classic posts

been tweeting the occasional “classic post” from poolside during the week. thought i’d reproduce them here. (^_^)

17 Comments

  1. > whatever happened to european tribes?

    OK, I get the stuff about European tribes generally disappearing because the Church banned cousin marriages, and the result was the reduction of tribal-oriented institutions and the rise of corporate voluntary associations as an intermediate-level method of structuring society.

    But what about the ancient Greeks? They had tribes, which you don’t hear much about, but at the same time they were spectacularly successful through their system of corporate city-states, which were not organized on a (biologically) tribal basis. The rise of the Greek city states was like the rise of the European city states in the late middle ages — leading to democracy, flourishing of culture, expansion of liberty, etc.

    The Greek tribes weren’t suppressed by the Church. So what was going on?

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    1. I’ve wondered this as well. It makes me speculate that maybe, just maybe, pastoralists occasionally notice that inbreeding that results in problems with their stock, problems that also happen to humans and they get the idea that a cousin marriage prohibition among their own is a good idea, which then results in changes over time, possibly a seemingly inexplicable golden age.

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  2. Transylvania has some courtyard houses, though it is usually only few structures around a courtyard. I had thought it was simply old Ottoman influence, adapted for use under communism, but this rings true.

    Tribes expanded into nations, which is something of a Supertribe. Now that they’ve pretty much got each Supertribe contained in borders, they get along much better. The problem areas are where they haven’t shaken out that way yet: Yugoslavia, Ukraine – plus how to deal with the Roma.

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  3. Imagine someone trying to start reading this blog now. He’d have to spend a very long time reading through the archives. If you could write a 150-250 page book (larger books tend to be far lower in quality) that summarizes things, it would be a great contribution to the world. Although we (currently) have the wayback machine website, we might not always. I am concerned that your scholarship will be lost.

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  4. “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”: pah! I was talking just today to a medieval historian who told me that in Sicily the marriage rules of the Roman Catholic Church had no influence until after the Council of Trent. Interestingly, they had more influence in England.

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  5. @sisyphean – yes, there’s been much speculation along those lines in the hbd chick household as well: did premodern humans apply their knowledge of animal breeding practices to themselves — and if so, in what ways and how much?

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  6. @dearieme – yes, I have wondered the same thing. The prohibition was honored just about nowhere. Why NW Europe, when it converted, decided to embrace the rule, is indeed puzzling. The most obvious answer would be that they already had some tradition of it – except there doesn’t seem to be any evidence for that.

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  7. @assistant village idiot – i think a key thing was the presence of manorialism in nw europe, specifically (and i was just reading about this the other day) the presence of ecclesiastical manors, because it really was on those manors that the populace was most closely controlled by tptb of the day.

    there are also some hints, tho, that perhaps the pre-christian germanics had not inbred as much/as closely as other groups, i.e. the fact that their society was structured around looser kindreds rather than tighter clans (like, say, the scots for instance). dunno. just speculation on my part. (^_^)

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  8. I believe that a kinship system could arise from a cross-cousin marriage society that migrates a lot. Imagine a society where everyone is divided up into patrilineal clans and people cannot marry within the clan. So I can’t marry my fbd because she is in my clan, but I can marry my fzd and my mbd because they are both in different clans. Now imagine a slash-and-burn (horticulture) society. For the most part these societies don’t migrate much, instead rotating back to old fields after a decade or two. So it would be no problem to arrange marriages between cross cousins, and so that is what would happen. The clans in a slash-and-burn society can easily migrate apart from each other, if land availability makes it more appealing. This would mean that cousin marriages are harder to come by. Combine the reduction in cousin marriage with the generally higher status for women found in slash-and-burn societies and soon the clans dissolve into kinship networks.

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  9. When I lay hands on it, I shall type up for you a superb rant from a historian explaining that the notion that the Scots lived in clans in the middle ages is ahistorical rubbish, mainly to be attributed to Romantic thinkers.

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  10. dearieme, I would like to see it as well. I am guessing that the key is in the “lived in” part. Compared to whom? They could well have been more willing to get together or live with each other than the English coming upon them. But if the trend had been away from that for centuries, and they onlys eemed clannish by comparison, that’s not really “living in” a clan in our current sense.

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  11. Scientific reductionism works only when it is necessary. It will not always ok?

    For example. The ‘theory’ about the division of labor of the human brain, where we have two super-specialized hemispheres, was recently refuted. Now, it is stated that use both sides of the brain and that, especially with regard to creativity, it is necessary to have greater inter-hemispheric connectivity than just being ‘right-brained’.

    However, there are several studies that have shown significant differences in the overall processing of both sides of the brain, e.g. in patients who suffer severe brain injury. The famous cases of people who had severely affected his left side, and that became ‘right brained’ and that was the emergence of visual-spatial talents.

    It is part of the current that the more symmetrical brain, not favoring any sides, providing the increased migration of information between the two, aka, creativity.

    However, Savant are generally devoid of corpus callosum and are ‘right brained’. People with severe brain injury on the left side of the brain, which become painters, not only has the most symmetrical brain, they have side of the brain predominantly useless. I have greater symmetry in my brain but I’m not an accomplished painter, actually, I do not have any great talent of this kind, my drawings are childish.

    The scientific reductionism worked in this example, where a previously established theory was almost completely invalidated.

    Becomes simple which is simple, becomes complex, which is complex.

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