“hard-won democracy”

now where have i heard this before…?:

“In the West we had to move from tribalism, through city-states and small nations, through empire, feudalism, mercantile capitalism, and the industrial revolution to reach our present state of fragile open universalistic democracy (shrugging off communism and fascism along the way). Athens and Rome had a period of republicanism and democracy — at least voting and elections for free males — but this did not last and succumbed to autocracy and dictatorship with the growth of empire. The English were helped in the shedding of dominant kinship groups by the relative individualism of the Angles and Saxons, with their emphasis on the independent nuclear family. (See Alan Macfarlane’s ‘The Origins of English Individualism.’) Christian monogamy and the banning of cousin marriages by the Catholic Church helped to break down extended kinship groups and encouraged even more individualism.

“This breaking up of tight kin groups by expanding ‘prohibited degrees’ (as far as third cousins) is perhaps not sufficiently appreciated. Think what it would have done to the Arab cousin-marriage system. In England the institution of primogeniture — inheritance by the eldest son — also helped prevent the dissipation of family fortunes produced by partible inheritance: division of the patrimony among all sons, common on the continent (and in China, but not Japan). It reduced the power of aristocratic clans by forcing the younger sons into the professions: the army, the law, and the church.

“This move away from kinship and into the world of voluntary and non-kin organizations was in turn infused with the Protestant work and reinvestment ethic, and the Miracle happened. It did not happen all at once, but over several centuries of cumulative effort that fed on the new humanism and the growth of science and industry. As labor became ever more specialized and more mobile, family groups became ever less self-sufficient, and individuals became more and more dependent on strangers and on the institutions that made dependence on strangers possible: in particular, the rule of law and the enforcement of contracts.

“And we had to do it by our own efforts, pull ourselves up by the social bootstraps, to make it stick. We have seen in Germany, in Italy, and in Spain how fragile this really is. Russia never did make it. France is always problematic. Latin America and the Balkans continue to be a mess. But in making this move we had to change the entire particularistic, communalistic, ritualistic, kin-dominated society that is natural to us, and we have to keep at it all the time….” [from: “The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind,” pgs. 69-70.]

couldn’t have put it better myself! oh, wait…. (~_^)

see also (if you haven’t already): cousin marriage conundrum by steve sailer.

(note: comments do not require an email. boobies!)



  1. I’m dying, hbdchick, I have SO much good stuff on this to share with you, I swear the second this academic project is handed in (in one week!) I’ve got to get some of it to you (your site has helped me so much on this project). Really old stuff on the Arabs that just blew my mind, old French-language material I saw from E. Todd’s original source (Le Play) from the 1850s, new maps superimposing different stuff I’ve picked up from your site… I’m just spending every waking second on this thing praying to get it in on time. Thanks again for all the information-sharing you do, you’ve been a great source for me.


  2. @m.g. – oh, cool! i’d love to have a look @ the le play stuff!

    now i’m going to let my maternal instincts come to the fore and say: get your “homework” done first, and then you can play on the internet. (~_^)

    seriously, though — i look forward to hear/read what you’ve got! (^_^) do i see a few blog posts in your future…?

    glad to have been of help, btw. (^_^) i’m interested to hear what your project was about, too!


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