With Individualism And The Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, And Prospects For The Future, Prof. Kevin B. MacDonald has once again produced a volume that thoughtful defenders of the Western tradition and European descended people cannot afford to ignore
The book (full disclosure: I helped edit it), was self-published by MacDonald because it would be too hot for any scholarly press to handle in the present climate. This is in sad contrast to MacDonald’s famous trilogy applying evolutionary theory to Judaism (A People That Shall Dwell Alone, Separation and Its Discontents and The Culture of Critique) which was published by Praeger in 1994-1998, during what VDARE.com has called the “Interglacial,” the relatively free period after the fall of the Soviet Union before the forces of Cultural Marxism regrouped.
It begins by summarizing what is known of the recent evolutionary history of European Man—with special reference to the trait of individualism—and proceeds to show how this background has conditioned European history all the way up to the controversies of the present.
To oversimplify slightly: European Man is a blend of three distinct genetic strains:
- the original hunter-gatherers who invaded Europe some 40,000 years ago and drove the Neanderthals to extinction;
- Anatolian farmers who settled mainly in Southern Europe about 8000 years ago;
- the Indo-European warrior aristocracy which invaded Europe, bringing their languages with them, around 4500 years ago.
Culturally, these groups were quite distinct.
Hunter-gatherers societies tend to be egalitarian, jealous to prevent ambitious individuals from rising above the general level, and early Europeans were no exception. The mindset persists especially in Scandinavia, and is well-expressed in the “laws” which Norwegian novelist Axel Sandemose wrote to govern his fictional town of Jante: “don’t think you’re smarter than us”, “don’t think you’re more important that we are”, “don’t laugh at us,” and so on.
This does not foster outstanding individual achievement, but it does create harmonious, high-trust societies in which individuals are valued on the basis of their reputation for cooperativeness and consideration for others. Such people also value freedom to make their own choices, including in the matter of marriage.
The Anatolians who first brought agriculture to Europe are similar to Near Eastern people in emphasizing the importance of family and a personal identity embedded within kinship networks. They are not highly individualistic, though more so than actual Near Easterners. Their descendants predominate along the Southern Fringe of Europe, where they represent a cline away from the European core.
The Indo-Europeans were a highly mobile aristocratic warrior society whose ethos is well-reflected in ancient heroic poetry such as the Iliad and Beowulf. Indo-Europeans sought personal fame and superiority over other men through fighting and its attendant risk of death. In other words, they were exactly the ambitious sort whom the Jante Laws were intended to discourage.
Historically, for Indo-Europeans, achieving the status of military leader depended on your achievement in war and your reputation for fairness and generosity to your followers, not on whose son you were. This made the society both individualistic and competitive. Under more modern settled conditions, competition for personal glory may be channeled into peaceful pursuits. The uniquely high achievement of European man in fields such as exploration, science, and the production of high culture owe much to the Indo-European inheritance.
After sketching this background in his first three chapters, MacDonald devotes Chapter Four to mapping family patterns across Europe, finding a cline from the stable, more patriarchal, extended and multigenerational family households of Southern Europe to the smaller, more egalitarian nuclear family households of the north which often including non-kin servants. Today, Northern European family life has even become pathologically individualistic, with divorce common and the state taking over an increasing share of family functions.
Subsequent chapters of Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition interpret episodes from European history in terms of these basic biocultural tendencies. The Roman Republic is discussed as a fairly pure example of Indo-European aristocratic individualism. Roman deemphasis on kinship allowed it gradually to extend the rights of citizenship and political participation to the nations it had conquered, reconciling them to Roman rule and thus insuring Rome’s lasting success.
The Feudal system established by the Germanic tribes on the ruins of the Western Roman Empire represented a return to the Indo-European aristocratic military pattern, but this was tempered by the egalitarian spirit of Christianity. Celibacy amounted to a sort of “reproductive altruism,” i.e., the Church did not translate its own wealth and power into control of women or reproductive success. This gave the Church considerable moral authority, allowing it to serve as a check on the power of secular rulers and successfully imposing monogamy on them. Canon law was also egalitarian in disregarding social status, which had been central to ancient law.
Puritanism and its secular successors such as Transcendentalism and the Social Gospel represent a resurgence of egalitarian individualism. By putting an end to “the fundamentally Indo-European-derived social structures that had held sway over the Western European political landscape from time immemorial,” they did much to usher in the modern world.
MacDonald notes the Puritan “tendency to pursue utopian causes framed as moral issues,” and to see government power as a means to such ends. To this day, their secular successors exhibit what MacDonald describes as “a tendency to paint political alternatives as starkly contrasting moral imperatives, with one side portrayed as evil incarnate” and to compete over the intensity of their personal commitment to whatever cause they have taken up.
Thus Multiculturalism and replacement-level immigration have been presented to the public as moral imperatives only opposed by vicious, hate-filled bigots. This is the secular Puritan mindset in its purest form. If allowed to run riot, it will not create a tolerant multicultural utopia but merely destroy everything distinctive the West, including the moralistic egalitarianism which motivates its partisans.
The latter part of MacDonald’s book discusses the psychological basis of European dispossession and how it can be counteracted. European people will have to temper their individualism to compete effectively in an increasingly tribal social and political context. The growing explicitness of anti-white hatred will ultimately work in our favor: outside hostility provokes a sense of group belonging and shared fate, just as it has done for Jews over the centuries. White ethnocentrism may be naturally weak because of our unique evolutionary history, but it is still there beneath the surface, and current trends are doing everything possible to trigger it strongly.
Interesting times lie ahead.
To understand the world you live in, and to learn how to fight effectively for a better one, you must know the work of Kevin MacDonald. Get yourself a copy of his Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition—before the censors come after it!
And this is something which must concern not merely white advocates, but the entire Historic American Nation.