“Wanderlust: Iceland, where everyone’s related to Bjork”

“Genealogical website helps couples avoid incest, and of course, to see if Bjork is a cousin.

“The television commercial for a local mobile phone company here wouldn’t work in many places outside Iceland.

“It portrays a curly-haired couple who just woke up next to each other after what appears to be a one-night stand. (That isn’t the scandalous part in this famously liberal society.)

“The two are pictured lingering in bed, on their smart phones, checking out a genealogical website called Íslendingabók. Their smiles freeze when they find out they are related. Closely.

“While other nations might find the commercial funny — mainly for its ‘as if’ value — Icelanders can relate on levels unimaginable in larger countries. The commercial works here because, in this isolated island country of 300,000 people, these situations actually happen. Regularly….”


(note: comments do not require an email. good times in iceland!)


hamilton’s unequal cousins or the asymmetry of altruism

*post updated below.*

now here’s something i hadn’t thought of! [pgs. 97-100]:

“Idle in my bag stayed also the notes I had prepared for the defence of my formulas of relatedness against Rick [Michod] — that is, my struggles yet again through all that logic about how knowing that either he or that other are inbred should change, for example, how Henry IV felt about his cousin, Richard II, or how Henry’s son, soon to be Henry V, felt about his cousin (second cousin actually in this cast), Edmund Mortimer, and how Edmund Mortimer about him.

“Usually when explaining to non-biologists how kin are to be valued in the evolutionary calculations, I start with a deliberate vagueness about what might be meant by such a phrase as ‘the proportion of genes in common’ between two relatives and I concentrate on the obvious importance of the probabilities of gene survival. What ‘genes in common’ means it takes too long to explain and perhaps even at the end I don’t completely understand the matter myself … Suppose Harry Plantagenet, Prince of Wales, is inbred and hence has two copies, aa say, of some altruism-determining gene, while his second cousin Edmund Mortimer (who, as it happens, was another very plausible contender for the throne) happens to have one only — his genotype is ab let us say. What proportion at this locus do we say the two have in common? Obviously the question hardly makes sense or at least doesn’t unless one says a lot more first. Had they been haploid like two moss plants who were cousins all would be easy; either plant X would have the altruism gene possessed by plant Y or it wouldn’t: one could give a probability and then simply average such chances for all the gene loci. But notwithstanding the thoughts given in the introduction to Chapter 2, most of the socially most interesting organisms are diploid. As I have pointed out, diploids have two copies of every kind of chromosome, one from their mother and one from their father. And in fact this problem about ‘genes in common’ was an old chestnut for me and I had pricked fingers on it from the very earliest days of my ‘altruism’ obsession. I had dealt in outline with questions of relatedness when one or both of two relatives could be inbred in some of my recent papers (see Chapters 5 and 8 of Volume 1) but I was very much aware of various issues still unresolved or remaining unpublished.

“About the time of my first invitation from Rick Michod, Nathan Flesness, for example, had published in Nature a paper entitled ‘Kinship asymmetry in diploids’. He showed clearly that if one relative was inbred and another not or less so, as in my example of the first two pretenders to the English throne above, the coefficient of relatedness that the inbred should use when deciding how to behave towards the outbred relative (a cousin once again, let us say) was not the same as the coefficient that the outbred cousin should apply if making the reciprocal decision. The theory says that the outbred person in fact, to a slight degree, should tolerate the unfairness in the interest of his genes, or, to put it more properly, his genes should even see to such an unfairness coming about: he should behave more generously towards the inbred than he would expect the inbred to reciprocate. The key to my understanding this had come when I realized, a year or two after my paper of 1964, that Sewall Wright’s correlation concept of relatedness hadn’t been quite what I needed for my own calculus of relatedness. For a Machiavellian world of pure gene-controlled behaviour I saw that what Henry IV and Henry V need to do to decide their cousinly status with regard to their respective copretenders to the throne is to predict the genotypes of Richard II and cousin Mortimer with reference to their own, and to do so by the best possible statistical reasoning. Just as a statistically minded agronomist uses a regression coeffficient based on his knowledge of responses to fertilizer to predict as best he can the yield of crop, so must the Henrys use regression coefficients of genes to be predict how genes in common may have descended to the cousin. This, of course, is not an adequate explanation but it gives the idea. The upshot was that I, too, needed the regression coefficient, not the correlation one of Wright.

“Wright had practically provided both of them but the one he himself had used had been the correlation. It is well known that if a bivariate scatter of values in not a straight line, the regression of Y on X is not the same as the regression of X on Y. The simplest ‘regression’ relatedness formula is bXY = 2rXY / (1 + FX) where FX is a measure of individual X’s inbreeding: this formula had been given in my papers of 1970 and 1971. The consequence for asymmetry of altruism was left implicit in the formula at that time — increase FX and the value of the formula is obviously reduced.

so, if your cousin is more inbred than you, you should (would) be more altrustic towards him than he to you because he has more of the genes which you share in common.

heh. i love it!

in a similar vein, fox et. al. found that, due to the differential inheritance of the x- and y-chromsomes, not all grandmas are equally related to their grandkids and that they are, therefore, more altruistic to some of the kiddies than others.

meanwhile, i’ve been calculating the different coefficients of relatedness for family members based on the differential inheritance of the sex chromosomes. how was i supposed to know all i needed was a nice regression coefficient formula? (~_^)

update 10/29: i forgot to give you the punchline to the henry vs. mortimer story! [pg. 106]:

“Edmund Mortimer, already mentioned, by my data he has F = 0 [in other words, he was not inbred – hbd chick]. In this light it fits again that (a) he joined the rebellious faction of Hotspur and Glendower as its ‘pretender’ only by their persuasion; (b) after his capture, by henry iv, he stayed tamely (and was tolerated) for the rest of his life as a semi-prisoner at Windsor; and (c) my EB source (Vol. 15, pp. 867-8) tells us that ‘Edmund seems to have rewarded Henry V with persistent loyalty’, including informing him of a plot by others to depose the king and put him (Edmund) on the throne. All this has the expected slant of the theory. The man to whom he gave loyalty, as noted, was seemingly no more inbred than he was; however, his pattern of behavior was probably set during the reign of his relative’s inbred and doubtless (to the youth) dominating and awesome father.”

update 09/12/12: see also the asymmetry of altruism again

(note: comments do not require an email. asymmetrical altruism.)

a life where no one is connected

via The 25-Million-Hit Man, from a 2005 article in the San Francisco Gate:

“Harvey says he doesn’t want Burning Man to get a reputation as a redneck, lily-white festival. But he understands why Burning Man is attractive for white people who lack tight-knit cultural communities.

“‘Whites are radically isolated from their families and each other,’ he said. ‘It’s easy to get lost in a life where no one is connected.'”


previously: the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy and but what about the english?

(note: comments do not require an email. burning man star wars car. heh.)

monogamy, serial monogamy, and polygamy

laura betzig makes a convincing argument that, especially for the elites — both secular and clerical (think popes and bishops) — marriage in medieval europe might have been monogamous, but mating wasn’t. not only were the elites not all that monogamous in their mating practices, many of them were also incestuous [pgs. 185-86]:

“In the same vein — and maybe richest of all accounts — is Lambert of Ardres’ ‘Historia comitum Ghisnensium,’ the early thirteenth-century pean to his benefactor, Count Baudouin. Marc Bloch calls Baudouin ‘hunter, toper, and great wencher’ (1961, p. 104), and Georges Duby has made a lot of the last. As he puts it: ‘Life in a noble household was a hotbed of sex’ (1983, p. 70). Or, as Lambert says: ‘”From the beginning of adolescence until his old age, his loins were stirred by the intemperance of an impatient libido…; very young girls, and especially virgins, aroused his desire”‘ (Duby 1978, p. 93). Roissy Baudouin and his kinsmen are said to have preferred pretty women; no matter how casually sexually encountered they are all described as ‘beautiful.’ And, evidently, fruitful: This count was buried with twenty-three bastards in attendance, besides ten living legitimate daughters and sons (p. 94).

“Even these might have been just the fruits of the family tree’s primary limbs. As Lambert notes, Baudouin by no means kept account of all his bastards. These were usually scattered far and wide. And, as Duby notes, noble men would just as soon have the ignoble women — the servants, slaves, and whores — who begot so many of them. The lovers noble men did remember may have included their vassals’ daughters, ‘but there is more evidence that they were the family’s bastard daughters, who formed a kind of pleasure reserve within the house itself’ (Duby 1978, p. 94). This kind of sex was, then, endogamous. Noble or half-noble women begat noble or half-nobel children, ad infinitum. ‘Illegitimacy was a normal part of the structure of ordinary society — so normal that illegitimate children, especially males, were neither concealed nor rejected’ (Duby 1983, p. 262). They always had the right, at least, to bed and board in their father’s house. ‘That house was always open to them’ (p. 263.) Bastards like these, the cream of the illegitimate crop, are most likely to have made up the twenty-three who watched when Baudouin was interred.”

so, not a big surprise, powerful men in the middle ages tried to maximize the number of offspring they had. and they even mated somewhat incestuously sometimes.

this made me wonder how different marriage or mating patterns affect relatedness within a society — apart from mating with relatives or not, that is. i mean: how does monogamy or polygamy affect the relatedness between the members of a society?

so, forget about cousin marriage and all that jazz for a second. here’s what strict monogamy looks like (think christian europe). (yes, i know there’s always a little hanky-panky — the milkman and mrs. jones, for instance — this is just schematic.):

first of all, triangles are men and circles are women. i colorized only the men ’cause it just got too confusing to colorize everybody. the women have been numbered instead. the point is that, here in strict monogamy land, there are six men and six women, none of whom are related, who marry/mate, and each pair has two kids. each pair of kids, then, (barring any hanky-panky) is related to their parents and each other, but not to anybody else in their society. each little nuclear-family is a discrete, “atomized” group. (this isn’t completely the case in a real population, of course. in every natural society, the members are related somehow, even if it’s distantly.)

in contrast, polygamy narrows the gene pool since one man can have several wives. thus there are several sets of half-brothers and half-sisters within polygamy land who are (obviously) all related to one another (think arab and many african countries). and some men fall out of the gene pool altogether. here mr. green marries contestants women numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6, while messrs. red, orange and yellow are out of luck:

so, with polygamy, the gene pool within a society narrows. in reality, what typically happens, at least in arab/muslim societies, is that the polygamy occurs frequently within the extended family, so that the gene pool narrows even more within the extended family. the other thing that often happens — particularly in arab countries — is that there is a lot of divorce, so in reality you have something like a serial monogamy, only it’s a serially polygamous society.

(whew! this is gettin’ complicated. *hbd chick wipes brow*)

finally, serial monogamy (think the amhara of ethiopia — or modern western society):

here in my schematic serial monogamy land, each of the men has married twice to two different women and has had one kid with each of them. so, each kid has one half-sibling via his father AND one half-sibling via his mother. so, the relatedness is not quite as narrow as in a polygamous society (every man does get to produce offspring) — but at the same time, there are more genetic connections between the members of the society than in a strict monogamy. (in reality, serial monogamy is often more like polygamy since many women vie for the chance to mate with the best men, while the whiskeys of the world are left out in the cold.)

in strict monogamy, in the second generation, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with their one and only sibling. in serial monogamy, each child shares (probably) 25% of their genes with two siblings. the connections look like this (plus the kids of mr. blue and mr. yellow at the ends are also related):

complicated, huh?

(btw — in polygamy, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with the sibling with whom they share a mother, and (probably) 25% of their genes with their half-siblings via their father.)

so, if we recall again that in a natural population the members of a society do, of course, share a lot of genes in common, then we can see that a strict monogamy would keep the genetic ties between non-family members “broad but shallow”; a population practising serial monogamy has somewhat narrower and deeper genetic ties between non-immediate family members, i.e. extended familiy ties within the society are stronger; and polygamy leads to narrow and deep genetic ties within the extended family, which becomes somewhat cut-off from the larger society. (this is even more so the case when you recall that cousin-marriage is common in polygamous societies.)

i think that the coporate and individualistic nature of western europeans (especially the english!) is connected to the (somewhat) strictly monogamous, non-cousin marriage mating patterns which have been around since the early medieval period in much of europe. these mating patterns set the stage for the selection of certain personality traits — individualism + clark’s traits — since western european families were mostly discrete and independent units making their own way in the world. these traits made western european man what he is today was yesterday.

the fact that europeans (including those of us in the u.s., australia, etc.) are now adopting serial monogamy must mean big changes are in store.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

(note: comments do not require an email. strictly monogamous.)

english individualism

*update 08/09/13: i should’ve mentioned that the kroyl and penifader families that judith bennett looked at in her research lived in bridgstock, northamptonshire which is in the east midlands.

it goes back a long way.

in “The Origins of English Individualism,” which i haven’t actually read (yet), alan macfarlane apparently puts forth the argument that english society was comprised of a bunch of independent, “atomized” individuals by at least the thirteenth century. we’ve already seen that the nuclear family — not clans or tribes or even extended families — was the fundamental social unit in england by the 1200s. this is quite different from how things stood between two- and seven-hundred years earlier.

in “The Tie that Binds: Peasant Marriages and Families in Late Medieval England,” judith bennett examined the manor court records from a couple of neighboring villages in england in the early 1300s, specifically looking for info on the social networks of one married couple (henry kroyl and agnes penifader) and their families. neither the kroyls nor the penifaders were wealthy families, but they were well-to-do, juding by the court cases in which they were involved (property transfers, etc.).

by mapping out the social networks of henry and agnes kroyl, bennett finds no evidence that their extended families or kin played a significant role in their socio-economic circle. henry kroyl had quite a few dealings with one of his brothers, with whom he obviously shared quite a strong bond, but apart from some not very surprising transfers of property at marriage and the death of parents, henry and agnes kroyl had made their own way in life via exchanges and alliances with various, unrelated members of their community. in other words, the kroyls were quite independent [pgs. 127-28]:

“When Kroyl junior and Agnes exchanged marriage vows in the summer of 1319, the importance of their union redounded strongly on themselves, but only minimally on their families of origin. Their marriage was a binding tie within narrow limits. Its impact was felt most keenly at the center, by the principals, and then expanded out in waves that created options, not requirements. These possibilities moved horizontally and extended neither up nor down generationally. Actual responses were always strongly oriented toward the marital couple, and most social linkages moved to that center, not beyond or through it. This marriage joined together two individuals, not their families. It created a conjugal family, not a family alliance.

The image of marriage that emerges from these analyses is strongly individualistic. The lives of Kroyl junior and Agnes were profoundly affected by their marriage, but its impact upon their siblings, their parents, and their descendants was fairly insubstantial. It would be unreasonable, in view of this evidence, to think that the Kroyl and Penifader parents manipulated or coerced their children into this marriage. Neither the parents nor their other children benefited enough to merit excessive familial interference in the decision. Kroyl junior and Agnes almost certainly did not marry without recourse to familial advice and support, but such familial input probably did not overshadow the essentially personal nature of their undertaking. More than likely, the actions that culminated in this marriage conformed to ecclesiastical prescriptions; the primary decisions and commitments rested upon the principals, supported secondarily by their families and their community.

The family structure that most dominated the social lives of the Kroyls and Penifaders was the small, nuclear group.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: but what about the english?

(note: comments do not require an email. brigstock — where the kroyls were from.)

early medieval europe and nineteenth century ethiopia

ninth century european (and by european i mean mitterauer’s europe: germanic areas, northern france and england, more-or-less) and nineteenth century amharic society are rather reminiscent of one another. they’re not exactly alike, of course — different peoples, different environments, different histories — but there are some interesting similarities, particularly in family/societal relations. (there are also some interesting differences that i’ll talk about in a follow-up post.)

both societies practiced outbreeding:

– the europeans were not allowed to marry anyone closer than second-cousins — this included in-laws. no polygamy and absolutely no divorce. all of this was pretty strictly enforced by the church since you had to marry in the church, although dispensations were sometimes granted. these marriage laws were introduced to the northern europeans during the fifth and sixth centuries, although it may have taken a couple of generations for everyone to comply. so, by the ninth century, early medieval europeans had been outbreeding for three- to four-hundred years — something like twelve to sixteen generations of outbreeding, counting a generation as twenty-five years.

– the amharans were not allowed to marry anyone closer than sixth cousins, although divorce was common and “serial monogamy” was the norm. (at different points during its history, the shewa kingdom, where the amharans live, was under the control of muslims. i’m guessing that the amharans picked up the quick-and-easy divorce thing from them, unless it was an indigenous practice.) it’s not clear to me how the cousin-marriage prohibition was enforced apart from it simply being tradition — despite being christians, most amharans did not traditionally marry in the church — but the tradition seems to have be pretty well-enforced amongst ethiopian jews, and so may it have amongst the amharans as well. (it’s also not clear to me if every marriage had to be beyond the sixth cousin, or just the first one.) this sixth cousin proscription seems to have been introduced to ethiopia in the 1400s or 1500s, so by the mid-nineteenth century, the amharans would’ve been outbreeding for three-hundred-fifty to four-hundred years — or fourteen to eighteen generations — comparable to the europeans.

so, what was ninth century european society — in particular its family-relations — like? from “Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path” [pgs. 60, 62-5, 67-8, 77]:

It was primarily the parent-child group that lived on the mansi and hides of the Carolingian villicatio, occasionally with servants or people who may or may not have been their relatives. This kind of group indicates a conjugal family structure. From today’s point of view, this type of structure does not seem worth emphasizing at first glance because it has become generally accepted in European societies….

“In his survey ‘Characteristics of the Western Family Considered over Time,’ Peter Laslett grouped specific characteristics of the European family into four areas. His first point is that family membership ‘in the West’ was confined for the most part to parents and children, the so-called nuclear family or the simple family household. Carolingian sources show that with regard to generational depth this form of household was clearly dominant at the time….

“Laslett’s fourth characteristic of the ‘Western family’ is particularly important: the presence of servants who were not kin but were still fully recognized household members. These servants who were not related by bonds of kinship did not serve in one household throughout their lives but only from youth to marriage. This is why Laslett speaks of ‘life-cycle servants.’ Life-cycle servants were people in the household who were different from the domestic slaves found in many cultures, and they were sometimes included among members of the family…. [T]hese domestics were often found in property registers as early as the Carolingian period.

“All four characteristics of the ‘Western family’ that Laslett lists go far back in history. All four indicate the influence of the manorial system. All four can be connected with the hide system. All four point toward different facets of the conjugal family: In the simple family household, the conjugal couple were the nucleus….

The most important feature of the Western family is doubtless the fact that it was not constituted by bloodlines but was a house or household community largely free of kinship ties. English-language family research uses the very apposite concept of the ‘coresident domestic group’ that is based on family contexts in more modern time but also fits medieval ones perfectly. Living in a family that includes non-kin goes back a long way in European history…. The life-cycle servant was the prototype of the non-kin coresident who would be taken into the family to augment the work force temporarily. We already find him listed in the polyptychs of Carolingian monastic estates in the early days of the manorial system. Other kinds of unrelated coresidents were added wherever the manorial system continued to develop in Europe: inmates, lodgers, guests, foster children, and elderly reirees and children left behind by previous owners who shared no bond of kinship.”

so, the basic unit in early medieval (north-western) european society was the nuclear family which was not attached to extensive kinship groups like clans or tribes. households would also typically include non-relatives. this is quite a contrast from many areas of the world where a large, extended family would make up the household and the labor force of that household. also, young people in medieval europe were particularly mobile, often leaving home to work as servants in other households.

mitterauer continues:

“As a rule, manorial and lineage structures are in conflict with each other, but this opposition alone cannot satisfactorily explain the profound changes in European kinship systems. These processes of change go back to well before the rise of the Frankish agrarian system; in spatial terms, they extend beyond that system’s area of dissemination. So we must look for other determining factors that might allow us to understand why Frankish systems of agrarianism, lordship, and family could evolve in which lineage principles play so minor a part….

“The introduction of Christianity always preceded the introduction of the hide system throughout the entire area of colonization in the East — often by only a slight difference in time, but occasionally centuries earlier. The time sequence was never reversed, anywhere. The western agrarian system at all times found a state of affairs where Christian conversion had either relaxed or weakened older patrilineal patterns. This process had already paved the way for the transition to a bilateral system of kinship and the conjugal family.”

in other words, you can’t have a manorial system in your society when you have large kinship groups like clans. you have to get rid of, or at least reduce, the inbreeding (in order to get rid of the kinship groups) if you want to have a manorial system. on the other hand, the manorial system further breaks down kinship connections since people shift and are shifted around throughout the system.

so, what about the mid-nineteenth century amharans? from “Class, State and Power in Africa: a case study of the Kingdom of Shewa” [pgs. 49-50, 52, 54-56]:

The Amhara lived in hamlets and scattered homesteads rather than in nucleated villages [so did the europeans, btw – hbd chick]; the parish grouped together a number of hamlets into a unit of worship and cooperation for religious purposes; the estate of the local lord (gultagna or malkagna) served as the smallest political entity and would often differ from both the former. All three units were cut across by significant ties of kinship, friendship, and allegiance, which high mobility contributed to weakening the loyalty to any particular institution. Communal ties were thus numerous, diffuse, and subject to manipulation….

“The Shewan economy was predominantly agricultural, but there was also a considerable trade….

“A well-developed agriculture laid the basis for a class society by providing a large agricultural surplus. Shewa was set in a rich ecological milieu, the plough was in general use, crop rotation was widely practised; manure, irrigation, and terracing were well-known techniques and practised where feasible. This set the peasantry of Shewa, and northern Ethiopia in general, off from the common African agriculturalists using the hoe….

The household was the unit or production, but was an institution which also had a wider social significance…. The household consisted of two elements, ‘tasks’ and personnel. The tasks formed a fairly stable structure, divided into male and female spheres, each strictly ranked. The personnel changed frequently and was assigned its tasks according to the size of the household and the relative standing of its members.

The central cohesive link was the tie of marriage, but the household was often not identical with the nuclear family; it included non-kin or distantly related members according to its stage within the domestic cycle. Furthermore, marriage did not provide a basis for a stable family. Common marriage (as opposed to religious marriage) was entered into by swearing on the life of the king in the presence of witnesses and taking account of the property brough by each party. The laxity and dissolubility of this form of marriage has often been emphasied; in Menilek’s time one enterprising lady of twenty-seven was known to have had fifteen or sixteen husbands. Religious marriage, which in theory bound husband and wife together for ever, was mostly left to priests and old persons….

“Among the peasants the husband-wife relationship was one of equals, performing complementary tasks, both a man and a woman being necessary to form even a minimal household. Women had a fairly strong position in Shewan society, keeping their own name and property when marrying; the husband managed all the household’s land, but on divorce the wife resumed possession of whatever she had brought into the marriage….

“If there were no servants, the children played their part, also serving as a form of education. From the age of five or six they were given small duties in the fields or made to fetch wood or water. However, children were an unstable labour force; at about twelve many left their parents to take service in other households, only the favourite son remaining on the farm….

“The Amhara household faced two basic problems, reproduction and recruitment. Its holding of land was not a family estate cultivated for generations; the rule of equal inheritance, although not strictly adhered to, greatly reduced continuity from generation to generation. Even a favoured child inherited a share that was significantly smaller than that of his father; each generation had to build its own fortune anew, implying competition and a need for personal achievement, not an equal or inherited starting point.

Recruitment of household members took several forms. The couple’s children, or children of a former marriage, stayed with their parents for a number of years; servants were numerous, even the peasants had at least one; finally the institution of slavery eased recruitment of personnel for the lowly household tasks….

like medieval europe, then, the basic unit of nineteenth century amharan society was the nuclear family plus servants who came and went in the household. young people in amharan society, like their european counterparts, would also leave home to become servants in other households. the amharan nuclear family stood independent from a larger kinship group like the european nuclear family (but there is one difference here related to the inheritance of property which i’ll get to in a follow-up post — or you can just check out ege’s book starting on pg. 59). the main difference here is the fragility of the husband and wife team in amharan society — that could break-up at any moment and, apparently, did. the ethiopians also had slaves in their households.

the commonality here? i think it’s that the outbreeding creates this sort-of centrifugal force that flings kin farther away from one another in terms of social relations. with lots of regular inbreeding you get extended families, clans, tribes, etc. with lots of outbreeding, you get nuclear families and strangers in your household. of course, every society has its own particular historical (evolutionary) course, and so there are unique elements to them all.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

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the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy

after describing how the catholic church put an end (for the most part) to clans and tribes in western europe via its regulations on marriage, a topic which has been discussed at length here on the ol’ blog (see the Inbreeding in Europe series down below in the left-hand column), 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.

that is all. (^_^)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and “hard-won democracy” and democracy and endogamous mating practices

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more ethiopia notes

just a short note/thought about the “generation counting” in ethiopia.

the ethiopian law code, the fetha negest, which includes this prohibition against marrying anybody closer than a sixth cousin, was adopted in ethiopia in the mid-1400s (or maybe the 1500s). it was the work of an egyptian copt, ‘abul fada’il ibn al-‘assal, who compiled it in 1240 (i guess it was used by the copts in egypt during that time?).

my guess is that ibn al-‘assal adapted current roman catholic ideas on marriage into his law code. well, kinda current. the roman catholic church had banned (as well as they could) up to sixth cousin marriage in the eleventh century, but reversed this at the fourth latern council in 1215 (back to only a ban up to third cousins). ibn al-‘assal may not have been aware of this at the time of writing — or maybe he was and thought the old regulations were better.

in any case, my guess (again) is that this practice of “generation counting” and marrying beyond sixth cousins by several ethiopian groups was not an indigenous practice but was introduced from egypt in the 1400-1500s. and the egyptians got their ideas from rome. this is just my guess, tho. i’ll be keepin’ my eye out for a confirmation (or not!) of my guess.

previously: ethiopia notes

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