite manorialism:
The areas of Northwestern Europe that exhibit their peculiar suite of traits also went under the peculiar institution of bipartite manorialism. As HBD Chick describes here (from medieval manorialism’s selection pressures | hbd chick):
“every society selects for something.” — greg cochran
every society selects for something. it does take some time for selection pressures to make a difference when it comes to the frequencies of “genes for” various behavioral traits, of course (unless the culling is extreme): twenty generations, maybe. forty is probably better. a few hundred?
working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra iq points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals.
manorialism — “classic,” bipartite manorialism (more on that below) — started with the franks in austrasia by at least the 600s or perhaps earlier and spread gradually southwards with the frankish conquest of, well, france and eastwards during the ostsiedlung. we find it just across the channel in southern england very early as well — there are references to what sounds like features of a manor system in the laws of king ine of wessex (688-726) [see mitterauer, pg. 43]. the medieval european manor system originated, then, roughly in the area outlined in green below (yes — this is the very same area where the Outbreeding Project began.
classic manorialism was introduced to southern france (but bypassed some more remote areas like the massif central) as those regions were conquered by the merovingians and carolingians between the fifth and eighth centuries and to northern spain around the eighth and ninth centuries. the bipartite manor system never reached the southern regions of spain that were controlled by the moors. there was a rudimentary form of manorialism in northern italy even before the area was made a part of the carolingian empire, but the region was heavily manorialized (especially by ecclesiastical monasteries) after charlemagne conquered the lombard kingdom in the 770s. classic, bipartite manorialism was never adopted in central or southern italy or sicily — nowhere in the byzantine world, in fact.
the franks also pushed eastwards, introducing the manor system to central europe, beginning in the eighth century. the border of this eastward movement was, for a couple hundred years or so, the eastern boundary of the carolingian empire (look familiar?)
the “classic” form of manorialism never reached the farthest parts of eastern europe.
in scandinavia, denmark was heavily manorialized relatively early i believe (probably around the time of the first wave of the ostsiedlung, although i must check the dates), and manorialism was also very much present southern sweden (scania). the more northerly parts of scandinavia — norway, northern sweden (or sweden north of scania), the swedish-settled areas of finland — didn’t have manors per se, but were covered by a unique version of “manorialism” in which much of the population was under the thumb of the church (and sometimes petty aristocratic landowners).
This details the spread of bipartite manorialism. Here HBD Chick talks about the selective pressures it imposed:
– the bipartite estate. the bipartite estate was a key aspect of classical (north)western european manorialism. basically, the manor was divided into two parts: the lord’s part — his farm or demesne — and the peasants’ or serfs’ parts — all their individual farms. the serfs or villeins or whatever you want to call them (there were multiple categories of these peasant farmers and a range of names for them) each had farms to work which were granted to them by the lords (keep in mind that sometimes those “lords” were bishops or monks who ran the monasteries). in the earlier part of the medieval period, the serfs owed labor to the lord of the manor as payment — they were obliged to help work the lord’s demesne — but they also independently worked the farms which they were granted, both to sustain themselves and perhaps make a little profit by selling any extra produce to the neighbors or in a market. there were other obligations, too, but the above was the fundamental gist of the whole system. later in the medieval period, the duty to provide labor switched over to a more simple and direct rent system.
also early on in the period, serfs were given (or assigned) farms to work by the lord of the manor. as a young man, you might not be given the same farm that you grew up on — that your parents had worked — especially not if your father/parents were still productive workers. the lord of the manor, or his steward, would just grant you another farm on the manor to work…if there was one available…and if he chose to do so (presumably based on your merit or your familiy’s record). this system eventually changed as well into one in which a son (typically the eldest son) would “inherit” the farm that his father/parents had worked. not sure when this happened. must find out.
not everyone who was a member of a manor operation would be granted a farm to run. some individuals were just laborers on the manor (“cottagers” in england, for example), and there were plenty of domestic servants serving in the manor house, too.
not everyone who was a member of a manor operation would be granted a farm to run. some individuals were just laborers on the manor (“cottagers” in england, for example), and there were plenty of domestic servants serving in the manor house, too.
i think that there are potentially selection pressures here for several different traits or qualities. if we ask ourselves, what sort of individual would’ve done best living in this bipartite estate system, i.e. which individuals with which sorts of traits would’ve managed to reproduce the most, i think it might’ve been people with qualities including: being hard-working or industrious — those that made the most of the farm grant and produced the most food to support the most number of kids and even to sell extra produce for a profit; perhaps smarter than some of the neighbors (like the cottagers) — for the same reasons as hard-working; future time oriented — you had to be patient and wait for a farm to become available, or later in the period wait for your father to hand over the farm or die, and not start philandering about the manor before you could afford to raise kids (you also might not be granted a farm, or acquire yourself a husband, if your reputation was ruined beforehand); slow life histories — those individuals who could hold off on reproducing too early would’ve been rewarded with farms, those that did not would’ve been shunned and would lose the opportunity to reproduce further; and compliancy — you didn’t rail (too much) against the man in the manor, and anyone that did wouldn’t have gotten a farm and may have, if they caused too much trouble, been shipped off to a monastery for life.
a classic (north)western european manor, then, almost sounds like a 1960s hippie kibbutz, at least when it came to the relatedness of the individuals on the estate. (unlike a hippie kibbutz, though, The Man was clearly in charge.) the people living and working on a medieval manor in (north)western europe were not all members of one extended family or clan (which you do see elsewhere, like in eastern europe, especially russia, or southern china). this system, along with the Outbreeding Project, might’ve encouraged the selection for individuals who were willing to cooperate with other (comparatively speaking) unrelated persons. it might even have helped, along with the Outbreeding Project which got rid of much nepotistic altruism imho, to select for highly trusting — and quite highly trustworthy — individuals.
open-field system. another key feature of (north)western european manorialism was the open-field system in which shares of large “fields” were apportioned out to each family on the manor — each household would get a long strip or strips within one of these huge fields in which to grow their crops. open-field systems were used by the pre-christian germans and slavic populations (iirc), but in those contexts, extended family/kindred/clan members typically shared the fields. again, in the classic manor system, we have more unrelated individuals/families sharing these fields. residents of the manor regularly policed one another, bringing each other to the manorial court if they thought someone was cheating in the open-field system (and also in the usage of the commons), so, again, here we might have the selection for cooperative and trustworthy individuals.
– ecclesiastical manors. i think the presence (or absence) of ecclesiastical manors in any given area might be very important. apparently, ecclesiastical manors exercised more control on their residents, and until later in the period, than those headed by lay lords (more on this in a later post). so, i’d expect all of the behavioral traits associated with manorialism to be even more pronounced in areas/populations that had more than their fair share of ecclesiastical manors: south-central england, france, germany, and northern italy (and northern scandinavia?).
By the time the age of the manor in Northwestern Europe came to an end, the selective pressures it established would have allowed for the development of corporate societies. As we seen in the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy | hbd chick:
economist avner greif explains in “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations” how the new, individualistic europeans developed a corporate society, one which eventually lead to democratic nations in europe [pgs. 309-10]:
“The decline of large kinship groups in Europe transpired during a period in which the state was also disintegrating and the church’s secular authority was diminishing…. A new solution was needed to solve problems of conflict and cooperation, and people got together to form corporations.
“These corporations were voluntary, interest-based based, self-governed, and intentionally created permanent associations. In many cases, they were self-organized and not established by the state. Participation was voluntary in the sense that one had to be attracted to be a member and, therefore, corporations had to cater to their members’ interests….
“By the late medieval period, economic and political corporations dominated Europe….
“Monasteries, fraternities, and mutual-insurance guilds provided social safety nets against famine, unemployment, and disability. The majority of the population belonged to such fraternities and guilds, at least in England. Because corporations provided social safety nets that were alternatives to those provided by kinship groups, they enabled individuals to take risks and make other economic decisions without interference by members of such groups. Relative to a society dominated by kinship groups, the nuclear family structure increased capital per worker by encouraging later marriages and fewer children, and it led to a more efficient distribution of labor and knowledge by facilitating migration.
“Craft guilds regulated production, training, and the protection of brand names. Universities, monastic orders, and guilds developed and distributed scientific and technological knowledge. Merchant guilds and communes protected property rights at home and abroad, secured brand names, and provided contract enforcement in exchange. Corporations, such as the Italian citystates and military orders, mustered armies to expand the European resource base.
“Many late medieval corporations were political; they had their own legal systems, administrations, and military forces. The Italian city-republics were literally independent, but most European cities west of the Baltic Sea in the north and the Adriatic Sea in the south were also political corporations (communes). Political corporations also prevailed among Western European peasants. Because such corporations preceded the pre-modern European states, they often provided these states with indispensable services, such as tax collection, law and order, and an army. Self-interested rulers were constrained in adopting policies that hindered these corporations’ economic interests or abusing their property rights (Greif, 2005). Indeed, by the thirteenth century, most European principalities had representative bodies to approve taxation and communes were represented in all of them. Economic corporations, therefore, had the ability to impact policies and, in the long run, they were influential in transforming the European state into a corporation in the form of a democracy.”
Northwestern European society was now one where the most successful types of individuals were ones not bound to kin, but rather cooperated in voluntary exchanges with non-relatives. This continued the selective pressures similar to those of the bipartite manorial system and furthered NW Europeans down the path of their individualistic, “wikified” society. This eventually led to the Scientific and Industrial revolutions as well as the rise of democracy and all the things that followed for from that.
How about the rest of the world? Why didn’t Southern or Eastern Europe or East Asia follow down this path? Well, their societies were structured differently. As HBD Chick put it in viscous populations and the selection for altruistic behaviors | hbd chick:
part of william hamilton‘s theory of inclusive fitness/kin selection, which explains how altruism ever could’ve arisen at all (altruism here having a very specific definition), is that it should be possible for genes for altruism to be selected for if close kin interact regularly. kin don’t need to recognize one another for altruism to be selected for. as long as closely related individuals don’t move far from one another — that is, if a population is viscous — selection for altruism might happen.
i can’t see why this couldn’t also apply to lesser forms of altruism, not just the kind where you sacrifice your life for two brothers or eight cousins. you know what i mean. like: reciprocal altruism or nepotistic altruism. or just pro-social behaviors. whatever you want to call them. seems to me that nepotistic behaviors ought to be selected for more easily in viscous populations (if they increase fitness, of course).
and some populations are more viscous than others:
1) inbreeding populations where close relatives marry frequently over the long-term. mating with relatives must be highly viscous [insert sweaty/sticky incest joke here]. not only do the individual members of the population likely interact fairly regularly (can depend on your mating pattern), they pass many of the genes they share in common on to the next generations — who then also interact and mate. that’s what i call viscous! and, as you all know by now, some human populations inbreed more than others, and some have been doing so for longer than others. and vice versa. (see: entire blog.)
2) populations where extended families are the norm. societies where two or three generations of families all stay together, work together, play together. viscous. plenty of opportunity for nepotistic behaviors to be selected for. on the other hand, societies of nuclear families where more distant relatives are seen only once a year on thanksgiving, and then only to argue, and where your your heir is your pet cat…not very viscous. (see:family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism.)
3) socio-economic systems which push for close relatives to remain together rather than dispersing. if that sounds vague, that’s ’cause it is. sorry. i haven’t thought through it all yet. i do have an example of the opposite for you — a socio-economic system which pushed for close relatives to disperse — and that is the post-manorialism one of northwest europe. already by the 1500s, it was typical for individuals in northwest europe to leave home at a young age (as teenagers) and live and work elsewhere — often quite long distances away (several towns over) — before marrying. then it was not unusual for them to marry someone from their new locale. not viscous. conversely, many societies outside of the hajnal line (northwest europe) have had systems which encouraged the opposite.
In most of the rest of world, regular interaction with non-relatives was a much rarer occurrence. Families were more tightly bound and were the basic medium through which most social interaction took place. This would make the successful individual in such a society a much different kind than would get ahead in Northwestern Europe. Certainly not one that would freely give trust to strangers, would expect favors from others without the other party getting something out of the deal, or would be very universalistic in their view of the world. A fundamentally different kind of person would thrive in these settings, leading to the differences we see.
This lack of voluntary cooperation may even hold back science and discovery (in addition to other large-scale ventures) in clannish parts of the world:
Even though manors of sort existed in Russia and China, as HBD Chick describes, they didn’t operate like the bipartite manorialism of NW Europe:
the “classic” form of manorialism never reached the farthest parts of eastern europe. eventually, a form of manorialism was adopted in russia and areas of eastern europe bordering russia, but it was quite different than the version western europe had had. this serfdom-heavy manor system in eastern europe also arrived very late compared to manorialism in western europe — in the fifteenth century (iirc) or in some areas even much later. classic manorialism had practically disappeared in western europe by this point
a classic (north)western european manor, then, almost sounds like a 1960s hippie kibbutz, at least when it came to the relatedness of the individuals on the estate. (unlike a hippie kibbutz, though, The Man was clearly in charge.) the people living and working on a medieval manor in (north)western europe were not all members of one extended family or clan (which you do see elsewhere, like in eastern europe, especially russia, or southern china)
Selection there operated in far more “viscous” milieus.
One way we see this expressed today is that “familial” organized crime is a general feature of clannish societies, as Staffan had noted in his post The Clannish World of Organized Crime | Staffan’s Personality Blog.
Classic organized crime outfits like those out of Southern Italy are based (or at least rooted) in clan loyalties. By contrast, in Russia, organized crime, while functionally similar, is nonetheless distinctly non-familial in nature. As Anatoly Karlin pointed out:
The Cosa Nostra is extremely hierarchic, whereas the Bratva is far more “horizontal.” … The Cosa Nostra clans are strongly familial, territorial, and substantially hereditary (though more so in the US than in Italy itself). This directly extends to the name of their basic organizational unit: The family. Membership in most Sicilian families is limited to men of Sicilian ancestry or even specific regional ties or bloodline associations.
The Russian mafia is completely different, even in etymology. It is not a “family” but a “brotherhood.” And a brotherhood not in any literal blood sense, but in a way that evokes associations with a “fraternity,” or a “band of brothers.” Organization is strongly hierarchic, as is the case in every strongly masculine institution from the army to the priesthood, but the direct control the pakhan exercises over matters such as personnel policy is far more limited relative to the godfather
By far the most striking difference is that the “Russian” mafia is strongly multiethnic. It has its origins in the heavily Jewish port city of Odessa in Tsarist times
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, some of the most prominent Russian mafia bosses of recent years were the Kurdish Aslan Usoyan
Though it is necessarily incomplete, what statistical evidence exists indicates that ethnic minorities, especially the Caucasians, are so massively overrepresented in the ranks of the Russian mafia that ethnic Slavs are a minority within it. As such, the Bratva is a highly multiethnic and universalistic organized criminal group.
Selective forces produced a form of distinctly un-WEIRD type of behavior in Eastern Europeans even if not literally clan based. Clannishness, as HBD Chick and I use the term, doesn’t mean literally based on clans. Viscous societies selected for viscous behaviors – low-trust in strangers, particularism, corruption.
In short, the Northwestern European manor system (and the subsequent selective pressures of the society it created) produced the guilt culture, where one’s behavior is regulated by one’s own internal feelings of guilt. By contrast, the rest of the world has some variant of the shame (or honor) culture, where behavior is regulated by societal disapproval. (See Honor, Dignity, and Face: Culture as Personality Writ Large | Staffan’s Personality Blog). These are fundamental human differences and are largely intractable in our world.
I wanted to address one final point, as I suspect critics will bring this up. Often we hear that the clannish/honor-based behavior of those from beyond the Northwestern European world can be corrected through “assimilation.” Unfortunately, assimilation is largely an illusion:
What we see as “assimilation” is largely when the “assimilated” group adopts superficial aspects of the host group. Other behaviors remain (Those Who Can See: Were you Assimilable?). As well, intermarriage with host group and selective migration can both give the appearance of assimilation, as can long-run secular changes (the kind that affect everyone, such as the move towards secularism, for example).
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