where do clans come from?

in “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations,” stanford economist avner greif wrote [pgs. 308-09]:

“There is a vast amount of literature that considers the importance of the family as an institution. Little attention, however, has been given to the impact of the family structure and its dynamics on institutions. This limits our ability to understand distinct institutional developments — and hence growth — in the past and present. This paper supports this argument by highlighting the importance of the European family structure in one of the most fundamental institutional changes in history and reflects on its growth-related implications.

“What constituted this change was the emergence of the economic and political corporations in late medieval Europe. Corporations are defined as consistent with their historical meaning: intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. Guilds, fraternities, universities, communes, and city-states are some of the corporations that have historically dominated Europe; businesses and professional associations, business corporations, universities, consumer groups, counties, republics, and democracies are examples of corporations in modern societies….

“In tracing the origins of the European corporations, we focus on their complementarity with the nuclear family. We present the reasons for the decline of kinship groups in medieval Europe and why the resulting nuclear family structure, along with other factors, led to corporations. European economic growth in the late medieval period was based on an unprecedented institutional complex of corporations and nuclear families, which, interestingly, still characterizes the West. More generally, European history suggests that this complex was conducive to long-term growth, although we know little about why this was the case or why it is difficult to transplant this complex to other societies….

“The conquest of the Western Roman Empire by Germanic tribes during the medieval period probably strengthened the importance of kinship groups in Europe. Yet the actions of the church caused the nuclear family — consisting of a husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined kinship groups…. The church … restricted marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had historically provided one means of creating and maintaining kinship groups….

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family, nor was their evolution geographically or socially uniform (Greif, 2006, chap. 8).** By the late medieval period, however, the nuclear family was dominant. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term ‘family’ denoted one’s immediate family and, shortly afterwards, tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of nonkin as with each other. The practices the church advocated (e.g., monogamy) are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than 1 percent of the total number of marriages, in contrast to Muslim and Middle Eastern countries where such marriages account for between 20 and 50 percent per country (Alan H. Bittles, 1994). Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between the spread of Christianity (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificantly correlated (Andrey V. Korotayev, 2003).”
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the presence (or absence) of clans in societies is somehow connected to the mating patterns of societies. in fact, it seems to be that a whole range of kinship-based societal types is somehow connected to a whole range of mating patterns: the “closer” the mating patterns in a society, the more “clannish” it tends to be — the more distant the mating patterns, the less “clannish.”

so we see a spectrum of “clannish” societies ranging from the very individualistic western societies characterized by nuclear families and, crucially, very little inbreeding (cousin marriage, for instance) to very tribal arab or bedouin societies characterized by nested networks of extended families and clans and large tribal organizations and having very high levels of inbreeding (specifically a form of very close cousin marriage which increases the degree of inbreeding). falling somewhere in between these two extremes are groups like the chinese whose society is built mostly around the extended familiy but in some regions of china also clans — or the medieval scots (especially the highland scots) whose society for centuries was built around the clan (h*ck, they even coined the term!). these “in-betweener” groups are, or were, characterized by mid-levels of inbreeding (typically avoiding the very close cousin marriage form of the arabs).

furthermore, not only do the degrees of extended family-ness/clannish-ness/tribal-ness in societies seem to be connected to the degrees of inbreeding in those societies, the degrees of “clannism” also seem to be connected to the degree of inbreeding — the more inbreeding, the less civicness, the less democracy, the more corruption, and so on.

it’s not clear what exactly the mechanism(s) behind this inbreeding-leads-to-clannishness pattern is, but since mating patterns are involved, and mating is a very biological process, it seems likely (to me anyway) that the explanation is something biological — i.e. some sort or sorts of evolutionary process/es — like natural selection — resulting in different/different degrees of behavioral traits related to “clannism” in different populations with inbreeding acting as a sort of accelerant for those processes.

clans and clannism, then, are not things that peoples “fall back on” in the absence of a state as mark weiner suggests in The Rule of the Clan [kindle locations 106-108]:

“[I]n the absence of the state, or when states are weak, the individual becomes engulfed within the collective groups on which people must rely to advance their goals and vindicate their interests. Without the authority of the state, a host of discrete communal associations rush to fill the vacuum of power. And for most of human history, the primary such group has been the extended family, the clan.”

rather, people’s attachments to their extended families/clans/tribes — and, more importantly, their tendencies towards clannish behaviors — are likely innate behaviors. and those behaviors likely vary, on average, between populations since (long-term) mating patterns have varied — and, indeed, still vary — between populations.

such innate behaviors cannot be changed overnight — certainly not within a generation or even two (evolution does take some amount of time — but not, necessarily, extremely long amounts of time either) — and definitely not by simply changing a few laws here and there in the hopes of encouraging individualism. as avner greif grasped, although probably not fully because he’s likely missed the underlying biology of what he’s noticed, family structures need to be altered in order to effect changes to larger societal structures (again, all via tweaks to innate behavioral tendencies). and, again, that can’t be done overnight — as greif pointed out, the process in europe began in the early medieval period (with the church’s bans on cousin marriages) and didn’t really start to take hold until the late medieval period — i.e. a 500 year (or, conservatively, a ca. 25 generation) timeline.
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see also: Cousin Marriage Conundrum by steve sailer and Why Europe? by michael mitterauer (in particular chapter 3) and Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade by avner greif.

**see “mating patterns in europe series” in left-hand column below ↓ for further details.

(note: comments do not require an email. busy clan members.)

familism in the u.s. of a.

following up from yesterday’s post, i thought i’d look at familism in some other ethnic groups in the u.s. in addition to the anglos and mexicans.

again, i’m looking at how much contact the individuals from different groups have with family members. this is a way of measuring “behavioral familism” — familism “expressed in everyday actions, or major decisions, informed by one’s attachment to family ties”. this time i stuck to just extended-family members (aunt/uncles, nieces/nephews, cousins) ’cause i thought that might be more telling — if you’re in regular contact … a LOT … with these more distant relatives, you’re probably familistic. that’s my thinking, anyway.

looked at the following questions from the 2002 general social survey:

“How often do you contact your uncles/aunts?”
“How often do you contact your nieces/nephews?”
“How often do you contact your cousin(s)?”

the possible answers were:

“More than twice in last 4 weeks.”
“Once or twice in last 4 weeks.”
“Not at all in last 4 weeks.”
“I have no living relative of this type.”

i’ve collapsed the first two together to make the responses sorta “yes” or “no” (contacted x in the last 4 weeks). i also skipping the “no living relative” answer. if you’re dying to see all data, i can post it.

the variables chosen were: COUNTRY OF FAMILY ORIGIN, HOW OFTEN DOES R CONTACT UNCLES OR AUNTS, HOW OFTEN DOES R CONTACT NIECES AND NEPHEWS, HOW OFTEN DOES R CONTACT COUSIN, and for the irish RELIGION IN WHICH RAISED to try to distinguish the scotch-irish from roman catholic irish. none of it is perfect, i know, but you gotta work with whatcha got.

the countries with a good-sized data set (n≧50) were: england & wales (the “anglos” – n=96), italy (n=53-54), scotch-irish (protestant irish – n=51), and germany (n=150). the mexicans (n=32) and irish catholics (n=42-43) came up a little short, but i’ve included them anyway. keep in mind that the numbers for those two groups are kinda low.

without further ado (click on charts for LARGER views)…

“How often do you contact your uncles/aunts?”

“How often do you contact your nieces/nephews?”

“How often do you contact your cousin(s)?”

as you can see, in each of the three categories, all of the other groups are in contact with their distant-ish relatives more than the anglos — except for the scotch-irish who appear to behave the most like the anglos here. mexicans are much more likely to keep in regular contact with their aunts/uncles or nieces/nephews than anglo-americans (53% vs. 32% and 75% vs. 48% respectively), but italian-americans are also much more likely to keep in touch with their aunts/uncles on a monthly basis (47%). the roman catholic irish, too, more familistic than anglo-americans — and even german-americans, except for the keeping-in-touch-with-nieces/nephews category, appear to be more familistic than anglo-americans.

so much for assimilation.

remember that familism goes hand-in-hand with fun things like corruption.

i also think it’s kinda neat to see that the familism goes more in the direction of the genetic flow than not: greater contact by aunts/uncles to nieces/nephews than the reverse, for instance. cool.

previously: anglo-american vs. mexican family values

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

family type in egypt

todd says the egyptian family type is his ‘endogamous community family’ type (by endogamous he means that the children of brothers marry):

– cohabitation of married sons with their parents
– equality between brothers established by inheritance rules
– frequent marriage between the children of brothers
– arab world, turkey, iran, afghanistan, pakistan, azerbaijan, turkmenistan, uzbekistan, tadzhikistan
– islam

from what i’ve read so far, that seems more-or-less right. one important point, though: the extended family seems to be more important the further south you go in egypt. the extended family is still important today in lower egypt, in and around cairo and the delta, but it’s really important in upper egypt to the point where one should really be talking in terms of clans and/or tribes — tribes especially with the nubians in the south and the bedouins in peripheral areas.

there’s a reason for this difference which i’ll talk more about in a follow up post, but you can already guess what it is: inbreeding/endogamous mating happens at much greater frequencies in southern egypt and in the frontier governorates than in the delta region. simple.

there are a couple of other exceptions to todd’s classification of the egyptian family type — the actual structures on the ground are not a perfect fit with todd’s description — for instance which members of the extended family tend to live in egyptian households seems to be more flexible than todd’s definition — but, still, i think he’s generally right. these are, indeed, endogamous community families.

here are some interesting excerpts from a couple of sources related to the importance of the extended family in egypt:

African Families at the Turn of the 21st Century (2006), pgs. 57-58:

“In urban and rural areas the importance of family for women and men remains central to their lives….

For most Egyptians some version of the extended family still plays a crucial role in their day-to-day existence. Contrary to modernization theory with respect to family development, extended families have not lost their appeal or importance. Most people attempt to live near their parents, siblings, cousins, or grandparents, should they still be alive, and maintain an active relationship with many of their relatives. It is important to note that extended family households which are often found in Egypt do not follow the traditional patterns in which geneaologically related persons of two generations live together or in which married siblings form one household. Rather, extended families are based on the incorporation of unmarried relatives into a family. Widows, divorcees (especially those with no children), and bachelors do not live separately and would be stigmatized should they make this choice. Further, unmarried sons or daughters live with their parents until marriage, irrespective of age. After divorce or the death of a spouse, both men and women, especially if they do not have children, are expected to return to their parents if they are still alive; otherwise they are supposed to live with a brother, sister, or other relatives. Another popular extended family pattern is the one in which a child is ‘borrowed’ by a relative with no children of his or her own. Among lower-class people one tends to find this phenomenon more often among grandparents who need the assistance of a child for housework. Among more well-to-do families, an uncle or aunt will offer to take care of a sibling’s children for an extended time period, primarily for sentimental reasons or because the biological parents already have other pressing obligations such as an extended leave abroad.

“Another common middle- and lower-class family pattern found in Egypt is the incorporation of nonrelatives, such as apprentices and work assistants, into a particular household. Such individuals have a special position, because even though not all of them sleep in the house of their employer, their food and laundry is part of the household. Upper-middle- and upper-class families are characterized by the presence of domestic servants who may or may not live in the household. Often domestic live-in servants will come from the family’s natal village, even if the family has not lived there for several generations.

that last group of people, the live-in servants from the family’s natal village, might often be distant relatives to the family for whom they work.
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“Positivity in the Middle East: Developing Hope in Egyptian Organizational Leaders”
Advances in Global Leadership, Volume 4 (2006), pg. 281:

“Cultural collectivism dominates the Egyptian society, with extended families and family ties being very important. Children normally live with their parents until they get married, and sometimes even share their parents’ place after they get married due to their tight economic resources and the scarcity of affordable housing. Children are expected to support their parents at old age. However, this collectivism does not necessarily translate into patriotism. People may be loyal to their immediate families, to their extended families, to their neighbors, and to their friends and acquaintances, but not necessarily to their political leaders and current situation…. Sabotaging public transportation seats, writing on building walls, littering, breaking traffic lights, and other destructive behaviors are commonplace by children and adults alike. This behavior usually extends to the workplace, where personal abuse of business resources takes place, and in most cases even accepted as the norm.”
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this final excerpt describes the situation in upper or southern egypt, i.e. where there is greater inbreeding:

Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt (1986), pgs. 150-51:

“The importance that poor peasants attach to the brokerage services by a single wealthy patron can be seen in the continuing importance of the extended family unit in rural Egypt. In the village of El-Diblah [pseudonymous village representative of upper egypt], as well as other Egyptian communities, politics and much of life itself are organized on the basis of large, extended families numbering 500 members or more. These extended families are broad patrilineal structures, which may or may not be able to trace themselves back to a single historical founder. While these extended families do not represent monolithic social structures, most fellahin are animated by a real feeling of belonging to a particular extended family unit. When they need a loan or help with outside government officials, poor peasants will often turn to the leader or a prominent person within their extended family. In the village of El-Diblah three of the four leading extended families are headed by rich peasants. In the eyes of most fellahin, this is exactly as it should be. In the countryside wealth acquired by virtually any means provides a good indication of an individual’s ability to deal with (or against) the ouside world.

“‘Zaghlul,’ for example, is the rich peasant head of one of the leading extended families in El-Diblah. A short, wiry 55-year-old fellah, whose dress and mannerisms are almost indistinguishable from those of other peasants in the village, Zaghlul now owns about 25 feddans of land. Much of this land is planted in sugar cane, a crop that he uses to supply his own cane press that produces black molasses for local sale. As the owner of 25 feddans of land, and the proprietor of one of the few ‘manufacturing’ enterprises in the village, Zaghlul is able to dispense a wide number of agricultural and non-agricultrual work opportunities to favored members of his extended family. Many of the poorer members of his extended family live in a mud-brick settlement surrounding Zaghlul’s modern two-story, red-brick house. In the evenings a steady stream of these poor people come to Zaghlul’s house, seeking brokerage and intercessionary services (for example, help in securing agricultural inputs and medical services from the government)….

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and corporations and collectivities

update: see also mating patterns in egypt and corporations and collectivities

(note: comments do not require an email. three fellahs.)

traditional family systems in medieval russia

ihtg asks: I did not know there was a disappearance and then reemergence of the extended family in medieval Russia. Why did that happen?”

good question! i dunno. (^_^)

szopeno suggested: “maybe they [the zadrugas or extended families] are not reflection of distant past, but rather a common reaction to reappearing problem (external dangers, scarcity of resrouces etc).

that makes a lot of sense to me. perhaps family types — nuclear or extended — are just populations’ responses to their environmental/economic conditions. if there are plenty of resources — plenty of land for all — perhaps families can be small ’cause everyone can spread out. but if population density is high and there’s a shortage of resources/land, perhaps families band together. certainly cousin marriage generally seems to be a way of keeping wealth or resources (land, goats, whatever) in the family, so maybe keeping the extended family physically together is another sort of response to difficult-ish circumstances. keep the labor force together along with the wealth. and keep everyone nearby the family’s resources so that they can benefit from them, provided there’s enough to go around.

i’m going to hypothesize right now, though, that it’s probably easier for families in inbred populations to clump together than in outbred populations — or it would come more naturally to them anyhow.

ihtg was responding to this quote from that racey book, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 [pg. 138]:

“Changes in Russian versions of canon law on incest coincided with changes in family structure. The proto-Slavic zadruga fell into disuse as a residential system in twelfth-to-fifteenth century Russia, although landholding continued to be communal. There the residential household usually consisted of a nuclear family, occasionally joined by an elderly parent or a young bride.”

twelfth-to-fifteenth century “russia” seems to cover (if i’ve got it right) the latter part of the kievan rus’ principalities [882–13th century], the first part of the muscovy days [1283–1547] and all of the novgorod republic [1136–1478] (and other polities?).

note that although nuclear families seem to have been living on their own in russia during these centuries, “landholding continued to be communal.” (this sounds rather like the medieval men of kent.)

anyway. about the kievan rus’, we’ve got janet martin in Medieval Russia: 980-1584 telling us [pg. 65]:

“The vast majority of the Kievan Rus’ population, who both materially supported the Riurikid princes and depended upon them, were peasant farmers (smerdy). Despite variations derived from tribal background, geographic location, and other factors, the peasants of Kievan Rus’ shared many characteristics and were regarded as a single undifferentiated social stratum. Among the free members of society, peasant men and women had the lowest social status.

Peasants lived in their own huts with their nuclear families, and farmed their own plots of land using their own tools and livestock. Their households were grouped into rural villages and organized into communes (vervi or miry), which had their roots in the tribal and clannic ties among the population. By the Kievan era, however, the communes had a territorial identity as much as a clannic one. Members of each commune shared common pasture lands, meadows and forests, and fishing and hunting rights. They also, importantly, shared responsibilities for tax payment and other legal obligations.”

so these kievan rus’ communes were clan or tribal based. nuclear families may have been living in their own, independent houses, but extended family bonds were clearly still there.

in Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century, jerome blum suggests [chapters two and three] that the change over from slash-and-burn farming techniques — which required a lot of labor — to a two- or three-field agricultural system resulted in the breakdown of extended families in medieval russia. maybe. both he and martin also talk about the kievan rus’ opening up new areas of forest for settlement, so maybe that right there offered an outlet for the apparently expanding population. maybe you didn’t have to stay at home with mom and pop and everyone else anymore if you went off and moved to some unsettled area of the dnieper valley. i dunno.

in Peasant Farming in Muscovy, robert smith (no, not THAT one) talks about that population expanding out into new territories as well, so again maybe that’s the key to the nuclear families in russia during these centuries. maybe. smith also claims that, at least in the 1400s, there is no evidence for extended family living arrangements [pgs. 80-83].

i don’t know anything about the family types in the novgorod republic (yet!), so i’ll have to leave it there for now.
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todd categorized the russian family type as an exogamous, patriarchal community family. he was talking about the 1500s-1800s. dunno if he had that right or not, but it certainly seems as though for the four hundred preceding that period, russians were not living in extended family groups — at least not in the same household. it’s likely they lived in the same neighborhood — hamlet, village, commune — though since land was still held communally in the clan-based communes.

previously: medieval russian mating patterns and mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional timber house, novgorod.)

campanilismo

from “The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Italians” [pgs. 1-2 & 17]:

“The Italians are not a race, but a collection of peoples. They tend to think of themselves and each other first and foremost as Romans, Milanese, Sicilians or Florentines, and secondly as Italians. There is little that really links Turin and Bari, or Naples and Trieste, except the autostrada, the rail network and the Catholic Church.

“The regions of Italy are very different from one another and the deeply ingrained regionalism is quite understandable, considering that Italy has only existed as a nation since 1861 before which the Italian peninsula consisted of several independent states. The unification process required a skilful exercise in geopolitical patchwork, and the leading politicians of the time were well aware of the difficulties ahead. They included Massimo D’Azeglio who said: ‘Italy has been made at last; now let us make the Italians.’ Were he alive today, he would still be working at it….

“Campanilismo

“Italians know exactly where they come from, and will carry that place around with them for life, like a standard. The man from San Giorgio in Puglia who lives in Turin will maintain his links with San Giorgio all through his life. Even if he left the town 30 years ago, and only goes back once a year to see his second cousins, he will still have to help anyone else who comes from San Giorgio. Similarly, successful tycoons and politicians are supposed to look after their hometowns, investing money in them and finding work for their fellow townsfolk.

“Stating where you come from is closely linked to the key Italian concept of campanilismo, which literally means ‘loyalty to your local bell-tower,’ but really involves thinking that your village or town is the best in the world….

“Such civic pride, however, also implies great competition, and this is especially strong between neighbouring villages, towns, provinces and regions. The rivalry is often so fierce that Italians have little time left for much else, for they know that other human beings, and especially Italians from other families, villages, towns or regions, are sadly lacking in self-discipline, and cannot be trusted. How wonderful Italy would be without gli altri – ‘those other’ Italians….

“The extended family is a very large-scale social unit, including all possible relatives. It is seen at christenings, weddings, and funerals, and generally involves large numbers of people. Family functions are occasions of enormous ostentation and generosity, where the pecking order of power and wealth in the family is carefully evaluated. An Italian will even go as far as to pretend to be seriously ill in order not to go to a second cousin’s wedding where he fears he might cut a brutta figura if he hasn’t enough money for an expensive present and a new suit.

“The Italian family is a highly sophisticated network of patronage and power held together by a complex system of exchanging presents and performing favours. Going against the wishes of the family is hard and in reality so difficult for most Italians that few are inclined to try.”

previously: inbreeding in italy and democracy in italy

(note: comments do not require an email. campanilismo?! (*^_^*) )