“Introducing the Ancient Greeks”

am reading edith hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks. good stuff! (^_^) here’re some excerpts that i posted to twitter:

read all about phalaris, the most tyrannical of (sicilian) greek tyrants, here. *gulp*

(i know! i know! the greeks didn’t wear togas, it was the romans. i know!)

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family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism

it finally clicked in my head while thinking about polygamy what the importance of family types — nuclear vs. extended, etc. — might be in the selection for altruistic behavioral traits, especially nepotistic altruism or clannishness. i should’ve thought through polygamy sooner instead of putting it off, but hey — procrastination is heritable, too, so in the words of h. solo, it’s not my fault! (~_^)

the logic of the mating patterns/inbreeding-outbreeding theory goes that, given the right set of circumstances (i.e. certain sorts of social environments), selection for nepotistic altruism/clannishness ought to go quicker or be amplified by inbreeding (close cousin marriage or uncle-niece marriage) simply because there will be more copies of any nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) that happen to arise floating around in kin groups. in other words, inbreeding should facilitate the selection for clannishness…if clannish behaviors are being selected for in a population.

the thing is, though: the individuals carrying certain versions (alleles) of nepotistic altruism genes need to direct their nepotistic behaviors towards other individuals carrying those same alleles, otherwise their actions will be for naught. (yeah. kin selection.) if they direct their nepotistic actions towards people who don’t share the same alleles, then the actions will be “wasted” and the behavioral traits won’t be selected for — or at least not very strongly — and they might fizzle out altogether.

let’s take an imaginary society as an example: say everyone in our pretend population always marries their first cousins. their father’s brother’s daughters (fbd) even, so that we get a lot of double-first cousin marriage. h*ck! let’s throw in some uncle-niece marriages on top of it all. the inbreeding coefficients in such a society would be very high, and if clannishness was being selected for in our highly inbred population, the selection ought to move pretty quickly.

but suppose we separated all the kids at birth from their biological families and set them out for adoption by unrelated individuals — people with whom they likely did not share the same nepotistic altruism alleles. think: the janissary system, only on a population-wide scale. if we did that, there should be virtually no selection for clannishness despite all the inbreeding since pretty much no one’s nepotistic behaviors would be directed towards other individuals with the same nepotistic altruism genes. in this case, kin selection would just not be happening.

such a society does not exist, and i don’t think ever has. but there are societies out there with certain family types — namely nuclear families (or even post-nuclear family societies!) — which ought to have a similar dampening effect on any selection for clannishness.

northwestern “core” europe has had very low cousin marriage rates since around the 800s-1000s, but it has also, thanks to manorialism, had nuclear families of one form or another (absolute or stem) since the early medieval period — nuclear families are recorded in some of the earliest manor property records in the first part of the ninth century from northeastern france [see mitterauer, pg. 59]. on the other hand, eastern europeans, like the russians and greeks, while they also seem to have avoided very close cousin marriage for several hundreds of years (which is not as long as northwestern europeans, but is quite a while), have tended to live in extended family groupings. you would think that nepotistic altruism could be selected for, or maintained more readily, in populations where extended family members lived together and interacted with one another on a more regular basis than in societies of nuclear family members where individuals interact more with non-kin. societies comprised of nuclear families are more like my hypothetical janissary society above where the altruism genes that might’ve been selected for via kin selection instead fade away in the wash.

we have to be careful, though, in identifying nuclear family societies. the irish of today, for instance, are typically said to be a nuclear family society, but the extended family does still interact A LOT (i can tell you that from first-hand experience). same holds true for the greeks and, i suspect, the southern italians. i would say that these populations have residential nuclear families, but not fully atomized nuclear families which have infrequent contact with extended family (think: the english). the early anglo-saxons in england were also characterized by residential nuclear families — the extended family (the kindred) was still very important in that society. the individuals in a residential nuclear family society probably do interact with non-family more than individuals in a society structured around extended families or clans, but less so than a true nuclear family society.

the thought for the day then?: family types can also affect the selection for clannishness/nepotistic altruism.

that is all! (^_^)

previously: polygamy, family types, and the selection for clannishness and “l’explication de l’idéologie”

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never got transylvania

man, clannish peoples have looooong memories.

i was searching last night for some good turkish music on youtube — you know, as one does — and i came across…

…well, first of all — who knew there was so much ottoman classical music to choose from on youtube?! that was my first surprise. then i came across…

… (heh) THIS raging “debate” between what appears to be some turks, greeks, albanians, croatians, and i don’t know who else (trolls, prolly). here’s just a taste of the discussion — and these are some of the most reasonable, rational bits of it (sorry ’bout the language – click on image for LARGER view):

never got transylvania

old grudges die hard.

oh. i did find some good near eastern music in the end, but it wound up to be some syrian stuff rather than turkish. nice music!

previously: tribalism on the innerwebs

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on feeling local

in the article about italy that i quoted in one of yesterday’s posts, the author said:

“When you ask citizens of, for example, Pisa how they identify themselves, they are likely to answer first as Pisans, then as Tuscans, and only after as Italians or Europeans.”

from the world values survey, 1999 — in response to the question: To which of these geographical groups would you say you belong first of all? And the next? And which do you belong to least of all? (click on images for LARGER view):

more than half (53.4%) of italians said they identified most (first) with their local community compared to 38.4% of greeks and 31.9% of americans. only 23.3% of italians identified first with the nation, whereas 35.3% of greeks and 34.9% of americans did. i’m surprised that so many greeks identified first with their nation, but then they are less inbred than italians. why so few americans should identify first with their country, i don’t know. many recent immigrants? too outbred? a combination of both? dunno.

a full 19.5% of americans said they identified first with “The World.” somehow i don’t think that those sentiments are generally reciprocated. maybe from some northern europeans? dunno — will have to check that out.

1999 starts to be a bit old for sentiment data; unfortunately, this (exact) question was not asked on the most recent world values survey (2005), and the respondents from 1999 are practically a whole generation ago now (how time flies!).

here’s the same data from 1999 for each of the three countries by age of respondent. first, greece:

then, italy:

finally, the u.s.:

older greeks (over 50) identified more strongly with their locality than younger greeks, and there was a general downward trend from the eldest to youngest greeks. there’s a u-shaped pattern amongst the italians: like the greeks, italians over 50 were most likely to identify with their locality, but unlike the greeks they were waaay more likely to do so. the subsequent italian generations, like the greeks, were less likely to identify first with their locality, although they did so more than the greeks. but there was an upswing in local identity amongst italians aged 15-29. americans showed an inverse u-shaped pattern in local identity, with 30- and 40-somethings most likely to identify locally than other americans. altogether, americans were much less likely to identify first locally.

again, older greeks had the strongest national sentiments compared to younger greeks, and there was a downward trend over the generations. on the whole, greeks were much more likely to identify first as greeks than italians as italians. and their nationalistic sentiments were pretty comparable to those of americans — a surprise to me! italian feelings of being italian first have increased over the generations, but only slightly, and their percentages are quite a bit below those of greece and the u.s. like the greeks, older americans were more likely to feel american first, and there’s been a downward trend.

younger people (ages 15-29) in both greece and the u.s. were more likely to identify first as citizens of the world — something like 19% in greece and 25% in the u.s. younger italians, too, felt more like global citizens than their elders, but only at a rate of about 10%. in all three cases, as the feelings of being global citizens increased, the feeling of being connected to a locality or nation decreased — or vice versa.

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democracy and endogamous mating practices

this post is prompted by a (brief) discussion in the comments over @dennis’ place. anonymous objected to me saying that pre-christian (i.e. pre-outbreeding) europeans were not, amongst other things, democratic — germanic tribes had things, for instance, he says.

yes, a lot of societies have democratic elements to them — even hunter-gatherer bands, i do believe, generally operate according to a system in which everyone (at least all the men) gets to voice their opinion on which way the band should head tomorrow or something like that. but no other society ever developed a western-style, parliamentarian-type democratic system except for europeans. here’s robin fox on this curious phenomenon [pgs. 60-61]:

“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions would compete for votes and, most amazingly, the losers would vountarily cede power. [fox’s emphasis.] This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps….

“But far from being a fact of human nature, this voluntary ceding of power after elections, this basic feature of liberal democracy, actually flies in the face of nature. It is self-evidently absurd. Our political opponents are always disreputable, and their accession to power will be the ruin of the country. Listen to the rhetoric of campaigns: it almost amounts to criminal malfeasance to allow the opponents to take over. Yet that is what we do after a mere counting of heads: cede control to the villains and incompetents.

“The cynic will say that the only reason we allow this to happen is because we know that in truth there is no real difference between political parties in these systems, and so we join in a conspiracy of the willing to take turn and turn about. Even so, this willingness that we take so for granted is an amazing and unusual and a fragile thing. Ajami quotes an Arab proverb, min al-qasr ila al-qabr: ‘from the palace to the grave.’ Once you have power, in the name of God and the good of the people, you keep it, and the voluntary relinquishment of power is simply seen as weakness or stupidity….

“And our Western democracies still struggle with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism, whose energetic persistence should tell us something…. How could we believe, then, that we could walk into a country like Iraq and do in a few months, or even a few years, or even several decades, what millennia had failed to evolve spontaneously? Because ‘the Iraqi People,’ like everyone else, ‘loved freedom’?”

earlier in this chapter, fox explains how, of course, there is no such thing as “the iraqi people,” but instead that there are lots of tribes in iraq who do not want to share power with other tribes, and certainly do not want the members of other tribes governing over them.

parapundit, waaaay back in 2002, wrote about how the inbreeding practices of middle easterners hampers the development of democracy in those regions. he referred to stanley kurtz’s writings on the matter (stanley kurtz, btw, is a very, very smart fellow and i recommend reading anything and everything by him and taking what he says very seriously) — here are just a couple: Marriage and the Terror War and Marriage and the Terror War, Part II. in that second essay, kurtz wrote:

“Once your subject is the social meaning and function of kinship, the Muslim world stands in stark contrast to every other society in the world — traditional or modern. This contrast, I argue, has everything to do with why Muslim societies have difficulty accommodating modernity, why Muslim immigrants resist assimilation, and why some Muslims are attacking us.

“The key ‘functional connection’ between Middle Eastern marriage practices (which are not religiously dictated, although they are sometimes justified in religious terms) and Islam itself would appear to be the creation and reinforcement of a pervasive cultural tendency to form in-groups with tightly monitored boundaries….

“If we want to change any of this, it will be impossible to restrict ourselves to the study of religious Islam. The ‘self-sealing’ character of Islam is part and parcel of a broader and more deeply rooted social pattern. And parallel-cousin marriage is more than just an interesting but minor illustration of that broader theme. If there’s a ‘self-sealing’ tendency in Muslim social life, cousin marriage is the velcro.

there’s no way a “self-sealing” society is going to adopt modern, liberal democracy (and why do we keep insisting that they do, anyway?). our modern, liberal democratic system requires an open society. it requires the “atomization” of individuals — i.e. that they are not joined at the hip to their extended family members or clans or tribes. it requires society to be corporate in nature [opens pdf] — and that requires outbreeding.

if stanley kurtz explained to all of us online that the muslim world would not become democratic over-night because of their endogamous, cousin-marriage practices, steve sailer explained the why.

in an essay published waaaay back in 2003, steve wrote:

“The biggest disadvantage [from inbreeding], however, may be political.

“Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book ‘Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity’ takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, ‘That’s my hunch; at least it’s bound to be a factor.’

One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name ‘kin selection,’ is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.

Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.

But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you’ll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied. For example, your son-in-law might be also be the nephew you’ve cherished since his childhood, so you can lavish all the nepotistic altruism on him that in an outbred family would be split between your son-in-law and your nephew.

Unfortunately, nepotism is usually a zero sum game, so the flip side of being materially nicer toward your relatives would be that you’d have less resources left with which to be civil, or even just fair, toward non-kin. So, nepotistic corruption is rampant in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam has appointed members of his extended family from his hometown of Tikrit to many key positions in the national government.”

brilliant!

steve and stanley and parapundit were all talking about a particular sort of tribal society with a particular form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter marriage. this form of marriage has been practiced by the arabs since before mohammed arrived on the scene (iow, they have been inbreeding for a very long time). the arabs introduced it to iraq and other places like afghanistan and pakistan and libya in the 700s. the peoples in those places may, of course, have been inbreeding in other ways before their conversion to islam. in any event, they’ve all been inbreeding for many centuries, so liberal democracy is not going to come natural to any of these populations.

but, edogamous mating is endogamous mating, and inclusive fitness is inclusive fitness. what has to be remembered is that there are different degrees of inbreeding (uncle-niece, first-cousin, second-cousin, third-cousin … tenth-cousin, etc.) as well as different types (paternal and maternal being the basic division — paternal results in the “self sealing” societies kurtz described; maternal gets you more alliances with outside groups). while centuries of father’s brother’s daughter marriage results in strongly tribal societies in which liberal democracy doesn’t fit at all, even lesser degrees of endogamous mating don’t seem to be all that great for fostering democracy.

example: the greeks.

we’ve seen that greeks have been practicing endogamous mating for who knows how long (at least back into the mid-1800s, presumably since forever). they don’t marry their first-cousins since that is against the greek orthodox church’s regulations, and they tend to avoid second-cousin marriage. but they do marry very locally — within the same village or neighboring village — preferentially to a third-cousin. (of course, things are probably changing nowadays with moves to urban centers.) the result? the extended-family is very important to greeks — and those familial sentiments spill over into the larger society. nepotism and corruption are very common in greece. almost nobody pays any taxes if they can help it.

how about democracy? how well does does liberal democracy work in what’s considered the birth-place of demokratia? from the nyt:

In the last half-century, three main families have dominated Greek politics.

“The center-left Papandreous have produced three prime ministers: George; his powerful father, Andreas, who founded Pasok, the governing Socialist party; and Andreas’s centrist father, also named George.

“The previous prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis, a four-time prime minister who founded the New Democracy Party and led Greece in 1974 after the fall of the seven-year military dictatorship.

“Mrs. Bakoyannis and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of Parliament with New Democracy, are the children of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who led New Democracy in the 1980s and early 1990s and who often sparred with Andreas Papandreou.

“‘These personalities’ — especially Andreas Papandreou and Konstantinos Karamanlis — ‘helped Greece’s development in recent decades as much as they obstructed it,’ said Dimitris Sotiropoulos, a political scientist who has written on post-junta politics in Greece.

“These governments helped rebuild a traumatized country, but they also hardened the system to serve their own cadres and supporters, Mr. Sotiropoulos said….

“Over the years, leaders from each of the families have promised to end corruption. Kostas Karamanlis, a cigar-smoking lawyer with a doctorate in international affairs from Tufts University in the United States, led New Democracy to victory in 2004 on the promise that he would make government transparent, efficient and clean. Five years later, he left politics in disgrace, after his scandal-ridden party lost to Mr. Papandreou and Pasok, who have also promised to stamp out corruption.”

uh … not a good sign that liberal democracy is working very well in your country when political dynasties keep dominating the scene. (er, oops. *ahem*)

but what about on the ground? how do the greeks decide for whom to vote? according to their consciences or according to family ties? well, kinda-sorta both. here’s an account of a sticky voting situation in some local politics in meganisi (featured previously in this post) which pitted one man’s (babis’) brother (stathis) against his father-in-law (petros m.) [pg. 128]:

“[S]ince kinship could not be discounted, Nikos and his family were quite literally placed in a genealogical double bind. The person in the most invidious position was of course Babis, who had to choose between his brother and his wife’s father. I do not know on what grounds he based his choice, though I suspect they were ones of political conviction. At all events, he opted for his father-in-law and quite decisively. But if Babis’s dilemma was resolved according to political convictions, this certainly did not prevent him from trying to further his cause through family connections. Indeed, he went the rounds of all his and Stathis’s relatives and advised them not to vote for his brother. In this he must have been quite successful, for, as Nikos later explained to me, though Stathis made a respectable showing, the votes he secured were all philika psiphismata (friendly votes) and not oikoyeneiaka psiphismata (family votes). In fact the family had ‘brought him down.’

“Needless to say, my host, Nikos, was himself caught up in these unfortunate events and, with the rest of the family, voted against his relative Stathis, and for his (more distant) relative, Petros M. The exception was Nikos’s wife, who voted for her brother Stathis, As Nikos explained, she could scarcely have done anything else — though, as he admitted, it did result in the embarassing oddity of a husband and wife voting differently. As for Nikos’s old mother, Stavroula, she simply voted for whom she was told — Petros M.

“Stathis himself was outraged by this family betrayal and went so far as to boycott Nikos’s kaphenio for several months. Nikos thus paid a price for his part in the family/antifamily pact — and it should be noted that the price itself was measurable in terms of the values of kinship: the loss of the patronage of his beloved kouniados [baptismal/marriage sponsor]. But the real interest of this episode lies in the fact that although it was clearly recognized that votes could be cast along family lines — hence Babis’s visiting of all his relatives; hence Nikos’s contrast between “friendly votes” and “family votes” — in the final analysis kinship was incapable of controlling the vote, and not because an appeal to kinship lacked persuasion or because individuals had their own political ideas, but because kinship itself [author’s emphasis] actually split the vote. Instead of providing the basis for corporate action, the very complexity and multiplicity of kinship connections meant that, politics aside, people’s loyalties were divided. Kinship could be appealed to; its weight could be thrown on the scales; but nothing resulted from it automatically. It might be expected that one would vote for a relative, but in the end one could only vote for the relative by whom one was most persuaded.”

so, close kinship did not entirely win the day — babis did not vote for his own brother, stathis, but rather for his father-in-law. however, babis and stathis’ sister, nikos’ wife, did vote for her brother. and although nikos didn’t vote for his brother-in-law, in voting for petros m. he was voting for a more distant relative.

but the expectation that family would vote for family was obviously there. stathis boycotted his brother-in-law’s establishment afterwards because he hadn’t voted for him. and the greeks have set phrases for distinguishing family votes (oikoyeneiaka psiphismata) from friendly votes (philika psiphismata)? well, that right there illustrates that liberal democracy is not working 100% in greece.

as the author describes it, all of the kinship ties in greece (from all of the inbreeding) means that corporate action is difficult. family looms large in greek politics — it is not a situation of community members voting for representatives — it is family members picking and choosing amongst family members to best represent — or to get them into a position from where they’ll be able to dole out favors to — other family members.

a lot of endogamy creates tribes, for which a liberal democratic system is anathema. but even a lesser amount of endogamy seems to throw up hindrances to liberal democracy as the members of such a population are more focused on getting the best for their extended families, or even clans, rather than on what is best for all. obviously, other hbd traits, like the average iq and average personality type of a population, play huge roles in all of this. genetic relatedness and the consequent inclusive fitness-related drives and behaviors that influence the patterns of social behaviors within a society are simply another layer of biological factors to be considered when trying to understand human actions.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: “hard-won democracy” and cousin marriage conundrum addendum

update 11/25/11: see also the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy

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clientelism in greece

it’s big there.

what the h*ck is clientelism, you ask? from wiki-p:

“Clientelism is a term used to describe a political system at the heart of which is an assyemtric relationship between groups of political actors described as patrons and clients…. Those with access, the patrons (and/or sometimes sub-patrons or brokers) rely on the subordination and dependence of the clients. In return for receiving some benefits the clients should provide political support.”

in other words, normal chicago politics. (~_^)

i just got through reading a very interesting, but very amusing, article entitled: “Why Is There No Clientelism in Scandinavia? A Comparison of the Swedish and Greek Sequences of Development.” it was only amusing ’cause i could just picture all the sociologists throwing their hands up in the air trying to imagine why it could possibly be that there’s clientelism in one country and not in another. (~_^)

anyway. here are some interesting quotes from that article. basically, there’s clientelism in greece because (along with their average iq and typical behavioral traits) greeks are, as we’ve seen, pretty endogamous in their mating practices, marrying very locally, often preferentially third-cousins, and that has selected for strong inclusive fitness-related behaviors in greek society. i haven’t, yet, looked at mating patterns in sweden. maybe that will be tomorrow evening’s project. ok, here we go:

pg. 33:

“The Swedish language does not have an appropriate word for clientelism, and when journalists refer to clientelism in other countries, they usually have to add that this is a practice where politicians exchange favors for political support. Yet, on the whole, the practice of clientelism is relatively unknown in Sweden.


“Evidence from scientific research suggests that the Swedish bureaucracy works in a relatively universalistic manner.”

hmmmmmm. mysterious!

pg. 35:

“A detailed Greek historiographic study of work mobility of the urban poor reports, for instance, that about 80 percent of the time, people found jobs thanks to kinship networks and not to political intermediation (Pizanias 1993).”

pg. 38:

“In the Greek welfare administration, and in the public administration more generally, one does not find such a mixture; it is either remoteness or proximity. Access to familiarity inside the bureaucracy is possible only through personal, often family, networks; otherwise, Greeks face bureaucratic indifference to a degree unknown in Scandinavia. In other words, both friendliness and preferential treatment are assigned on a selective basis. This organizational culture results from the intertwining of kinship, or extended families, and bureaucracy.

pgs. 46-47:

“As Nikiforos Diamandouros (1984: 59) pointed out, in Greece the family has been the major social actor, which operated on multiple levels and fulfilled many economic, social, military, and political functions. When liberation weakened the position of the noblemen, with many of them losing large parts of their fortune during the war, they turned inward toward the family, the main ‘capital’ at their disposal at that time. With politics as an imperative for survival and kinship as the only existing organization device, extensive family coalitions were built using the quite widespread institutions of adoption, marriage, fraternization, and god-fatherhood (Petropulos 1985: 69-73).


“Initially these family coalitions were horizontal…. At the interstices between state and local communities, the system of family coalitions found fertile ground in which to develop vertically, creating hierarchies of families with quite unequal power resources, but also relations of mutual dependence. Families at the top of the hierarchy drew their power through their intertwining with the state and access to its goods, and those at the bottom through their capacity to aggregate and deliver the votes of their members. Just like the families at the bottom were dependent upon the families at the top for access to state goods, the families at the top could not secure their position without the political support of those at the bottom.”

this dependency between the top and the bottom — that’s clientelism. and it’s all (or mostly) family-based in greece.

pg. 48:

“As well as the families, villages [which, as we’ve seen, are really just very extended families] became units for interest aggregation in Greece. Local cultures were never damaged by agricultural reforms, as they were in Sweden [long story]; rather, they were strengthened. At the same time, class division within the peasantry were weakened by the distribution of the cultivated land to all peasants, thereby creating a relatively homogenous village population with strong local identities…. Hence, in many parts of Greece, citizenship became relational and derivative, materializing through family networks and political parties and not as the effect of the direct integration of the people into the state….”

pg. 53:

“While in Sweden the realms of state, politics, and social life became differentiated with relatively clear-cut organization boundaries, in Greece these realms became partly overlapping and even intertwined with strong social ties. These same ties prevented the atomization of the individuals and the full development of categorical interests. They constituted the social ground for clientelism….

no atomization of individuals in greece because there is (and has been for some time) too much endogamous mating there and, therefore, individuals are strongly tied to their extended families rather than being rugged individuals. clientelism is simply the obvious way to go for the greeks.

update 10/07: regarding this quoted above: “Local cultures were never damaged by agricultural reforms….” the agricultural or land reforms referred to happened when greece gained independence from the ottoman empire in 1835. land that had been a part of turkish-owned estates was redistributed to greek peasants. however, it was done in such a way that the peasants did not have to leave their natal villages (the story was very different in other part of europe, like sweden, where peasants were actually shifted around on the land). for the purposes of this blog, this means that the endogamous mating patterns of the greeks — marrying locally within the village or neighboring village — could go waaaaay back.

previously: ελλάδα and more on greece

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but what about the english?

i said over here that the fact that the greeks are as corrupt and nepotistic as they are prolly has something to do with their endogamous mating practices — i.e. it seems that for quite some time, rural greeks have been marrying individuals locally — from their own villages, often preferentially their third-cousins.

now, i know what you’re gonna say: “but hbd chick — traditionally, MOST people everywhere prolly married people locally!”

eh — not really. not northwestern europeans — and especially not the english. first of all, north europeans quit marrying their cousins quite early on in the medieval period. and on top of that, because of the structure of feudal society (so this doesn’t apply to areas of europe that weren’t feudal), many north europeans didn’t stay down on the farm. instead, they went off and became servants elsewhere. and they often married other servants that they met … who were from elsewhere.

here from mitterauer’s “Why Europe?: The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path” on the situation in northern europe during the middle ages (when he says europe, he means northern europe, esp. the lands of the carolingian empire) [pgs. 93-95]:

“The loosening of lineage ties created some leeway for striking up new social relationships beyond the family circle. Ties to people other than one’s kin played an important part in European social history and made a major contribution to Europe’s social dynamics. The weakening of lineage ties also meant a diminution in the way kin and family related socially. We can characterize the two aspects of this process as a trend toward individualization and toward singularization.

“This trend had a particularly strong effect upon a certain phase of the life cycle: young adulthood. The European marriage pattern [i.e. late marriage a la the hajnal line] extended the phase of one’s youth for a relatively long time, if we view it from a cross-cultural perspective. The pattern itself was determined by looser lineage ties: marrying late could only exist where there was no pressure to continue the patriline. Many people left home when they were young, primarily to work as a servant in another household. That, too, presupposed a relaxing of lineage ties. Working as a life-cycle servant in one of the many paths possible — as a hand or a maid on a farm, as an apprentice or journeyman in a trade, as a nobleman’s page — seems to have been a defining experience for European youth. To work as a servant implied mobility, especially true in regional terms, but also in part in the sense of a change of social milieu. All this transformed the world young people lived in. Not only males were affected; girls too changed their surroundings by serving in another household. As a rule, the movement of servants from place to place wouldn’t end with a return to the parents’ home. The great mobility of young people — qualified by the institution of the life-cycle servant — was therefore an important precondition for European migration and colonization…. Finally, working as a servant implied a particularly radical form of separation from the home. The biological parents were often not the definitive socializing authority for the child from a very early age. The model of separating from one’s parents acquired more significance in the history of European youth for young people leaving their family home to become life-cycle servants; it also became a common goal, especially for young males. The extended young adult phase of life in the time covered by the European marriage pattern, along with the increase in extrafamilial contacts during this time, seem to have been preconditions for making this phase of life in Europe a crucial phase of individualization.

“The comparatively high age at marriage for men but mainly for women finds a counterpart in ways of looking for a spouse. There is little self-determination in this regard in cultures where marriage follows close upon sexual maturation. In Europe, the search for a spouse is a critical component of youth culture, which seems to be especially well developed there — probably because it is a characteristic of horizontal societies [i.e. as opposed to vertical societies where the lineage is important and maybe even, for example, ancestor worship occurs]. Although the choice of a marriage partner was surely substantially codetermined by family interests and concerns in older European societies, we must not overlook the fact that, given the relatively large age gap between generations, the bride’s or bridegroom’s parents would no longer be alive in a high percentage of marriages. In addition, being employed as a servant took many young people far away from home. We can generally assume that a particularly high degree of self-determination in choosing a partner was to be found in the lower levels of society, where the age at marriage was especially high. The principle of marriage by consent, endorsed by the Christian Church, enhanced the trend to increased self-determination that was linked to marriage later in life. The Western Church’s concept in the High Middle Ages of marriage as a sacrament was based on the view that each partner offers the sacrament to the other. The idea of consent is an essential, fundamental principle of the conjugal family, where the relationship between the couple is central, not ties of descent. What rested on the principle of consent — seen in the long term — was the ideal of marrying for love, but the obverse did as well: the particular vulnerability of a type of relationship based on personal inclination and the freedom to decide for onself.”

this is quite different from greece in the 1970s where marriages were still arranged!

meanwhile, in england specifically [from alan macfarlane]:

“There is little evidence that this central feature of Hajnal’s European marriage pattern [i.e. late marriage] was absent in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and some evidence that it was present. It is certainly the case that women did not marry in their early or mid-teens as in many tribal and peasant societies. Likewise, it is clear that from at least the fourteenth century there was a selective marriage pattern, with large numbers of women, particularly servants, never marrying. Nor is there any evidence of a dramatic shift in the rules, positive or negative, about whom one should or should not marry. No substantial evidence has yet been produced to show that there was ever a set of strong positive rules, based on kinship, as to whom one must or should marry. The negative rules were reduced at the Reformation, and have stayed unaltered since then except for the late nineteenth century allowing of marriage to deceased wife’s sister. The only strong rule throughout the period was that the young couple should be independent from both sets of parents after marriage, setting up a separate, neolocal, residence. This led to those simple, nuclear, househoulds which have been a feature of northwestern Europe and particularly England from at least the fifteenth century….


Throughout the period, for the vast majority of the population (the top few hundred families are often an exception) marriage was ultimately a private contract between individuals. The parents had some say, but ultimately a marriage could occur without their consent or even knowledge. On the other hand, marriage could not occur without the consent of the partners. These were very old rules, from before 1300, and lasting through to the present. They emphasised that the central feature of marriage was the conjugal relationship, the depth of feeling and shared interests of the couple. Marriage was not a bridge artifically constructed as a form of alliance with another group, in which the partners and children became the planks upon which political relations were built. It was a partnership between two independent adults who formed a new and separate unit, cemented by friendship, sex and a carefully defined sharing of resouces.”

this is really, really different from the mating patterns in greece — and italy, too, for that matter. the greeks don’t marry too close — the orthodox church mostly bars them from marrying first- and second-cousins — but, at least up until very recently, they married primarily within their village, often preferentially third-cousins. marrying within the village is still endogamous marriage in greece since most people in rural greece didn’t move around a lot and, so, villages were (are) just really extended families. and in italy — southern italy, especially — there have been very high numbers of close marriages (first-cousin marriages) during the last couple of centuries.

in contrast to this, mating patterns in northern europe have been very exogamous for a loooooong time. no cousin-marriage since the early medieval period (at some points as far out as sixth cousins) AND now we see also since the medieval period — since before 1300 in england — large numbers of people not even marrying locally.

is it any wonder that northern europeans, in particular the english, are strongly individualistic and have wacko ideals like universalism and everyone is created equal? northern europeans have very weak genetic ties to their families compared to many other peoples in the world — we are in actuality individuals (from a genetic p.o.v.) more than other peoples — and it shows in our attitudes and social structures and norms.

previously: more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and ελλάδα and il risorgimento and italian inbreeding? and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. d*mn commie-footed boobies!)

“people are strange”

the two anthropologists that i quoted at length in my recent posts about kinship in greece made some interesting confessions in the introductions to their respective publications — they both admitted that, at the outset of their research, they didn’t want to have anything at all to do with kinship studies. they thought either that kinship was an out-dated area of research or just simply irrelevant. it was only after they plunked themselves down in the middle of greek society that they realized how important kinship is to greeks. (kudos to them both for acknowledging so and not letting some silly preconceived notion or paradigm mislead their research.)

here is what roger just had to say (i quoted him in this post) [pgs. 114-15]:

“If I may start with an autobiographical note: When, in 1977, I began field work in Spartohori, one of three villages on the tiny island of Meganisi (administratively attached to the Ionian island of Lefkada), I had little enthusiasm for the study of kinship and family. Doubtless prejudice played a greater part than reason, but inasmuch as my reluctance had basis, it involved the following (not entirely consistent) reflections. First, in the 1970s there was a widespread feeling that kinship, for so long anthropology’s sacred cow, might well be ready for poleaxing and that its centrality was perhaps no more than the fetishized product of the discipline’s own history. Second, even supposing the importance of kinship studies could be defended, the very structure of Mediterranean (and European) kinship — or perhaps one should say its lack of structure — seemd to preclude the sort of interest aroused by the study of the formal intricacies of more ‘exotic’ systems. Last, and for me most cogent, had not the whole subject of Greek kinship been more than ably dealt with by those who had gone before? The prospect of making any significant addition to the work of Peristiany, Campbell, du Boulay, and others seemed depressingly remote. In sum, I thought it advisable to leave kinship and family alone and, as contemporary wisdom then enjoined, to explore the more ‘relevant’ issues of politics, economics, and, of course, class.

“It did not, however, take long to discover that my mentors’ interests had not been misplaced. It was impossible to understand anything about the village without first understanding something about kinship. The values of kinship seemed to permeate almost every aspect of village life — from where one shopped to whom one voted for, from the forms of local economic cooperation to the adventures of overseas migration. Moreover, it was impossible to avoid the rhetoric of kinship: ‘My uncle in Lefkada who will help you’; ‘My brother-in-law, the best man in the village.’ Certainly if there were any one thing around which an ethnography of the village could be centered, any one thing that would provide a constant point of reference, a continual series of links between one aspect of village life and another, then it was the Spartohoriots’ concern with kinship and family.”

and here is hamish forbes (quoted in this post) [pg. 117]:

“As later chapters of this book demonstrate, much of the way in which Methanites have experienced their landscape, its history, the patterns of ownerships, especially of their houses and plots of land — and those adjacent to their own — and the locations which they visit within the landscape, has been set within a kinship idiom. However, rather like Just [the author quoted above], my original intention when embarking on ethnographic fieldwork was to have as little as possible to do with studying kinship. My undergraduate degree was technically in Archaeology and Anthropology, but the formal complexities, and (to my mind at the time) irrelevancies of the anthropological study of kinship persuaded me to concentrate on archaeology. Likewise, as a graduate student taking a compulsory taught course on kinship, I felt that kinship studies preferred to categorise and typologise abstract concepts rather than to understand the essentials of peoples’ everyday lives. Cultural ecology, which allowed me to study other societies with my feet and research topic firmly on the ground, persuaded me that ethnographic fieldwork was a viable option. Choosing a European fieldwork location also seemed ideal for minimising time spent on establishing how the kinship system worked: European kinship did not excite the complexitites of anthropological interest that kinship among more ‘exotic’ societies did.

“This brief foray into autobiography is more than an anecdotal digression. Given the centrality of the study of kinship in cultural anthropology, the reader might be excused for believing that the centrality of kinship in explaining Methana landscapes derives from the core beliefs of the researcher rather than the realities of Methanites’ own lives. However, in my Ph.D. thesis, kinship was largely subsumed within discussion of property transfer — inheritance and dowry — and to an appendix specifically requested by a member of my thesis committee. It was only as I came to explore the deeper meanings of their landscapes for Methanites and to consider issues of identity and belonging that I was forced to conclude that my teachers had been wiser than I thought: kinship was indeed a crucial feature in Methanites’ lives.

that both of these guys initially thought that kinship wasn’t so important in studying greek people might’ve simply had to do with the thinking of the times in anthropology — i.e. all that stuff that the old boys did in anthropology, well, that’s just so out-of-date. (neither of these researchers seems to know anything about inclusive fitness and mating patterns and kinship, but that’s ok.)

i think, tho, that their willful ignorance of the importance of kinship — especially to greeks! — might also have had to do with how difficult it is to understand other people. it’s hard enough to understand where another individual is “coming from” — never mind trying to get what whole groups of other people are about.

most northern europeans (and their decendants in the u.s.) — and just and forbes fit that bill, i think — probably really don’t get the importance of kinship and extended families because kinship and extended families are not really important in their lives. it’s hard to imagine what these things might mean to other peoples and how strongly they affect other peoples’ lives. northern europeans are not inbred, so those powerful inclusive fitness drives to help near kin are just not there — or, at least, they’re not as powerful. it’s hard for not-so-inbred people to know how inbred people feel towards their relatives.

this wouldn’t matter so much if we were just talking about a couple of anthropologists in some ivory towers somewhere. but we’re not. the problem is we’re also talking about people who want to “bring democracy” to the iraqis and afghanis — something most iraqis and afghanis probably couldn’t care less about. (not to mention all the people who want greeks to “just say no” to corruption. heh!)

previously: ελλάδα and more on greece

(note: comments do not require an email. people are strange!)