clannishness defined

’bout time, right? right.

the first thing — one of the most important things — to remember is that clannishness does NOT just apply to peoples who live in clans (or, like the arabs, lineage-based tribes). a population that is clannish, or exhibits traits of clannishness, does NOT have to be one arranged along clans/tribes. all — or maybe most (dunno) — societies that are arranged along clan/tribal lines are normally clannish — at least i think so — i can’t think of any that are not. but clannishness extends beyond that — some societies are clannish even though their members don’t spend their everyday lives surrounded by their fellow clan members.

so what is clannishness then? clannishness is (and i reserve the right to alter this definition) a set of behaviors and innate behavioral traits and predispositions which, when found in a population, result in the members of that population strongly favoring, in all areas of life, themselves, their family members — both near and extended, and even closely allied associates (esp. in clannish societies which are not arranged into clans), while at the same time strongly disfavoring those considered to be non-family and all unrelated, non-allied associates. (i know — it’s messy — it needs work. i agree. feel free to leave suggestions in the comments! thnx.)

the most important thing to remember here is: take the clannish individuals out of their native clannish environment — for instance, away from their extended families or clans — and they will still, on average, behave in clannish ways. why? because (i think) that what we’re looking at are innate traits — innate traits that are found to different degrees, on average, in different populations. and why should that be? evolution by natural selection, that’s why. to quote myself:

think of it like a two-stage rocket:

– FIRST you have either inbreeding or outbreeding (or any range in between those), and these mating patterns either focus or disperse “genes for altruism” … within extended family groups, which….

– THEN sets the stage for creating different selection pressures in that different social environments are created (egs. nuclear families, extended families, clans, larger tribes). it’s HERE in this second stage where the behaviors — either clannish or not (or any range in between those!) — are selected for (or can be selected for).

“either clannish or not (or any range in between those!).” in other words, clannishness should be viewed as a spectrum. to quote myself again:

clannishness should be viewed as a spectrum.

the pattern seems to be that, the longer and greater the inbreeding, the more clannish — and the opposite — the longer and greater the outbreeding, the less clannish.

if we take 1 as the least clannish and 10 as the most clannish, i would rate various groups as follows (these are today’s judgements — i reserve the right to alter these as i go forward and learn more about all of these populations!):

1 – the english (not all of them — probably not the cornish, for instance), some of the dutch
2 – the scandinavians
3 or 4 – the irish
6-7 – the italians, the greeks, the chinese
7-8 – the albanians
10 – the yanomamo
11 – the arabs

(see also jayman’s A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers”)

since we’re talking (i think) about evolution and the selection for behaviors here, it should be obvious that populations can go from being more or less clannish — and also that populations can, and do, head down slightly different evolutionary pathways depending on their own, unique circumstances, and so probably all will be clannish (or non-clannish) in their own ways. there will be broad similarities, of course — but maybe mostly the patterns will be generally the same, just not very specifically.

so what are these clannish behaviors/traits?

well, i’m not the only one who’s interested in clannishness and the effects that has on the functioning (or not) of societies. here is mark weiner on “clannism” [kindle locations 128-138]:

“[B]y the rule of the clan I mean the political arrangements of societies governed by what the ‘Arab Human Development Report 2004’ calls ‘clannism.’ These societies possess the outward trappings of a modern state but are founded on informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship, and traditional ideals of patriarchal family authority. In nations pervaded by clannism, government is coopted for purely factional purposes and the state, conceived on the model of the patriarchal family, treats citizens not as autonomous actors but rather as troublesome dependents to be managed.

“Clannism is the historical echo of tribalism, existing even in the face of economic modernization. It often characterizes rentier societies struggling under the continuing legacy of colonial subordination, as in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where the nuclear family, with its revolutionary, individuating power, has yet to replace the extended lineage group as the principle framework for kinship or household organization. A form of clannism likewise pervades mainland China and other nations whose political development was influenced by Confucianism, with its ideal of a powerful state resting on a well-ordered family, and where personal connections are essential to economic exchange.”

that’s a good start, but here’s a more general list of non-clannish–clannish traits/behaviors (again, these should be viewed as spectrums … spectra?):

individualism/collectivism vs. familism/non-collectivism
universalism vs. particularism
civic-minded/commonweal oriented vs. not civic-minded/not commonweal oriented
liberal democracy vs. consensus democracy (or no democracy at all)
– low corruption vs. high corruption
low-violence vs. high-violence(?)
– no feuding vs. feuding

put all of these selected for behaviors together (plus, i’m sure, others that i haven’t thought of) in different average degrees in different populations, and you get different degrees of clannishness — or very little at all — in different populations.

previously: where do clans come from? and mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures and inbreeding and outbreeding and theories

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mating patterns, family types, and clannishness in twentieth century ireland

and you thought i was finished posting about the irish. nope! that’s why darth is still up there ↑ sipping his guinness! (~_^)

however, this will be the second-to-the-last — or penultimate for those of you who like to use fancy, foreign loan words (my oed says it came from the french in the 1600s) — post on the irish. i promise. in this current series anyway. (again, if you don’t know what this is all about, you might want to start by reading what’s this all about?)

what do we have so far on the history of native irish mating patterns and family types and societal structures?:

– the medieval irish were clannish, from early in the period (and probably going back into the iron age, too) right through to at least the late-1500s. they actually lived in clans which were called fines. these fines did start to dissipate toward the end of the period, but compared to elsewhere in europe at the time (like england), the medieval irish were very, very clannish.
– the medieval irish regularly married very closely, from early in the period right through, again, to at least the late-1500s. they married cousins (possibly paternal cousins, although i don’t know that for certain), aunts, uncles … they married close. to the great annoyance of the church in rome.
something undoubtedly happened in ireland between the late-1500s and the 1800s, but i don’t know what, because i haven’t gone to the library yet.
– by the 1800s, the irish were no longer living in clans (fines), but extended families were important, and clannishness was evident in the “faction fighting” that happened during the 1700 and 1800s in ireland. faction fights were ongoing feuds between various sets of extended families and their allies.
– lots of irish folk songs from the 1700 and 1800s were related to drinking and fighting.

so, the irish did become less clannish over time from the middle ages until the modern period — actual clans disappeared to be replaced by connections between extended family members, and the people lived more in stem family households rather than extended family households (although this was probably an imposition from the outside as the english authorities altered most of the landholding and inheritance laws in late medieval/early modern ireland — and even after ireland became an independent state, it retained much of the anglo legal system). it’s likely that the mating patterns also shifted, and that the roman catholic church’s cousin marriage bans came to be more strictly enforced, but i still need to check that.

now, mating patterns, family types, and clannishness in twentieth century ireland.

by the early twentieth century, the irish in ireland generally avoided first cousin marriage, although second cousin marriage did happen not infrequently. in some more remote places, however, first cousin marriages were quite common, but these were odd pockets of populations and were not typical of the general population. people lived in stem family housesholds (that’s a nuclear family with grandparents), but the extended family — out to second cousins — was important. the faction fighting of previous centuries was gone, but (and i’m getting ahead of myself here) nepotism and patronage [pg. 18+] were common, even into the twenty-first century (recall that ireland is one of the piiggs).

a couple of anthropologists, conrad m. arensberg and solon t. kimball, headed to ireland in the 1930s (i think it was) and studied family and community life in county clare. here are some lengthy excerpts from their book, Family and Community in Ireland [pgs. 77-78, 83-86 – links added by me]:

“The second [the word ‘friend’] in ordinary rural usage refers not to a comrade, as in English, but to one’s relatives. Even in the towns, one’s father, mother, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, are referred to as ‘immediate friends.’ In the countryside one speaks of one’s kinsmen as one’s ‘friends,’ particularly if they occupy one’s own generation; one’s father’s relatives, even his brothers, become ‘my father’s friends.’ A ‘distant friend’ refers not to distance in space but to that in cousinship….

[T]he Irish family is patrilocal and patronymic, to use the technical terms. Farm, house, and most of the household goods descend from father to son with the patronym; we shall follow their general movement in a later section.

“This patrilineal descent gives a certain accent upon the kinship system; it chooses one line of descent out of the many possible and gives those who make it up a common name. There is a reflection of this fact in the groupings of Irish rural life. To outsiders a person may be known as ‘a boy of the Shannons’ or a ‘man of the Flaherties,’ but in a sense these groupings are merely linguistic conveniences. For in many cases two families of Shannons may live side by side, yet not be considered ‘friends.’ None of the obligations of kinship bind them. For in the phrase of the countryman: ‘They are not the same Shannons or, if they are, they are too far out….’

[T]he kindred are the group within which marriage is prohibited….

In country regions, such as Luogh, nearly all of the families are united by complicated, reduplicated bonds of marriage and descent….

[T]he descent is carried a step further back to a common great-grandparent. Marriage taboos and extended family obligations go backward and upward with the reckoning. Thus second cousins are recognized as being within the kindred and within the prohibited degrees. In fact, in the authors’ experience the obligations of cooring and ‘friendliness’ were equally strong with them….

[B]oth the Church and Irish rural society reckon descent bilaterally; all possible roots, male and female, are counted. In that case, the count gives thirty-two kinship personalities in ego’s own generation who come within this group of first and second cousins. These can all be counted as cousins or ‘friends.’ They are within the range of *col* or marriage taboo. They make up the extended family whose behavior we have examined above….

“Consanguinity is carried one step further by the Church. As a barrier to marriage, or diriment impediment, it extends to the ‘fourth degree.’ This includes the group taken from a common descent yet a generation higher. It brings in those relatives known in English as third cousins….”

note that this is no longer the case in the roman catholic church. today only first cousin marriages are prohibited.

“The bounds of the consanguine group are naturally not rigid in this type of extensional structure. There is a gradation of intensity in the taboo as it extends toward the peripheral relatives. First and second cousins, to use the more convenient English terms, are tabooed, the first more strongly than the second. Third cousins, felt to be ‘very far out’ and sometimes ‘not counted’ by the Irish, are nevertheless formally tabooed by the Church. Yet dispensations can be obtained with relative ease for kindred of this degree. They are granted for all alliances within the system for ’cause’ inward even as far as first cousins and uncles and nieces, but never within the restricted family. When the dispensation of the Church is obtained, there is no feeling of horror at such marriages. They are, however, always felt to be anomalous and are a matter of comment. In the country areas where there is a necessity among the farmers of keeping farms and dowries within the extended family group, or where the introduction of an outsider is difficult because of class and regional antagonisms, marriages between first or second cousins are not uncommon. Nevertheless the general feeling of the community condemns this type of union. Too close intermarriage of this type is a common charge used by townsmen in condemning the country folk….”

pgs. 90-91:

“If the individual attempts to rise above his fellows or to forget them in his way upward, the cry immediately rises that he is ‘forgetting his friends.’ In fact, disloyalty to one’s kinship group is felt to be a deadly crime against the group.

The Irish extended family, combining in different degrees of intensity of solidarity all descendants of a common ancestor through five contemporaneous generations, is not a rigidly defined structure set off from the other groups of society. On the contrary, the extended families present a picture of a series of interlocking pyramids in which each individual is assigned a definite place, but in which no two individuals (unless siblings) occupy quite the same place. It is a group of kindred reckoning common bilateral descent, and linking as equals all individuals occupying the same step within that descent to the number of five such steps…. It is in no sense a clan or gens, as its bounds are not constant, but descend and ascend through the total group of possible kindred….

this sounds very much like the pre-christian germanic kindreds (see here and here) — only ca. 1000+ years later.

Through the workings in and out of the interlocking series of pyramids mentioned above, an isolated area of small population can soon become inextricably intertangled. Hence in the poorest and most isolated regions we find the greatest amount of intermarriage. Evidence is not definite on this score, but the indications point in that direction….

“Through such intermingling, it very often happens that a comparatively large area will be peopled entirely by individuals standing within near degrees of kinship one to another. In such a case the local group attains the added solidarities of common kinship. To an outsider, such a group, closely integrated through kinship bonds, occupying the same general level of social stratification and the same general place in the economic system, and dominating a large or small area (sometimes as large as a parish), presents a united front. It exhibits a very effective solidarity against outsiders. It is this solidarity which gives rise to the assumption among outside observers that the clan still exists in rural Ireland. It is this solidarity, too, which expresses itself in the political cohesion of large sections of the countryside.”

here is an example of the mating patterns one of “the poorest and most isolated regions” in which was found “the greatest amount of intermarriage.” from some research done by nancy scheper-hughes (meh) in the 1970s on the dingle peninsula in ireland — some excerpts from Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland [pgs. 81, 179-181]:

“An intense rivalry separates Ballybran from its larger, sister parish of ‘Castlederry’ (i.e Castlegregory)…. Where Castlederry is neatly divided into class, religious, and ethnic boundaries, sporting a few token Protestant residents, the people of Ballybran like to make the ‘proud boast’ that there was never a ‘Black Protestant’ to dig his heels permanently into their native turf. Finally, where men from Castlederry frequently contract matches with women outside their parish, the men of Ballybran feel that a match with a second cousin or no match at all is preferable to marriage with a stranger….

“Because of the general mistrust of outsiders and the reluctance of village women to marry into the kitchen of a completely unknown mother-in-law, marriages have tended (until recently) to be parish endogamous. Within some isolated hamlet of Ballybran marriage options for generations have been limited to exchanges of women between the six or ten households that the townland comprises. ‘Marry on the dunghill and choose a sponsor from the mountain’ is a local proverb meaning that it is wisest to ‘marry in.’

“A preferred form of marriage in past generations was the ‘double match’ whereby a brother and sister married a brother and sister from a neighboring household. This arrangement was considered eminently fair, since neither household was deprived, even temporarily, of the labor of a woman and in such cases the dowry could be dispensed with. Unpopular marriages, which raise eyebrows and give scandal fall into several categories: a very old man taking a young bride; a widower with small children marrying any woman; a thrice-married widow or widower (‘a first marriage is honorable, a second marriage is excusable, a third marriage is disgraceful’); a ‘mixed marriage’ between a Protestant and a Catholic. All of these marriages are believed to produce bad *dutcas* (blood) in children born of the union.

Because of generations of endogamy most parishioners are related to one another through blood or marriage or both. There is a certain amount of guilt associated with the inbreeding of the community, and some villagers will go so far as to deny a relationship to distant kin where parish records indicate that such is the case. In one hillside hamlet where six of nine households share the same surname, the O’Carrolls disclaimed one another, saying, ‘We’re all O’Carrolls all right, but not the same O’Carrolls.’

“The desire to keep relationships fuzzy is, in part, the result of an effort to conceal the number of cousin marriages in the parish. Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s incest prohibitions, second-degree-cousin marriages are not uncommon and are a favorite topic of malicious gossip. Although the parish priest or curate is responsible for searching the genealogies of prospective couples, and the publication of the banns of marriage is intended to uncover any impediments to a lawful Church marriage, the rural priest and his flock tend to be sympathetic to such dilemmas, and the details of kinship are often left hazy or ignored. In the rarer cases of first-cousin marriage, where the fear of God’s wrath and His punishment in the form of insanity to the offspring is strong, couples customarily delay the marriage until they are well past the childbearing age.

As a consequence of parish endogamy, over 96 percent of all adult males are natives of the community, and 70 percent of the married women were born locally.

compare this to, for example, the village of ely in cambridgeshire, england, in the 1300s where a full 50% of the marriages were to people outside the village. or that there are no dispensations for first cousin marriages in the available records from 1500s england.

“Of the nonnative women the majority have been brought in from neighboring parishes in southwest Kerry and from the towns of Dingle and Tralee. The remaining few women are natives of distant counties to the north, or they are from the midlands and married into the parish following a period of emigration to England. In these cases the marriage was the result of a determined and aggressive move on the part of those bachelor farmers who make a practice of spending their winters as laborers in English cities where they seek out disillusioned and homesick Irish nurses, waitresses, and clerks, anxious to return to Ireland at any cost. Such courtships and marriages are hastily contracted — often during one three-month winter season — in order to allow the couple to return to Ireland in early spring for the start of the new agricultural cycle. Frequently, these marriages turn out unhappily for the bride, who is not well received in the parish and who finds village life monotonous and boring. Such failure reinforce village beliefs about the benefits of marrying one’s own kind.”

and to close with an excerpt from arensberg and kimball — how did the early twentieth century irish extended families interact within themselves and towards outsiders? [pgs. 69-73]:

The commonest form of cooperation is that which involves lending a boy to a ‘friend’ whenever he is needed….

remember that “friend” means family member (see above).

“About half the families had horse-drawn mowing machines. Those who had them mowed their own meadows as quickly as possible, working from earliest morning as long as light held. They worked with the aid of their sons and with that of boys from the families who had no machines of their own. At each subsequent stage of the harvesting, a boy or young man not a member of the family whose meadow was being worked could be seen giving his labor in aid; he took his place at meals during the day.

“The mowing done, the farmer then took his machine to the farmer whose son had helped him and mowed the meadows belonging to his friend. In one instance a youngish farmer mowed the meadows of three others; in another, of two….

“Here then was an example of an important agricultural operation undertaken by the local community in which provision was made (except in five or six cases) for effective cooperation over and above the usual family economy….

Driven to social rather than economic explanation, the authors were able to ascertain that in each case of this cooperation there was an extended family relationship involved. Thus Carey, who had mowed the meadows of Dennis and Seamus Molony and Brian McMahon, was second cousin to them. Peter Barrett was first cousin and uncle respectively of the two farmers whose meadows he had mowed. The young men or boys who had worked Carey’s and Barrett’s meadows with the latter’s wives and children were also relatives; they were sons of the relative for whom Carey and Barrett had mowed.

“So it went over the townland. In no instance, of course, had a man mowed for all his relatives; it was not necessary to do so. In one instance a man had mowed for a neighbor who, while not a relative, was a great boon companion…. And the two strangers who had moved into the townland, in one case fifty years before, in the other thirty, had no relatives ‘on this side.’ One of these was man who had never got along with his neighbors, accused the whole townland of plotting against him, and was cordially disliked in return. The other had the help of a boy sent by a cousin in a near-by townland.

“The generic term ‘cooring’ is given to all non-monetary cooperation of this sort in many parts of Clare. The word is a direct borrowing from the Irish *comhair*, which is similarly used, originally meaning cotillage, now having the added meanings of alliance or partnership. But more interesting was the fact that the small farmers explained their cooring in terms of the ‘friendliness’ of the place. So, we shall see, the term ‘friendly’ is applied to the extended (and also immediate) relatives or ‘friends.’

“When asked especially why they were cooperating, the farmers’ answer was that they ‘had right to help.’ In general terms they would phrase it that ‘you have right to help friend,’ or again that ‘country people do be very friendly; they always help one another.’

“Now the phrase ‘have right’ is an expression in the brogue or English dialect spoken in Ireland (and in Clare) which, like ‘friendly,’ is a translation of a Gaelic idiom. It expresses an obligation, duty, or the traditional fitness of an act. The Gaelic word for which it is a substitute is *cóir*, and a bilingual countryman translates the Gaelic phrase is *cóir dom* (the obligation is on me) into ‘I have right to.’ The countrymen of Clare, at least, do not ordinarily use or understand the phrase ‘I am right’ to mean ‘what I have said is true.’ The countryman is explaining his economic acts in their traditional family setting as part of the reciprocities of act, sentiment, and obligation which make up family relationships….

“This aid is felt to be in the same category. Thus one farmer speaking of another, his second cousin, could say:

“‘He is the best friend we ever had; we can make bold on him. When the children were little and our cow died on us, Johnny sent down a cow and calf worth twelve pounds to us and didn’t want anything for it.'”

there’s that potential clannish dysgenics again. and notice how non-extended-family members are largely excluded from receiving aid.

by the 1960s, the first cousin marriage rates in ireland were down to below 1% of all marriages. still, extended families remained important to the irish in ireland even into the 1980s [pgs. 108-111]:

“Kinship obligations, on the other hand, do not fall only upon those living in the same house. The family unit has a paramount responsibility as regards the care of elders; there are other forms of assistance, however, that ciculate within the kinship network too but well beyond the boundaries of both nuclear and stem families. This is the case of baby-sitting services, which leads us back once again to the female domain. Relative, both kin and affines, take care of each other’s children quite frequently, and the closer they are the better….

“As we will see in the next chapter, the spheres of kinship and neighbourhood overlap on many occasions, but they are far from coincident. There is something distinctively unique in a blood relationship that no other form of arrangement can sustitute for. Take, for instance, the case of fosterage and adoption. No matter how popular these practices are in this region, the sort of fictive kinship that they create is never confused with the real blood relationship. This was so emphatically asserted to me that I cannot fail to note it here.

previously: early and late medieval irish mating practices and clannish medieval ireland and inbreeding in europe’s periphery and early modern and modern clannish ireland and meanwhile, in ireland… and drinkin’ and fightin’ songs and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

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early modern and modern clannish ireland

the medieval irish, then, mated closely and were clannish right up to at least the late-1500s.

even if the theory that close matings lead to clannishness (because they set up positive selection pressures for clannish behavioral traits) is wrong, i think it still would be important to consider, given their family types and structure of society, what sorts of selection pressures for what sorts of behavioral traits might’ve existed for the irish over the course of those ca. 1000 years — at least.

the mating patterns of the irish should’ve come into line with the rest of northwestern roman catholic europe in the 1100s when the invading normans tried to get the irish (celtic) church to follow rome’s teachings. unfortunately, the normans “went native,” and the promises made at the synod of cashel (1172) do not seem to have been enforced.

from jack goody [pgs. 44-45 — see also previous post]:

“But as far as the family and marriage were concerned, the wishes of the Church did not always prevail and resistance was often prolonged. The difference between ‘local custom’ and ecclesiastical law is nowhere stronger than in Ireland, even as late as the Norman period. It was then, during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, that English (or Norman) influence came to play a dominant role in reshaping the Irish Church. The archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm, both protested against the Irish customs of marriage and divorce. From the seventh century Irish Church legislators had recognised only four degrees of kinship within which marriage was prohibited (and the law tracts fewer), whereas the papacy acknowledged seven…. ‘Native law’, comments Hughes (1966: 260), ‘triumphed over the stricter provisions of the church, to the disgust of the Anglo-Norman prelates, who were used to very different customs.’

“In theory, this state of affairs was altered by the first of the reforming synods, held at Cashel in 1101. However this conclave did not introduce the full requirements of the Roman Church, and, although it did forbid a man to marry his step-mother (or step-grandmother), or his sister or daughter, his brother’s wife, or any woman of similarly near kinship, it said nothing of the ‘Irish practices of concubinage and divorce.’ Even so, the legislation seems to have had little effect on social life, for some time later Pope Alexander III [pope from 1159 to 1181] was told that the Irish ‘marry their step-mothers and are not ashamed to have children by them; that a man may live with his brother’s wife while the brother is still alive; and that one many may live in concubinage with two sisters; and that many of them, putting away the mother, will marry the daughters’ (Sheehy 1962: I,21; Hughes 1966: 265).”

and, as we saw two posts ago, rome’s marriage regulations seem to have been largely ignored by the irish right up until the late 1500s.

unfortunately, i don’t know what happened next. (argh!) i know that by the 1800s the roman catholic irish did, generally, obey the church’s teachings on cousin marriage, etc., but i’m not sure what happened in the intervening centuries from the late 1500s until the 1800s. i think (i hope!) the answers lie in this book…

Marriage in Ireland (1985)

…but it’s not available anywhere online (dr*t!), and i don’t have a copy of it. one of these days, i just might have to (*gulp*) turn off my computer, temporarily sever my connection to the innnerwebs (ouch!), and move myself physically to the library. theoretically that is a possibility (so i’m given to understand), but it probably won’t happen in the next couple of weeks. so, until then, these centuries will remain a mystery!

what did obviously happen in ireland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the plantations. the new arrivals were, unlike the natives, protestants, who, except for the scots-irish, likely came from a long line of outbreeders (it would be interesting to know from where in england the anglo-irish in southern ireland came!), and while the authorities tried to introduce protestantism to the native irish, they were having none of it. there was something of a counter-revolution in ireland which was supported from outside — even from rome (they sent in the jesuits!) — so perhaps as part and parcel of all that, the irish church got more in line with rome wrt marriage, etc., etc. not sure. just guessing. i’m hoping Marriage in Ireland will tell me!

what i do know is that the early modern and modern irish were still clannish in their behaviors. actual clans (*fines*) were no longer the organizing principle of irish society — the protestant ascendancy ran the show politically and economically for a couple of centuries — but the native irish still behaved in clannish ways.

one of the easiest ways to spot clannishness is to look for feuding, a la the hatfields and the mccoys. that’s not the only way for clannish peoples to express their clannishness (look also for nepotism and certain other types of corruption), but it is one of the most obivous ways.

from a previous post:

“they sound like they were rather clannish as recently as the mid-1800s — right around and after the time of the potato famine there (1847) [pgs. 57-58]:

‘Clark affirms that “neighbourhood and kinship ties formed the basis of ‘primary’ groups in pre-famine Ireland” (such as “factions”) but concentrates upon “social interaction…beyond the primary group.” After the Famine, though communal and kinship ties continued to influence the composition of “collectivities”, “associational organizations was clearly predominant…during the entire second half of the nineteenth century”….'”

so perhaps towards the end of the 1800s, clannishness amongst the irish — in the sense of actually being tied to fellow extended kin members in daily life — did start to wane somewhat. but…

‘Arensberg and Kimball, by contrast, stress the strength and flexibility of kinship bonds among Claremen of the 1930s. Family links took precedence over bonds of class or occupation, while family members were remarkable for their co-operation and mutual supportiveness rather than competitiveness. The cohesion of kinship groups had been strong enough to survive profound changes in economic and social structure since the Famine….”

here come the feuds:

‘The outrage reports for pre-famine Cloone confirm the importance of “neighbourhood and kinship ties” in aligning the factions involved in “party fights”. Thus at Drimna, in 1838, “a faction fight took place between two hostile parties, named Deignan’s and Mullin’s, respecting the right to the possession of a small portion of land”. Other such confrontations were of a ritual rather than material character, providing an occasion for “long-tailed” families to assert their corporate identity and importance through trials of strength. Indeed market-day brawls could be provoked merely by the affirmation of family affiliation, as when a certain Cooke of Carrigallen “retreated towards a Public House where a party of his friends were drinking and when near it he called out ‘Who dared say anything against a Cooke…?'” It is clear that the ceremonial grappling of factions became unusual after the Famine, despite occasional reports throughout the century…. Familial networks, though, in less overt fashion, never ceased to lend cohesion to rural associations ranging from the Society of Ribbonmen to the United Irish League or Sinn Fein.'”

again, then, towards the end of the 1800s, the clannishness — the feuding — starts to die down. but the irish were still feuding as late as the mid-1800s. to find evidence for such feuding amongst the english, you need to go back to around ca. 1000-1100, i.e. 700-800 years earlier.

btw, the name “outrage reports” just cracks me up! i can imagine the very civilized, non-feuding english just thinking that the irish were “outrageous” with all their feuding! (~_^)

here’s some more from Melancholy Accidents: The Meaning of Violence in Post-Famine Ireland from the chapter entitled “Recreational Violence” (heh) … the entire chapter is quite an entertaining (if sad) read — i’ll just reproduce a couple of bits for you here [pgs. 17-21, 24 — links added by me]:

“The most remarkable thing about violence in late nineteenth century Ireland was not its political manifestation, but its recreational aspects. Rather than brutal assassins, the characters who emerge from the criminal records are more often people who enjoyed fighting as a sometimes lethal, but rarely malicious form of entertainment. Recreational violence includes incidents in which a challenge was issued and a fight agreed upon but no serious grounds for malice existed. The confrontation occurred most often at fairs, markets and other social gatherings and usually involved alcohol [thnx to the person who sent me that!]. Over 42 percent of all homicides were recreational in origin. In the four counties for which full records exist, at least 58 percent of violent crime fell into the recreational category.

Recreational violence was a long-established cultural tradition in rural Ireland. The overwhelming concern with physcial bravery, the relative indifference to homicide, the willingness to do battle with and even kill loved ones, and the comic buffoonery sometimes demonstrated by Cuchulainn and his cohorts in ancient legends are all echoed in nineteenth century court records. These patterns had continued as fundamental parts of Irish life over the centuries….

“The defense attorney in a case in which more than a hundred men had been involved in a fight ‘alluded to the very few recreations which the country people had to amuse themselves with….’

“In many cultures violence is associated with the lower classes. However, in late nineteenth century Ireland rowdy recreation was not limited to the lower orders. Twenty-eight percent of homicides in brawls involved farmers or their families…. Though it might be argued that such rowdiness was a holdover from earlier times in which political and economic success were effectively denied to Irish tenant farmers, it is difficult to explain why it was in the most prosperous areas of the countryside that the violent traditions were longest-lived. As the ‘Munster News’ pointed out when discussing the violence in the eastern section of Limerick: ‘There should be less cause of atrocity here than in other places. The country around is fertile; the farmers are in comfortable circumstances and a barefooted boy or girl is seldom observed.’

“For all classes brawling could be entertainment and violence viewed as comic. English journalist Bernard Becker observed during a tour of Ireland in 1880 that, ‘Nothing is more amazing to serious people than the light and easy manner in which everybody takes everything on this side of the Irish Sea.’ At least thirteen homicides were the result of practical jokes gone wrong. As usual the courts gave more weight to the intent than the consequences. The longest sentence for a homicide caused by a joke was nine months given a drunk whose ‘joke’ was stabbing a child in the rear end with a hot poker.

“Faction Fights

The most obvious examples of recreational violence were faction fights…. A formal faction fight, which might involve hundreds of men on each side, usually began with the ritual of wheeling which included chants, stylized gestures and insults. In the traditional wheel, the chant included the name of the faction issuing the challenge as well as the intended opponent. For example, a faction fight might begin when one side chanted ‘Here is Connors and Delahanty. Is there any Madden will come before us…?’

“Faction fighting enjoyed its heyday in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the 1860s the incidence had declined considerably though factions seem to have been under-reported in official returns. The outrage returns report only forty faction fights between 1866 and 1892, but there are sixty faction fights mentioned in the surviving court records. At least thirty of the homicides reported as outrages between 1866 and 1892 were faction related though not all of these deaths were the result of formal, ritualized, large-scale fights….

“Factions were particularly strong in the New Pallas and Cappamore districts of Limerick where the Three Year Olds and Four Year Olds had battled for generations. The names stemmed from a fight held decades earlier over the age of either a colt or a cow. The feud had lasted so long nobody remembered which. These factions were contributing factors in over a quarter of all indictments for assault and 8 percent of homicides in Limerick between 1866 and 1892. The ‘Limerick Reporter’ lamented, ‘There was not a fair or market, petty sessions or quarter sessions in which these horrible feuds and party disagreements were not found to prevail.’ In May 1871 the Limerick chief inspector of police reported that over half the indictable offenses in Pallas could be attriubted to factions. Even though arrests had been made, he feared ‘in every case of faction fight retaliation may be expected….’

“More than any other form of recreational violence, factions resemble organized sports. Not only do factions resemble other forms of leisure found in medieval and early modern societies, such as the battles of the bridges in Venice, they also have parallels to modern team sports. Such organized violence provides entertainment, a path to status and an outlet for communal loyalties.

so this (see steve sailer)…

fightin' irish

…is really just another confirmational stereotype. (~_^)

previously: what’s this all about? and clannish medieval ireland and early and late medieval irish mating practices and inbreeding in europe’s periphery and meanwhile, in ireland… and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

(note: comments do not require an email. fightin’ irish?)

clannish medieval ireland

as we saw in the previous post, the mating practices in ireland right through the medieval period were close — cousin marriage was preferred, definitely in the early part of the period and probably also in the later part — and even uncle-niece and aunt-nephew marriages happened regularly enough that the (foreign) church authorities objected. the preferred form of marriage was within the paternal clan (fbd marriage?) — and in the early part of the period polygamy was not uncommon. the close marriages (cousin marriage) seem to have continued right up until the late-1500s.

and what sort of society was medieval ireland? clannish. literally.

from from A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland: 1000 to 1600 (2011) (scotland, ireland — practically the same thing!) [pg. 92]:

“The word ‘clan,’ borrowed into English from Gaelic *clann*, has several levels of meaning. The primary meaning of *clann* is ‘children’ although it can also be used of descendants of a common ancestor, for example, a great-grandfather. But the term came to be used to describe an agnatic lineage which might be many generations deep. At a further level, *clann* could describe a powerful and well-established kin group which wielded considerable political power: a polity as much as, or more than, a social group. By way of definition, it has been suggested that, ‘in medieval Highland society the term *clann* was used to describe a patrilineal kindred the members of which descended in known steps from a named ancestor’. This definition underlines two points believed to be true of the clan in Scotland and in Ireland: namely, that the members of the true clan were related to one another through the male line, and that the eponym or name father of the clan was a historical, and not a mythical, character. The term ‘clan’ has, of course, passed into wider anthropological usage and has been used by anthropologists to describe kin groups that may not conform to the above definition as regards either patrilineal descent or the historicity of the eponym.”

and now some extensive quotes from Chapter 9 – The Forms of Irish Kinship from nerys patterson’s Cattle-Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland (1994). i’ll try to keep it brief [pgs. 239-258]:

“The most inclusive kinship group was the clan, but though ‘clan’ is actually a Gaelic word, the most common term in the Irish law tracts for this group was *cenél*. More precisely defined as a group was the *fine*; it was a branch of a *cenél*, but its relationship to the latter is not clarified by the sources. Within both clan and *fine*, there existed a gradation of power and autonomy, extending ‘up’, in terms of level of group aggregation and the status of the person with authority over the group, from the domestic patriarch of the farming community to the *cenn fine*, or the chief of the *cenél*.”

i supposed a *fine* could be viewed as a sub-clan within the larger clan (*cenél*).

maybe i should throw in some definitions here from patterson’s glossary:

– cenél: a descending kindred, in-marrying, and so ‘bilateral’ in many aspects of kinship, though patrilineal in descent; usually had a chiefly agnatic group at the core. Parallel to Welsh *cenedl*, a bilateral descending group.
– fine: a classification of kin, usually of agnatic kin.
– gelfine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s first cousins and their fathers.
– derbfhine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s second-cousins and their ascendents.
– íarfine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s third cousins and their ascendents.
– indfhine: in an agnatic personal kindred, ego’s fourth cousins and their ascendents.
– tuath: the basic polity; a people; a petty kingdom or lordship.

got all that? no, me, neither. suffice it to say, extended family mattered a LOT to the medieval irish.

back to patterson:

“The Irish law-tracts recognized the following types of kinship organization:

“(i) Cognatic or bilateral kinship in which individual ties through both both mother’s and father’s kin were important; this concerned payment/receipt of *díre* (honor-price), inheritance…of chattels and lands not tied up in agnatic corporate groups….

“(ii) Agnatic ties between individuals, in which only connections through male ancestors were counted. This was important for payment/receipt of *cró* (wergeld), and inheritance of *fine* lands. Both (i) and (ii) were ‘personal kindreds’ [patterson’s emphasis], in that no one person’s circle exactly overlapped with another’s (other than with a sibling’s before parenthood)….

“(iii) The corporate agnatic kin-group, ‘the’ *fine*: the important *fine* of the area, that of the local chief of the landowning clan. Such a structure is often referred to as a descending kindred [patterson’s emphasis], to distinguish it from the personal circles of kin.”

so the first two sets of relationships there — (i) and (ii) — the “personal kindreds” — sound very like the kindreds of the pre-christian/early christian germanics that we’ve seen before (see here and here), but the “corporate agnatic kin-group” (iii) is very different from what the germanics (apparently) had. this was a patrilineal clan, perhaps not unlike what you’d find in the arab world today. perhaps. it’s certainly in that direction anyway. in other words, the medieval irish were more clannish than the early medieval germanics.

interestingly, patterson compares the agnatic kindred (ii) of the early medieval irish to the personal kindred of the kalmuk/kalmyk people of central asia [see fox, pg. 170], another pastoral group.

more from patterson:

(ii) “Agnatic personal kindreds.

“There is no doubt, however, that by the sixth or seventh century, *fine* groups existed that were structured around agnatic unilineal descent….”

hmmmm. when did they first appear?

“…That is, no one could claim membership in a *fine* by right of descent traced only through a woman of the group. This is made clear both by the rules of descent and inheritance, and by the genealogies….

“The general rule, then, was that women did not transmit membership of their own father’s *fine* to their sons, even though they conveyed dowry property to them….”

patterson then outlines the groups that i gave definitions for above: *gelfine*, *derbfhine*, *íarfine*, and *indfhine*. those are all the different types of agnatic personal kindreds depending upon degree of relationship of the members. the point of all those different groups is just that, amongst other sets of duties/obligations, the amount of wergeld owed, or how quickly one ought to come to the fighting aid of one’s cousin, depended upon the closeness of the relationship, i.e. whether you were first-cousins (in the same gelfine) or second-cousins (same derbfhine) and so on.

(iii) “The corporate *fine*; ’17 men’

“This organization preserved *fine* lands, *fintiu*, answered to society on behalf of its members, and controlled weaker members with suffocating thoroughness. A corporate *fine* could conceivably have developed after initial colonization of land by a group of people, but in the inhabited landscape of the Ireland of the law-tracts it was far more likely that such a group arose from lineage fission, initiated by individuals of quite high social standing….

“The sole point of fission in the Irish context was to establish a new corporate identity; what is more, there is no sign that after fission new lineages ever ‘merged’ on the basis of kinship closeness with those kin from whom they had severed. Far from being each other’s nearest allies they were inclined to be each other’s most lethal competitors.

within the territory of a *fine*, however, “kin were generally neighbors, and most neighbors were often kin.”

this sort of fissioning of what are known as segmentary lineages sounds all arab-y again. hmmmm.

finally, back to the maternal kindred (i) again for a sec:

“The *maithre*, the mother’s kin, had legal rights in their sister/daughter’s children….

“The bond between individuals and their *maithre* was strengthened by polygyny; plural sexual relationships were tolerated, and were probably typical amongst the secular elite. Residences, however were separate — it was such an insult to the wife to bring a concubine into the marital home that the wife was legally entitled to assault the concubine, and to divorce the husband with full economic penalties. Permanent cohabitation between husbands and wives was not, then, an overriding norm. Women often retained close ties to their kin which strengthened the children’s ties to them; this was especially true of concubines, whose kin retained a two-thirds share of their honor-price, but it was also true of chief-wives (whose kin retained only a third of their honor-price), since divorce or intermittent separation of the spouses was so likely to occur. Moreover, as many agnatic siblings were half-siblings, their basic allies in competition for dominance in the agnatic corporation were their non-agnatic connections, principally the mother’s kin. Often this bond was reinforced by fosterage, for the mother’s brother seems commonly to have been the foster-father; the foster-father was the person the child called ‘dad’.

heh. this really makes my head spin, though, because if husband and wife were often cousins, then the wife’s family was also the husband’s family. they’re all from the same sub-clan (*fine*) after all! still, i can see, the mother’s side of the family would’ve been slightly more distant agnatic relatives than the father’s side.

medieval irish society, then, was clannish. and it was very often *fine* vs. *fine*, *cenél* vs. *cenél*, *tuatha* vs. *tuatha*. they had a wergeld system like most populations in pre-christian northern europe (and many societies around the world!), and there was the same sort of obligation to engage in vendetta/blood feud in an instance of insult to a member of the *fine*.

in fact, they were so busy being clannish that they didn’t even notice when one of them — in typical clannish fashion, i might add — invited in a bunch of foreigners to help him win back his throne. heh!

(note that none of the above applies to you scots-irish out there! not strictly speaking anyway. your ancestors hadn’t yet arrived in ireland. i’ll get to the scots-irish later. all of this does, however, apply to the vikings who settled in ireland [who were probably clannish at that point in time anyway], as well as to the normans or old english who “went native” [and who probably weren’t as clannish as the native irish at the time they arrived, but there weren’t that many of them, and a lot of them interbred with the locals]. it definitely doesn’t apply to any of the more recently arrived anglo-irish.)

previously: what’s this all about? and early and late medieval irish mating practices and inbreeding in europe’s periphery

(note: comments do not require an email. dermot mac murrough.)


in Individualism-Collectivism and Social Capital (2004) [pdf], allik & realo — after looking at some, you know, actual data — come to the same conclusion that i have been babbling on about here on the blog (if you can read between the lines/read my mind, that is), and that is that paradoxically it appears that, in societies in which the members are MORE individualistic, those same members are oriented MORE towards the group, the whole group, and nothing but the group (i.e. NOT their extended families or clans or tribes) than in societies in which the members are NOT so individualistic.

this seems paradoxical, because you would think that the more individualistic a bunch of individuals were, the more selfish and self-oriented they’d become; but what in fact seems to have happened out there in The Big World is that those individualistic individuals are more concerned about the commonweal than non-individualistic peoples are — the individualistic individuals are, in fact, more civic minded, more democratically minded, and NOT very family minded (in the sense of the extended family, that is).

oddly, the whole world is not like this, only some peoples are. as riley jones said on twitter the other day, it’s almost like people evolved…to be different!

from allik & realo [pg. 32]:

“[I]ndividualism does not necessarily jeopardize organic unity and social solidarity. On the contrary, the growth of individuality, autonomy, and self-sufficiency may be perceived as necessary conditions for the development of interpersonal cooperation, mutual dependence, and social solidarity…. Psychologists have also noticed that the consequences of individualism are not always detrimental. For instance, it has been noticed that individualism (as it is conceptualized in psychology) is also associated with higher self-esteem and optimism (Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto,&Norasakkunkit, 1997); individualistic cultures are higher on subjective wellbeing (Diener & Diener, 1995; Diener, Diener, & Diener, 1995; Diener & Suh, 1999; Suh, Diener, Oishi,&Triandis, 1998), and they report higher levels of quality-of-life (Veenhoven, 1999). People in individualistic cultures tend to have more acquaintances and friends (Triandis, 2000); they are more extraverted and open to newexperience (McCrae, 2001); and they are more trusting and tolerant toward people of different races (Hofstede, 2001)….

“According to Hofstede’s (1991) definition, ‘individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family.’ Collectivism, on the other hand, ‘pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty’ (p. 51). Linking to theories of modernization, Hofstede (1991) claimed that industrialized, wealthy, and urbanized societies tend to become increasingly individualistic, whereas traditional, poorer, and rural societies tend to remain collectivistic….”

now’s the point where, if you haven’t read them before, have a look at these two previous posts of mine: mating patterns and the individual and where do clans come from?

back? ok!

here are the results from allik & realo. they took at look at the degrees of individualism both in different countries and in different u.s. states to see if there was any correlation between individualism and collectivism (measured by looking at social capital or interpersonal trust) in those places (see their paper for their methodology and where they got the data from — putnam was one of their sources). first, the countries (click on charts for LARGER views!):

allik and realo - nations

you’ll recognize all the usual, long-term outbreeding suspects** in the upper right-hand corner (most individualistic and most trusting): great britain, the anglo nations, and the netherlands in the lead; the scandinavians (a bit less individualistic than the brits/dutch) following; then the swiss, germans/other germanic populations, and the french and italians; then the eastern europeans; trailing way behind are groups like the turks, brazilians, and nigerians. the one big outlier is the chinese, and the authors, as well as other researchers to whom they refer, all admit that they have no idea why the chinese show up as so trusting — in other surveys, too, apparently. i can’t explain it, either — but, then, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. (~_^) (maybe.)

next, the u.s. states. it’s south dakota all over again!:

allik and realo - u.s. states

hackett fischer couldn’t have drawn a tidier chart of his four folkways! there are the yankees (and scandinavians) in the upper left-hand corner — the most individualistic with the most “social capital” a la putnam [pdf]. in other words, the longest outbreeders again. in the lower right-hand corner are the backcountry southerners who stem from populations that inbred for longer (i.e. the scots-irish and border reivers**). they all have the lowest amounts of individualism and social capital (although, paradoxically again, they probably feel like strong individualists, but that’s just antipathy towards government, i.e. outsiders having any control over their lives — i know the feeling! (~_^) ). and states with a mix of outbreeders and inbreeders — like new york and illinois — fall in between.

more from allik & realo [pgs. 44-45]:

“Where Does Social Capital Come From?

“A mere correlation (no matter how high it is) between measures of social capital and individualism tells us nothing of course about their causal linkage. What we can conclude is that individualistic values appear to be conducive to social capital and social capital appears to be conducive to individualism (see also Inkeles, 2000)…. As noted in our introduction, individualism can be seen as a consequence of modernization. Modern, rational societies are built on the self interest of individual actors whose independence and inalienable individual rights form the core of their political and economical life. Many social scientists have predicted that one inevitable consequence of modernization is the unlimited growth of individualism, which poses serious threats to the organic unity of individuals and society by paving a road to social atomization, unbounded egoism, and distrust (Etzioni, 1993, 1996; Lane, 1994). Existing data, however, provide no support for such pessimistic prognoses. On the contrary, we saw that individualism appears to be rather firmly associated with an increase of social capital, both within and across cultures. Paradoxically, in societies where individuals are more autonomous and seemingly liberated from social bonds, the same individuals are also more inclined to form voluntary associations and to trust each other and to have a certain kind of public spirit…. Thus, the autonomy and independence of the individual may be perceived as the prerequisites for establishing voluntary associations, trusting relationships, and mutual cooperation with one another.”

i think that the social scientists have it exactly backwards: individualism is not a consequence of modernization, but rather modernization is a consequence of individualism. and this individualism first got going in the early medieval period (although its roots may go even further back — see here and here) in the northwest corner of europe (barring ireland and the highlands of scotland) with the outbreeding program put into place by the catholic church and tptb.**

the english were some of the earliest individualists (see here and here and here), and they pretty much invented the industrial revolution and neat things like liberal democracy. oh, and they were also the first in europe to cease being so crazy violent in the medieval period.

peoples are individualistic because they have certain innate traits that were selected for via evolution, and one way (i think) to set up the conditions for those traits to be selected for is to avoid close mating, i.e. get rid of clannishness. over the long-term — we’re talking evolutionary processes here, not overnight quick fixes. the process started in northern europe in the early medieval period (or perhaps even a bit earlier), and after a thousand years or so, these societies were filled with individualistic individuals having a strong orientation towards the wider group, i.e. societies with a lot of trust and a lot of social capital. that’s the recipe for individualism-collectivism.

**for more on the historic mating patterns of various european (and other) populations, see the “mating patterns in…” series below (↓) in the left-hand column.

previously: me and max and mating patterns and the individual and where do clans come from? and corporations and collectivities and liberal democracy vs. consensus building and mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures

(note: comments do not require an email. individualist.)

tsarnaev third cousin a prominent islamist in dagestan

and tamerlan hung out with him:

“Exclusive: Dagestani Relative of Tamerlan Tsarnaev Is a Prominent Islamist”

“Last year, when Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in the Russian region of Dagestan, he had a guide with an unusually deep knowledge of the local Islamist community: a distant cousin named Magomed Kartashov. Six years older than Tsarnaev, Kartashov is a former police officer and freestyle wrestler—and one of the region’s most prominent Islamists.

“In 2011 Kartashov founded and became the leader of an organization called the Union of the Just, whose members campaign for sharia law and pan-Islamic unity in Dagestan, often speaking out against U.S. policies across the Muslim world. The group publicly renounces violence. But some of its members have close links to militants; others have served time in prison for weapons possession and abetting terrorism — charges they say were based on fabricated evidence. For Tsarnaev, these men formed a community of pious young Muslims with whom he could discuss his ideas of jihad. Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, confirmed that her son is Kartashov’s third cousin. The two met for the first time in Dagestan, she said, and ‘became very close….’

“The Union of the Just is a tight group of activists based in Kizlyar, a town of about 50,000 people in the plains of northern Dagestan. Tsarnaev, whose parents live 90 miles away in the regional capital, Makhachakhla, often travelled to Kizlyar to stay with Kartashov and hang out with his friends.”

i’m going to guess that kartashov is the tsarnaev brothers’ third cousin on their mother’s side, since kartashov is from dagestan (like the tsarnaevs’ mom) and from a town where there are a lot of avars (like the tsarnaevs’ mom).

(note: comments do not require an email. hi there!)

thank you, war nerd!

here’s the war nerd on syria:

“War Nerd: Our Ringers vs. Your Ringers”

“When you look at this war strictly as a military struggle, you notice something weird: over two years of fighting, the lines are almost totally static….

“If you look at a map of sectarian demographics in Syria, and superimpose it on a map showing areas of Assad control and rebel-held regions, you’ll see that the two maps are almost identical. And the front lines haven’t changed much since the Sunni grabbed control of their neighborhoods two years ago…. The lines held by the Sunni, Shi’ia and Kurds barely move.

“And by the way, I’m going to talk about Sunni, Alawite, Shi’ia, and Kurds, because that’s what matters in Syria. This is a sectarian war, and pretending it isn’t is just pious nonsense. As long as you keep in mind that in the Levant, ‘sect’ means an ethnic group as much as a religion. And if that seems weird, try thinking of a classic Levantine sectarian outpost you may have heard of, the one called ‘Israel.’ Are Israeli Jews a religion or an ethnic group, a people? Both, more or less — a very sloppy, leaky Venn diagram. Religion works as an ethnic marker for most groups in the Levant, not just the Israelis. And the fact that there are always outliers, people too noble or crazy or sophisticated to be defined by their sect, doesn’t change the fact that for most people, the sect is what defines you.

“Once you see how deeply this sectarian identity works, you can start to understand why this war is so static. In urban sectarian warfare, most fights are about the neighborhood, keeping the neighborhood in your sect’s hands, away from the heretics two streets over. You grow up fighting the kids from over there, first with words, then with rocks, then with whatever firearms you can borrow from your cousins. For Anglos, the paradigm for this kind of war is Belfast and Derry. The war there started with neighborhood defenders in places like the Short Strand trying to hold their little block of row houses against the other sect.

“Americans have a hard time imagining how tiny this kind of war can be. In this country you can drive for 14 hours and pull over to the same intersection, with exactly the same McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Day’s Inn, Starbucks, Super 8 and Motel 6. The accents’d be the same, the burgers’d be the same, the price of gas’d might change by a penny or two.

“In a place like Aleppo (or Belfast), every street takes a side….

“This encourages people to ‘think local.’ Which means they’re very good when they fight to hold their neighborhoods, but useless in big offensives. Even raw irregulars can do very well fighting on their own turf. But they’re useless when you try to get them to organize into an offensive army. Why risk the neighborhood’s crop of young men on somebody else’s neighborhood? Not only could you lose half your cousins, but while you and the cuzzies are out there grandstanding, somebody could be invading your neighborhood. You just don’t leave your neighborhood unmanned in a sectarian war, ever. Not if you have living female relatives. In ugly wars like this, you’re not afraid of what the enemy will do to you but to your kin — the really sick people are encouraged to get creative in horrible ways; merely murdering your neighbor gets old fast.

So most of the locals in this war only want to hold their block of houses, basically as far as kin and sectarian ties hold. Ask them to form up and move out for bigger operations, and they’ll fade away. Lots of promises — and then the quiet skedaddle….

great stuff! read the whole thing here.

previously: syria and syrian tribes and more on syrian marriage and family types and clans in the news: aleppo and clans in the news: syria

(note: comments do not require an email. bonus.)

questions some of us thought to ask

joshua keating wrote on his foreign policy blog last week:

Questions you never thought to ask: Is inbreeding bad for democracy?

heh. (~_^)

well, some of us HAVE thought to ask that very question, a couple of people waaaay before i did — going back to 2002 in fact:

Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development from parapundit.
Cousin Marriage Conundrum – from steve sailer. steve’s essay was also included in a volume co-edited by steven pinker, The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004.

keating is referring to the woodley and bell paper, Consanguinity as a Major Predictor of Levels of Democracy: A Study of 70 Nations, which was published last year and which i blogged about here (and here and here and here) — and steve sailer also blogged about at the time.

just to refresh everyone’s memory, woodley and bell found a negative correlation (r = –0.632, p < 0.001) between the frequency of consanguineous marriages in the 70 nations at which they looked and the level of democracy in those countries. in other words, the greater the amount of consanguineous marriages in a country, the less democracy it probably has.

keating is not convinced:

“As a counterpoint, Iceland — a country so isolated and sparsely populated that people need an Android app to keep them from hooking up with a close relative — has had a representative parliament since the 10th century and a culture of individualism so strong they write Nobel Prize-winning novels about it. So there.”

two things.

first of all, it should be remembered that woodley and bell specifically looked for success at liberal democracy (fwiw, ymmv). from the paper:

“As conceived here, democracy refers to a system in which there is opportunity for competitive elections and deliberative referendums, with broad public participation encouraged for both (Vanhanen, 2003). Democracy in this instance refers exclusively to the liberal variety where the emphasis is on competitive politics, rather than the classical type in which the focus is on consensus building and statesmanship (Werlin, 2002). Two key characteristics of liberal democratic systems include the presence of institutions that permit citizens to express preferences for alternative policies and leaders, and the existence of institutionalized constraints that prevent the misuse of power by an executive elite (Inglehart, 2003; Lipset, 1959; Marshall & Jaggers, 2010).”

secondly, tenth century icelandic democracy was not an example of liberal democracy — and wasn’t right through to 1262 when the norwegian crown took over the governance of iceland. rather, the icelandic commonwealth was a system based on consensus which i posted about previously here.

early medieval icelanders were represented at their alþingi by regional chieftans known as goðar. nobody elected these goðar — they were the local strongmen from various areas of iceland, and they typically inherited their position, although these chieftainships were sometimes sold. you could, in theory, pick your own goði to whom you swore allegiance, but apparently in practice this rarely ever happened — because a lot of medieval icelanders were kin to their goðar [pdf], and it’s almost always bloody awkward to break it off with family — especially when you can’t easily move to the other side of the island or something.

so these early medieval icelandic “representatives” bore little resemblance to the representatives we have in modern, parliamentary systems (h*ck – maybe that was a good thing!). if you were an early medieval icelander, your alþingi representative was likely your kin, and you were probably stuck with him for life — until his son took over. this was not liberal democracy.

did the early medieval icelanders marry their cousins? i’m not sure. it’s very likely that their immediate ancestors from norway did (like the early medieval swedes probably did), and the medieval icelanders ignored many other of the church’s teachings and regulations on marriage at the time [pdf], so i wouldn’t be surprised if they did. the fact that medieval icelandic society seems to have devolved from one in which kinship was comparatively unimportant to a state where large clans controlled the place also suggests to me that they married their cousins — or at least mated awfully closely (they may not have had to marry very close cousins since they were such a small population to start off with).

having said all that, when trying to work out why the medieval icelanders — or any other group for that matter — didn’t/don’t have liberal democracy, it’s not really important whether or not they were marrying their cousins at the time in question. well, it is … and it isn’t. (don’t pull your hair out just yet.)

what is important (i think) is whether or not the medieval icelanders — or any group-X — had been marrying their cousins over the long-term. i don’t think that there’s an instantaneous connection between cousin marriage (or other close mating) and failing to manage a functional liberally democratic system. what i think that there is are longer term evolutionary processes connected to inbreeding/outbreeding patterns and the selection for individualism vs. familism or clannism. and if you have clannism, liberal democracy will just not work.

woodley and bell acquired their consanguinity data from here’s a map of those data:

consang net

what stands out right away is that consanguinity rates are very high in the arab world, the middle east, north africa, and places like pakistan and afghanistan, while rates are really low in the u.s. and scandinavia. that seems to fit the cousin-marriage-doesn’t-promote-democracy theory. but the cousin marriage rates in china are very low — same range as england and western europe. why don’t the chinese manage to have a liberal democracy then?

what you have to understand is that this map is a snapshot. it is a moment in time (mostly the twentieth century). it doesn’t tell us much about the history of cousin marriage in any of these societies — whether any of it’s been short-term or long-term — and without knowing that, we can’t even start to guess at any effects the mating patterns (and related family types) might’ve had on the evolution of behaviors in these populations, including those related to clannishness.

once you know, for instance, that up until very recently, the chinese actually preferred cousin marriage, then you can — i think — begin to understand why they’re clannish (or, at least, extended family-ish). and why, therefore, liberal democracy doesn’t work there — or didn’t arise there in the first place either.

rinse and repeat for all the other locales on the map.

see also Cousin Marriage and Democracy @marginal revolution.

previously: liberal democracy vs. consensus building and democracy and endogamous mating practices and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. driving in iceland.)