i’ve been referring to western society — especially since the middle ages and forward — as being “corporate” in nature, i.e. that unrelated individuals in western societies tend to get together and form “corporate” sorts of groups, like guilds and mutual aid societies and even quite a few protestant churches, more than people in other societies do. this is as opposed to more family-based societies where social life and affairs are based on … yeah … the family — especially the extended family or clan or tribe. i thought i picked up the term “corporate” from avner greif [opens pdf], but he talks about “corporatism” and not strictly a society having a “corporate” nature, so i guess i sorta coined it myself (sorta) or got it from elsewhere.


in Family in Contemporary Egypt [available on questia] by andrea rugh, the author uses the term “corporate” or “corporations” not to refer to the individualistic groupings in western society, which she calls “collectivities”, but to family-based societies instead. i’ll let her explain it [pgs. 32-34]:

“Corporateness is used here to define that sense the Egyptian has of the inviolability of his social groups, of their indivisible unity that persists regardless of the constituent members. The term is contrasted with the concept of collectivity which is meant to refer to the Western perception of groups as collections of individuals joining to achieve the common interests of the individual members. Within the collectivity individual rights supercede group rights and are only restricted where they may conflict with the rights of other individuals. It is the exception to discern in the collectivity any supra-individual rights that might devolve on the larger group. The individual is generally protected by legal rule or social custom from too great a tyranny of the group.

“In a corporation, the group comes first and the individuals are expected to sacrifice their own needs for the greater good of the group. The personal status of individual members is defined by the group and not more than incidentally by individual achievement. Individual behaviors are evaluated primarily by how they reflect on the group, the group taking the blame or the rewards for these behaviors. Personal lapses in behavior, if kept secret, are of little consequence; it is only their public acknowledgement and association with the lowering of group status that causes an individual a sense of shame and personal guilt.

“The collective view, by contrast, considers the individual on his own merits. He can excel or not live up to the expectations of his group without reflecting more than marginally on that group. The individual draws on the group for support in achieving his own status level. He can personally overcome the deficiencies of his group, and the world will recognize his achievements. Society, as a result, holds him responsible for developing his own potentialities and only in special cases of disadvantage accepts the view that his group might hinder this effort.

“A person holding a corporate view or a collective view organizes his life quite differently from one holding the opposing view. Each view is so deeply engrained in the cultural consciousness of a people [i would say in the biology of a people – h. chick] that it is difficult for people to stand outside their own cultural perspective and project themselves into the consciousness of those holding the opposing view. People conceive of their own world view as representing logic, common sense, and other valued characteristics, and, indeed, given the whole social system within which the world view functions, it *is* the view with the best ‘fit’ to provice coherence for the society as a whole.

“The following illustration demonstrates the conflict in world view that occurs when member of a society that is corporate-based are to comment on the principles of a collectively based society:

“‘An American literature class in an Egyptian University had just finished Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. The American professor had explained all the pertinent points of Thoreau’s return to nature, his attempt at realizing self-sufficiency, his strong sense of individualism. The class was clearly uncomfortable with what they had been reading and were having difficulty in putting the book into some sort of familiar perspective.

“‘”How do you feel about Thoreau, the man, and do you think that a life style like his would be appropriate in the Egyptian context?” the professor asked. Hands flew up and a number of answers came at once:

“‘”He is a miser–he lacks generosity.” The student based his comments on the lengthy accounting Thoreau made of all the materials he had bought to sustain himself in the woods. “What is the purpose of going off and living alone? What kind of life is that?” “Doesn’t he have any family? He doesn’t speak about them. How can he leave all his responsibilities behind like that?”

“‘The consensus of the class was that Thoreau was not accomplishing anything useful by his anti-social behavior; he had abrogated his role as a social being. He should in fact be considered “crazy” and would be so considered if he should try to live in this way in the Egyptian context. The concept of self-realization and self-reliance were totally lost on the students.’

“Individualism has little positive value in Egyptian society, and often is equated with a number of negative outcomes. As one student later commented: ‘Individualism leads to sexual license and social chaos since everyone is seeking his own ends.'”

whatever way you wanna use the words — corporate vs. family-based or collectivities vs. corporations — what matters here is that, broadly speaking, there are two different types of societies: individualistic and group oriented. and the group oriented societies are based, not on random groupings of individuals, but on extended families, clans and tribes. and you get varying degrees of all that by greater or lesser amounts of inbreeding; you get individualism by outbreeding.

one thing i’d really like the hbd-o-sphere to think about and understand even more, though, is what rugh said about the difficulties that the two types of peoples have in understanding one another:

“Each view is so deeply engrained in the cultural consciousness of a people that it is difficult for people to stand outside their own cultural perspective and project themselves into the consciousness of those holding the opposing view.”

it’s not just difficult for people to stand outside their own cultural persepctive to understand others — it’s difficult for people to stand outside their own biological natures to understand other peoples’ biological natures. and this applies to all areas of human biodiversity, not just the inbreeding/outbreeding thing.

it’s hard to understand other individuals or peoples, unless you try, which most people don’t. most people don’t even ever consider trying to view things from a totally different perspective than their own. they don’t and/or can’t imagine that other people might, on a very fundamental level, think and feel differently about life.

for instance, if you’re one of those people who can wait on eatin’ the marshmallow so that you can have two later (mmmmmm!), imagine that there are some people who can’t do that. it’s not just that they choose not to wait, they CAN’T. then imagine what they must think about people who do. it’s not easy for either side. (i suspect it’s easier for higher iq people to imagine how others experience the world — if they bother trying — but think about the legions of people with below average iqs….)

anyway. enough soapboxing. (^_^) different peoples are different. i know you know that already, but think about it some more anyway. that is all! (^_^)

update: a couple of more passages from rugh [pgs. 281-82]:

“Corporateness has other social implications that can be discovered by reviewing some of the points made in earlier chapters….

First, group — most often family — becomes the bottom line for most kinds of social and economic organization. There is little use in talking about how an isolated individual copes in his socioeconomic environment since so much depends on the back-up support he commands….

Second, people feel a strong sense of who stands in a relation of outsider or insider, however they may momentarily define these categories. The zero-sum game, attributed to Egyptian social behavior, is based to a large extent on the sliding perception of who stands outside and who inside the group in any attempt to garner resources. Kin of varying degrees of distance can at different times fall in or outside the circle of alliance depending upon the activity at hand….

The villain for the individual Egyptian is almost always perceived as an outside aggressor rather than the Egyptian himself, his failings, or the failings of someone of his committed inner circle. This allows projection of problems on outside others rather than on introspective self-doubts or vital group members. The greater good requires that these kinds of deceptions be sustained by everyone concerned lest the solidarity of group be threatened. To combat the outside threat people seek to consolidate groups which can either strengthen life’s chances or spread life’s burdens. Limited and versatile groupings like the family are effective tools under these circumstances.

Third, confidence between people is based on trust which in turn is more likely to occur where structural relationships of group exist. The stronger the overlay of ties, jural and affective, the more confidence a person invests in another person. The jural ties of kinship are strongest, even without affective ties, for there is a strong moral obligation for kin to come to the aid of other kin, even when there have been no effective relationships between them over a long period of time…..”

previously: mating patterns and the individual

update: see also family type in egypt and mating patterns in egypt

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