liberal democracy vs. consensus building

as we’ve seen, some societies experience a lot more difficulties implementing liberal democracy (or any sort of democracy) than others, and very often the ones that have these difficulties have a history of cousin marriage (see here and here).

liberal democracy (fwiw) is, of course, a relatively modern invention, but it’s not as though democratic tendencies weren’t around before the enlightenment. many societies have, or have had, democratic elements to them even if they are/were not fully functioning democracies, probably mostly because people will have a say in matters. there’s even been talk that the ancient sumerians engaged in a “primitive democracy” so … well … there you go.

in The Tribal Imagination, robin fox described so well what is so ODD about our modern liberal democray. i quoted him once before on liberal democracy, and here i go again [pg. 60 – bolding added by me]:

“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions could compete for votes and, most amazingly, the loser would *voluntarily cede power*. This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps.”

to voluntarily cede power. very odd system, indeed!

in digging around for stuff on mating patterns in different societies, i’ve found that i keep coming across an alternate democratic system that seems to pop up again and again in places with more inbreeding than the anglo world, and that is consensus democracy. and if it’s not a democratic system, it’s a system of governing that involves getting/having a consensus in some shape or form. i don’t know if this is an actual general pattern or not — i.e. more consensus building in more inbred societies — it’s just something i’ve noticed lately.

tribal societies, like those in the arab world, definitely seem to operate with consensus building systems [pg. 212 – emphases added by me]:

“Arab society during Muhammad’s day and for more than a century afterward never really developed a stable political order worthy of being called a state. There was no state per se and no administrative structure of government. Arab society remained what it had always been, a tribal society characterized by personal leadership and appointed retainers that drew no distinctions between the social, religious, and military aspects of life. Indeed, there was never a formal army as such. Instead, there was an alliance of powerful tribal chiefs who led their personal retinues in battle. There was no financial system, and what treasury there was came from gifts and booty obtained in raids. Government was essentially an enlarged tribal system of negotiated consensus among powerful tribal chieftans, and it was these warrior chiefs who controlled the Arab populace and the army. Governance was effected indirectly through tribal intermediaries. This system of indirect rule plagued the Muslim Empire until its end. Power ebbed and flowed from the center of authority, but no caliph ever was able to retain control of the tribal and regional armies for very long. Revolts and insurrections rooted in jealousy, political interests, religious apostasy, and blood feuds went on for centuries.”

but i’ve also noticed the concept of “consensus” in other places like in the medieval republic of novgorod which is meant to be one of these examples of early democracy in eastern europe. however, consensus was a big part of novgorod’s democratic system [pg. 47 – link and emphasis added by me]:

“Another source of stability in the region which is grounded in the historic inheritance of Novgorod is the concept of democratic consensus. Although, in Novgorod’s history, consensus was sometimes achieved through violent means (the medieval chronicles depict how recalcitrant minorities within the assembly, or veche, might face physical assault, including being hurled off the principle bridge of the city into the river Volkhov), the idea that elected representatives have an obligation, once in power, to seek consensus for the good of society beyond narrow partisan, ethnic, or geographic interests has been critical in helping to achieve stability…. As former First Deputy Governor Valery Trofimov put it, ‘all of civil society’ — elected officials, academics, entrepreneurs — worked together to forge a policy commonly referred to as ‘politics of the round table.'”

and poland’s era of golden liberty — another example of early democracy in eastern europe — was undone by its consensus building mechanism, the liberum veto [emphasis added by me]:

“The liberum veto (Latin for ‘the free veto’) was a parliamentary device in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It allowed any member of the Sejm (legislature) to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed at the session by shouting Nie pozwalam! (Polish: ‘I do not allow!’). From the mid-16th to the late 18th century, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had the liberum veto, a form of unanimity voting rule, in its parliamentary deliberations….

“This rule evolved from the principle of unanimous consent, which derived from the traditions of decision making in the Kingdom of Poland, and developed under the federative character of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Each deputy to a Sejm was elected at a sejmik (the local sejm for a region) and represented the entire region. He thus assumed responsibility to his sejmik for all decisions taken at the Sejm. A decision taken by a majority against the will of a minority (even if only a single sejmik) was considered a violation of the principle of political equality.

in other words, there had to be consensus.

i might be wrong, but it seems to me that consensus building systems have something to do with the presence of different interest groups — in the case of tribal societies, different tribes — in the case of clannish societies, different clans. i think you might wind up with liberal democracy arising naturally only in places where these interest groups have been removed from the system — like in england where society was “atomized” into bunches of individuals and their nuclear families in the early medieval period.

let’s see — who else likes consensus? oh, yes — some north american native americans in canada, eh! probably have a history of mating endogamously. the sveeedes. late outbreeders. and, my personal favorite, one of those rabble-rousing scots-irishmen, john c. calhoun!:

“The ‘Disquisition on Government’ is a 100-page abstract treatise that comprises Calhoun’s definitive and fully elaborated ideas on government; he worked on it intermittently for six years before it was finished in 1849. It systematically presents his arguments that 1) a numerical majority in any government will typically impose a despotism over a minority unless some way is devised to secure the assent of all classes, sections, and interests and 2) that innate human depravity would debase government in a democracy.

“Calhoun offered the concurrent majority as the key to achieving consensus, a formula by which a minority interest had the option to nullify objectionable legislation passed by a majority interest.”

hmmmm. that “innate human depravity would debase government in a democracy.” how true.

previously: consanguinity and democracy and pathogens and consanguinity and democracy and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. wild man, john c. calhoun.)

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linkfest – 08/26/12

Ancestral link places Mexican-Americans at greater risk for metabolic disease“Mexican-Americans with an ancestral link to Amerindian tribes were found to have higher insulin resistance levels, which is an indication of several chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes….”

Most mutations come from dad“Humans inherit more than three times as many mutations from their fathers as from their mothers, and mutation rates increase with the father’s age but not the mother’s….” see also Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia. and see also greg cochran (h/t jayman!).

Human responses to unfairness with primary rewards and their biological limits“[H]umans care about being treated fairly when bargaining with primary rewards, and, together with a broader literature suggest that such reciprocal altruism may be particularly prominent in humans.” – note that the study seems to have been conducted on “w.e.i.r.d.” students.

African National IQs, redux“The average for 40 African nations comes out to 75.” – from chuck.

Solutions, Again – jayman’s ideas for a better future!

Working memory training does not improve IQ – from the inductivist.

Male Circumcision and Health Care Costs – @the breviary.

A decade after Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo? – from ed west.

Hypergamy In China Cutting Fertility Of High Ranking Women – from parapundit.

Do Drivers Make Way In Your Country? – from anatoly.

Divergent Whole-Genome Methylation Maps of Human and Chimpanzee Brains Reveal Epigenetic Basis of Human Regulatory Evolution“Hundreds of genes exhibit significantly lower levels of promoter methylation in the human brain than in the chimpanzee brain…. Differentially methylated genes [in humans] are strikingly enriched with loci associated with neurological disorders, psychological disorders, and cancers.”

Dusting Off GOD“The implication — that religion is basically malevolent, that it ‘poisons everything,’ in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens — is a standard assertion of the New Atheists…. Before you can know for sure, you have to figure out what religion does for us in the first place.”

Planet of the apes“What we really know about our evolutionary past – and what we don’t” – nice review of a couple of human evolution books.

bonus: Octopuses Gain Consciousness (According to Scientists’ Declaration)

bonus bonus: The Racial Divide on … Sneakers

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

balkan endogamy

nick says: “The Balkans had the 7th cousin law, that forbid them to marry anyone closer than the 7th cousin.”

i did a little googling on that and found what i think will probably prove to be a general pattern for balkan populations: a ban on marrying in the patriline, but marrying on the mother’s side is ok and even preferred. so the seventh-cousin law that nick is referring to relates only to paternal cousins.

this is just a preliminary look at the mating patterns in the balkans, btw. i need to do a lot more research on this.

anyway, this pattern of avoiding marriage in the patrline but preferring marriage to maternal relatives seems to hold for bosnian muslims, albanians, and macedonian slavs.

regarding the macedonian slavs: “The genealogical reckoning is primarily agnatic [i.e. through the male line – h. chick]. Kinship terminology distinguishes father’s brother (stric) from the mother’s brother (ujak), as well as using a special word to indicate sister’s or daughter’s husband (zet) and a woman married to a set of brothers (jetrva). On the agnatic side, marriage is forbidden up to the ninth generation, while the matrilineal first cousins could be regarded as possible mates if it was not for the canonical prohibition.

that’s the christian church’s ban on cousin marriage. but otherwise, marriage to matrilineal relatives is ok — and macedonian slavs would’ve approved of matrilineal first cousin marriage if it wasn’t for their church.

regarding the bosnian muslims, bringa reports (pg. 146) that “there is a preference for marrying agnatic affines.” agnatic refers to the paternal line — so your father and your paternal grandfather and all your paternal aunts and uncles, etc. affines are in-laws. so there is a preference amongst bosnian muslims to marry their in-laws connected to the father’s side of the family.

the most obvious members of that group would simply be one’s maternal relatives, i.e. your father’s in-laws (see?). but agnatic affines could also include, for instance, your paternal uncle’s wife’s relatives.

i know — it all gets kinda complicated. the important thing, though, is it’s all a sort of endogamous mating.

finally, the albanians. i’m going to reproduce a long-ish passage from State Collapse and Reconstruction in the Periphery: Political Economy, Ethnicity and Development in Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo. just skip it if you’re bored already, but it talks about the clannishness or tribalness (the author’s words, not mine!) of the albanians and how their mating patterns have, at least traditionally, been endogamous, including marriage to maternal relatives (this is not strange, btw, since marriage to maternal relatives seems generally to be the most popular form of close family marriage around the world) [pgs. 64-67]:

“A brief description of Albanian society is required here. Albanians are divided into two language or dialect groups, the Gheg and the Tosk, with the Tosk dominating in southern Albania and the Gheg in northern Albania and the highlands (the division is roughly at the Shkumbi river). The Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia are Ghegs (with some exceptions in southern Macedonia). Traditional structures, tribal or clan-based, as well as village community-based forms of social organisation remained important among the Albanian population in Kosovo throughout the Yugoslav period. There are notable elements of continuity in traditional loyalty structure and customary law (including the practice of blood feud). The terms ‘tribe’ and ‘clan’ are contested, but we may instead use the Albanian terms. The Albanian term ‘fis’ refers to a large groups which claim descent from one common male ancestor. Each fis is divided into sub-branches. Marriage within the same fis (based on the male line) is considered incestuous even if the ‘actual’ relationship is, say, nine or ten generations back (which does not apply on the maternal side).[12] In Kosovo there are about thirteen fises. A smaller group which traditionally has existed within the fis is a brotherhood or ‘vellazeri’, which is similar to the Balkan form of extended family, the ‘Zadruga’, but differs from it, for example, in that there was not a common budget. A ‘mehala’ is another term for a subgroup consisting of a number of closely related houses. A house, or a ‘shpi’ could itself consist of an extended family — something still existing in Kosovo although they have declined considerably during the Yugoslav period…. It should be noted that within the same fis some members can be Muslim and other Catholic. Among the Albanians there are Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox. The Orthodox prevail in south Albania (among the Tosk), whereas Kosovo is predominantly Muslim….

The traditional Albanian village consisted of the (often fortified) houses (kulle) of the extended families, but had no public spaces. There were no cafes or inns, or public buildings of any kind. All matters relating to society, or social life, were discussed inside the family houses, and the house was thereby of particular importance in Albanian cultural life…. In contrast to the pattern in northwestern Europe, for example, there were no intermediary associations or public spheres between the individual, or family, and the state and hence nothing resembling what has been called ‘civil society’ in the usage of eighteenth- or nineteenth-century thinkers. Indeed there was neither the social structure nor social infrastructure or type of economy for such an analytical term as ‘civil society’ to be applied; social life was shaped by the extended family (with its house), the clan and the village, and there was no social organisation beyond the extended family apart from the clan. All legal matters were strictly regulated in customary law and applied by the clans, or mediated in meetings by the elders (kuvend)….

“The Albanians … had no aspirations to an Albanian state before the twentieth century, but were quite content with remaining inside the Ottoman state. Although there may have been a growing Albanian identity, beyond the fis, especially in the nineteenth century, there was not really any expression of Albanian nationalism. Several factors made expressions of nationhood unlikely. There were disputes between clans, and the Albanians did not share a single religion, but were divided between Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. The lifestyles of, for example, the Tosk in the south or in the coastal trading ports and the Gheg of the highlands were quite different.

“[12] As noted by Edith Durham, the Catholic Church prohibited marriage to the sixth degree, but on the maternal side much closer relatives might enter marriage. See Durham (1909: 22); The practice of prohibiting marriage within the fis remains today.”

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe and invention of the modern world

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