just started reading avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us. so far it’s very good! mind you, i’ve only read the first two chapters (there are twenty-three altogether). (~_^)

according to tuschman, his goal in writing this book is [from the preface – my emphasis]:

“[T]o paint a compelling and accurate portrait of our nature as political animals. Today’s political commentators would have us believe that we vote based on our views about the main issues of the day, on our economic circumstances, or on our longtime affiliations with this political party or that. That’s wrong, or at least incomplete. Step by step, I will explain that our political orientations are not simply intellectual constructs, flowing from our upbringing, our schooling, our peer groups, or which newspapers we read. No, our political orientations are actually natural dispositions, molded within each of us by powerful evolutionary forces.

excellent!

in the first two chapters, tuschman reviews some of the major research out there which has found that personality is largely innate and that personality strongly influences our political orientations (left-wing or right): the blocks’ study showing that personality at age four strongly correlates with political orientation as an adult (in one’s 20s) [pdf], for example, and alford et al.’s twin studies which showed that identical twins reared apart have very much the same political orientations [pdf], and so on.

well, he doesn’t need to persuade me! (~_^) left and right — we are “born this way.”

furthermore, tuschman says we’ll find these innate left/right personalities in all societies. he draws, though, what i think is a slightly awkward comparison between all of the rebellious folks in the arab spring and the occupy wall street movement in the western world [chapter 1]:

“[I]t was precisely Basboosa’s [the tunisian man who immolated himself triggering the so-called arab spring] moral *rejection of inequality* that activated one of these universal hot buttons residing within him, and within so many of his compatriots. And this is why his story resonated with a critical mass of people in the Middle East, for whom Basboosa symbolized the humble, well-meaning common man systematically abused by government fiat and corruption.

“Now, the story of Basboosa might seem rather remote to many American readers. But the same hidden trigger at play in the Middle East underlies the concurrent transformation of the political landscape in the United States. As the Arab Spring was unfolding, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement emerged on the far left of the US spectrum. The demonstrators in New York shouting, ‘We are the 99 percent!’ were railing not against Middle Eastern dictators, but rather against bankers and large corporations. And yet the same issue that ignited the Arab Spring had inspired and galvanized their movement: a moral rejection of economic and social *inequality*.”

well, yeah … sort of … maybe. but i’m not certain that there are equally as many individuals in tunisia — or north africa — concerned about equality for everybody as there are in the united states or western europe. there might be a lot of people p*ssed off in the arab world/middle east/north africa that they, personally, experience so much corruption in their daily lives and that they and their families are often cheated by others, but are they really morally rejecting economic and social inequality to the same degree that, say, a swede does? i dunno, but it’s worth asking.

just looking quickly at one set of responses from the world values survey [1981-2002 waves] to the question…

“How would you place your views on this scale? – Incomes should be made more equal vs We need larger income differences as incentives.”

…we find that north africans are very much for GREATER income inequality [click on chart for LARGER view]:

wvs - income equality

i think it would be very safe to bet that different populations will vary not only in the numbers/proportions of leftists vs. rightists found within them but also in how liberal or conservative their left- or right-wingers are.

but i think i’m getting ahead of tuschman and that he’s actually going to get to this later in the book. for instance, in chapter two, he does say:

“What happened when groups of very different genetic backgrounds live in the same environment? In this case, each group’s average personality scores differed according to the *origin of their ancestors*. For example, the personality traits of white South Africans clustered closer to the Swiss, while black South Africans had personalities more similar to Zimbabweans. Likewise, groups that have traditionally lived in geographically adjacent territories have more similar average personalities than groups separated by large distances.”

so i should prolly finish reading the book before i say any more on this. (^_^)

previously: well this sounds familiar…

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