Gradual Cultural Change Because of Marriage Practices

Cross-posted from Assistant Village Idiot. If you have not run across the Hajnal Line reference before I would consider it more important that you familiarise yourself with that over attending to what I have written here.

Mapping the end of incest and the dawn of individualism. (Do not read the comments.  Useless.) Glenn Reynolds commented “Hmm,” an ambiguous response, but one that at minimum suggests he doesn’t think much about this issue.  It is well-known to those who dare to click over to those dangerous HBD sites.  But it’s not his thing. The article very cautiously and wisely merely hints at reasons and results.  I have mentioned the Hajnal Line here several times before, and contemplating these issues can be very informative about the last 1500 years of European history and the role of women.  It provides a surprising framework with some explanatory power. Reducing cousin marriage reduced the authority of individual patriarchs and clan leaders. I have seen it argued that this also undermined support for slavery, though that is open to more debate. That may be co-occuring rather than causal.

Let me fill in some background which is not nailed down and could be modified when academics dare to study such things again, but for the moment might give you an “aha!” experience.  The ban on cousin and other relatedness marriages by the Roman Catholic Church was not fully obeyed anywhere.  The ban amounted to relative degrees of discouragement of such practice. Northern Europe embraced this more than any other region the Western, later RC, Church penetrated.  I believe there is evidence that this was acceptable to those tribes because they already discouraged cousin, and certainly half- or step-sibling marriage prior to conversion.  Women had higher status than elsewhere.

There is speculation that the Church pushed this solely to undermine the power-centers of intermarrying families preserving their lands and influence. It is also possible that monks, the carriers of observed and importantly written wisdom about stockbreeding, had noticed an increase in genetic problems from close interbreeding. The study authors make an additional suggestion.  All quite fascinating and worth finding out.  Yet the key fact is that it happened, and the loosened family ties created societies which were gradually more willing to think of themselves as parts of larger groups, not just their own tight cousinages. Ironically, this led to more voluntarily allegiances within tribes, and a slow increase in people viewing themselves as individuals. This expands in both directions, until you get Americans, a people who very much regard themselves as individuals, but also deeply identified as members of a nation of a third of a billion people. (India does not have that, and China has that in only an attenuated form.)

A thousand years later you get nations, and in that mix women, of all people, increasingly have rights to own property, inherit titles, enter guilds and professions, sue for divorce or take men to court. Next thing you know, they’ll want to vote. Ridiculous, but it follows from the loosening of purely familial ties, so what are you going to do?

It didn’t happen in other places. In many African and Muslim cultures it still hasn’t happened.

28 thoughts on “Gradual Cultural Change Because of Marriage Practices”

  1. That post prompted me to search once again for hbd chick. She has a new wordpress site with all her old posts, but has not really resumed blogging. She was tweeting apparently but I don’t tweet so missed any observations she made there. Any other evil HBD sites you can recommend?

  2. “… Americans, a people who very much regard themselves as individuals, but also deeply identified as members of a nation of a third of a billion people.”

    It is worth taking an occasional glance at the formerly Mainstream Media very occasionally, or engaging in conversation with random people. The Long March Through The Institutions has changed that drastically — seems like a significant percentage of individuals born in the territory of the United States profess to hate the country. They use expressions like USSA and talk frequently about leaving the US to move to Nirvana. (Apparently, it is somewhere in Europe).

    India for sure is a highly fragmented place — the remains of an Empire rather than a nation. But the little I see of China suggests that Chinese people are very comfortable identifying with the nation of China.

    For whatever relevance it may have, there are studies about military forces that conclude individuals fight because of their loyalty to their comrades in their own small unit — not because of loyalty to the military as a whole, or even to the nation.

  3. @ Mrs. Davis – I would start with Greg Cochran at West Hunter. Also, both Dr. James Thompson and Steve Sailer over at Unz Review. However, a lot of the rest of Unz Review bothers me, so be warned.

    @ Anonymous – I have read the same about military loyalty, and suspect it is largely true if not entirely. Also, they fight for very specific people back home. I recall a Japanese account by an historian who had served and wrote “Men do not die with the name of the Emperor on their lips, but that of their mothers and sweethearts.” That is in the context of an extremely fanatic nationalist army.

  4. Any discussion of marriage that doesn’t start from the fact that up to day before yesterday, It was about preserving or acquiring wealth and power and nothing else is pointless. The people getting married, universally, had no real say in the matter.

    The Hajnal line pretty accurately divides Europe which has practiced primogeniture for millennia from Russia that didn’t. That’s why every other person in a Russian novel is a price or princess. Titles were handed down to all of the progeny and estates were divided as well.

  5. “Any discussion of marriage that doesn’t start from the fact that up to day before yesterday, It was about preserving or acquiring wealth and power and nothing else is pointless.”
    Given that 99.99% of people had no wealth or power to preserve or acquire, I don’t think this proposal is very convincing. Far more plausible is that it is what we always thought, a way to channel and control the sexual impulse in a way to protect women and children and build and strengthen families and thereby society. Also you can throw in some stuff about God if you’re crazy like that.

  6. The truly property-less didn’t get married generally. A legal marriage was expensive, requiring payment of various fees. Most of those that didn’t have the need to protect property usually settled for something less formal. They also weren’t the ones that were making the laws governing kinship marriage.

  7. Oddly, this same discussion point came up over at Isegoria, and I’m going to make the same point here that I made over there…

    The question of genes influencing culture has first got to be run through another question: How accurately do our records actually reflect the correct parentage?

    Sure, it says here in the parish records that so-and-so married such-and-such, and that the resulting baby was named this-or-that, but… How do we know that such-and-such wasn’t out boinking someone besides so-and-so? As well, how do you know for sure that child X wasn’t just picked up as a substitute, or slid in by the wet nurse? Absent the actual genetic records, you just can’t tell.

    Rates of infidelity reflected in things like blood typing can range pretty damn high, depending on who’s looking. Even in some really “nice” neighborhoods.

    So, you wanna make a genetic link between marriage customs and the result, you’d better be damn sure that there is actual evidence for same–Or, your thesis gets blown out of the water. Molly McGuire may have married up, down, or sideways, but the real question is, who was daddy?

    Unless we have some way of knowing and verifying, this is all so much speculation. It could be that the Church bred WEIRD into the West, or it could be that the effect was purely cultural. No real way of knowing, TBH. Not without significant genetic surveying that would need to be done, and then further making some highly subjective inferences about what, exactly, constitutes this WEIRD behavior pattern.

    TL;DR–If you’re going to make sweeping pronouncements based on hereditary social features, you’d best make sure that they’re actually, y’know… Inherited from who you think they are.

    Of course, it could well be that the Church actually managed to make hypocrisy and lies more prevalent and successful, as well.

  8. Lots of axes being ground…

    Preserving intact estates and prohibiting cousin marriage means that later children get moved out into the population to make their way in the world. Children of successful families are more likely to be successful, hence the “success genes” are dispersed (genetics, the horror!). Those likely to be successful children have to learn to be effective among non-family strangers and thus, over time, develop a culture that is less dependent on clan or tribal associations. The interbreeding of the “peasant” classes is just background noise, except, in a culture of individual success, a lucky peasant breeding may produce a remarkable individual who has an opportunity to prosper amidst the other individuals. A “brilliant” peasant can prosper when he/she isn’t doomed to be stuck feeding the hogs because that is what his/her kind “always do”.

    Within the Hajnal Preserve success is rewarded instead of only social origins. Of course, those from the old society will look down on the new wealth, while they attempt to cage a bit of the profit for themselves. The system is optimized to harvest energy and success, the old inbreeding clan culture harvests degeneracy (and hemophilia).

    But what to do with those who can’t climb out of the pig pens?

  9. “But what to do with those who can’t climb out of the pig pens?”

    Economists have long pondered the peculiarity that essential water is cheap while unnecessary diamonds are expensive. Along the same lines, the Senior VP who ran the first business I worked in after college travelled frequently — and business rolled on fine when he was not there. On the other hand, if one of the little ladies who came in at the end of the day to clean the toilets called in sick, a temporary replacement was brought in that very same day.

    As an executive later observed about career progression in the company — It takes a lot of people on the ground to keep our high fliers in the air.

    Let’s give thanks to those who kept the human race going by doing the essential job of looking after the pig pens.

  10. @ Kirk – there actually are ways to get a good bead on those things, even in history. You might read up on “nonpaternity events,” as they are called, as there is new science about it. There are populations who do seem to show a higher rate of them, as much as 10%. Those are not common. We are building good numbers these days. Just for fun I can see from looking at the photo that my great-great grandfather is clearly the direct ancestor of my brother and me. Farther back, I now know my y-chromosome designation, and it is one shared by others with my surname back in England, so at least 11 generations ago. There is solid indirect evidence as well. In Middlesex County MA from 1660-1680 there were no first births within 9 months of the wedding in the three largest towns that kept good records. None of them “came early” as the midwife’s joke goes. If the young women aren’t even having sex with their fiances before the wedding, the likelihood that they were having sex with anyone else would be small. That would be the high-end extreme, of course, in that time and culture, but it does suggest that related cultures, spread wider in time and space would approach that.

    @ Mrs. Davis – I am likely to agree with you, not disapprove, but I am curious what put you off.

  11. I don’t believe the Hajnal Line is accurate. There were rules in the East governing all kinds of marriage scenarios,

    These rules go back to Roman civil law, and they remained persistent well into the modern age.

    There was also a widespread practice of spiritual marriage where a man and woman would live together in a celibate arrangement

    This, as well as the practice of adopted brotherhood in that other link, were going on in Russia up until the communist revolution.

  12. @AIC,

    One lineage over the course of a couple of generations does not mean much; assuming the result of the Hajnal marriage differences is genetic, you have to know for certain that the lines of heritage are accurate. Short of going back with a time machine and monitoring all that down the years by periodically doing gene samples…? Yeah.

    I know for a fact that there are a bunch of “relatives” of mine who aren’t what they think they are–We know that a specific female in the lineage lied her ass off about who the father was, and there’s an entire “documented” lineage that simply… Isn’t. not accurately, anyway. I imagine that there are families where that didn’t happen, very often, but I rather doubt that there are many of them out there. People like to boink, boink often, and quite frequently chose to boink exotic strangers. I rather suspect this is a natural feature of the genome, due to a desire to keep things mixed up and find valuable cross-strains. You’ve also got female hypergamy to consider, where she prefers to boink one male, but marry another who’s a better economic bet. In cases where there’s good chemistry vs. bad, that may even be desirable.

    My personal opinion on the whole issue is shaped by observation; I’m pretty sure that there are more than a few cuckoos in various nests I have observed, and I’ve watched one family structure completely blow up when daddy found out that three out of his four kids were emphatically not his, despite “family resemblance”. Fourth kid refuses to undertake the testing… Momma was a little less than honest, although she was careful, apparently, to do her side-boinking with men that resembled her husband.

  13. AVI,

    Probably the heavy genetic emphasis. hbd chick is far more cultural in her analysis. Genetics are vastly over rated. I am always reminded of Peter Schweizer’s (?) asking his dad why they were emigrating from Austria to the US. His dad replied, “Because we are Americans born in the wrong place.” We’ve got great Americans from all Gene groupings. And lousy ones, too.

    Genetics aren’t an appealing explanation for why cultures are the way they are. Guess I read Weber at an Impressionable age.

  14. I think the question of genetic influence on culture boils down to the question of “nature vs. nurture”. Which has more influence over behavior, which inevitably becomes expressed in the culture?

    We do not have a really solid understanding of just what actually influences behavior more–Is it upbringing and the surrounding cultural matrix, or is it deeply rooted in genetics, to where certain behavioral patterns are coded into the genome?

    You can argue all you like for the existence of free will, but when you look at the really amazing series of “coincidences” we find in a lot of the separated twin studies I’ve read over, there’s something else going on here. I’m not going to plump down for predestination in this regard, in other words “You are your genes and cannot escape them…”, but I will lay my bets on the idea that genetics can certainly predispose us towards certain courses of behavioral action. How far you take that predisposition is up to you and your choices. You can bend before the influence of your genes, or you may oppose them.

    My guess is that it’s all intertwined, but to what degree and how the weaver might chose to emphasize what at a given time, I’ve got no idea. The genes have import, but the big question is how much?

  15. Kirk,

    I think it’s a lot like Newtonian physics vs. quantum mechanics. When we are talking about any one individual, genetics are pretty important, maybe predominantly important. But when we get to culture, large numbers of individuals interacting together, genetics becomes far less relevant, if not irrelevant, over the whole population.

    Look at Fischer’s analysis on the persistence of culture in the four folkways of America in Albion’s Seed. These were quite resistant to the impact of vast numbers of immigrants who had little genetic identity with the original settlers. I’m not going to look up the original quote, but I remember something to the effect that a later generation Italian immigrant to Boston had more culturally in common with a Boston Brahmin than with his fellow later generation Italian immigrant in Quaker Philadelphia.

    Culture trumps genetics in a melting pot. But how many melting pots are there in the world?

    This is the great evil of multiculturalism. It wishes to eliminate all melting pots, even salad bowls. Melting pots are what has made our culture superior to any other culture in the world. We should celebrate it. Assimilation now and forever.

  16. @ Grurray – the theories about the line are, well, theoretical, but the data is not. The line marks where women married later and were under less pressure to marry at all. It also is pretty good at predicting intracultural violence, IQ, and democratic governments later. If you don’t like the gradual genetic change theory of why that is, you are free to try other explanations. Yet whatever the rules are in other places, they don’t produce the same data.

    @ Mrs. Davis – I sympathise but disagree. I was in college in the early 1970’s and we were very clearly taught that genetics mattered little and it was unamerican and elitist to think that way. Everything was environment, and I believed it. The evidence on the ground at this point is that genetics is enormously more controlling, but we don’t like that idea and resist it. The only things environment can point to at this point are the large negatives: don’t let children consume lead, don’t let them get hit on the head, don’t drink or take drugs when you’re pregnant, make sure they get basic nutrients. The things we think are big important facts about upbringing turn out to be minor when we actually measure them in a systematic way.

    The confusion comes because usually the people providing the environment are also providing the genetics, and they tend to give their actions and choices more credit (or blame) than is accurate. The people who read to their children a lot are also the people who were smarter than average before the child and book even hit their laps. The people who teach their children self-control are generally those who have a fair bit of it themselves. They think they are teaching these things. But when they die young and their children are raised by others the children turn out more like them than like the adoptive parents.

    I have five sons, two direct biological, two adopted, and one my wife’s nephew and thus more distantly genetic. When it’s right in front of you, you can just see it. I was dragged kicking and screaming to this over the decades because I didn’t want it to be true. The social science academics are dead set against the genetic explanations and will resist it for years, but the people doing the hard testing hold all the cards at this point.

  17. We do not have a really solid understanding of just what actually influences behavior more–Is it upbringing and the surrounding cultural matrix, or is it deeply rooted in genetics, to where certain behavioral patterns are coded into the genome?

    The argument began with Stephen Jay Gould and his book, “The Mismeasure of Man” in which he argues that behavior is all learned. The left is 100% devoted to this theory. It is “The New Soviet Man,” among other reasons. Stephen Pinker’s twin studies refutes this pretty well. His book, “The Blank Slate” includes much of his evidence. Now, Robert Plomin’s book, ‘ Blueprint,” includes the DNA evidence. Plomin concludes that 50% of behavior by adulthood is genetic. From a review:

    Plomin’s main findings are that virtually every trait that we care about is heritable, that what are often thought of as environmental effects are shaped by our genetic propensities, that parenting and schooling have very little effect on our capacities or personality, and that most of the traits that make us who we are result from many genes interacting with each other rather than, say, single genes for intelligence or schizophrenia or extraversion.

    Near the beginning of the book, Plomin introduces us to “the nature of nurture”: a provocative phrase that refers to the fact that we actively shape our environments to fit our personalities rather than passively reflecting whatever environments we happen to be born into. In his words, “psychological environments are not ‘out there’, imposed on us passively. They are ‘in here’, experienced by us as we actively perceive, interpret, select, modify, and even create environments correlated with our genetic propensities” (p. 51).

    Nurture, he concludes, is more significant in childhood. By adulthood, genetics has taken over much of behavior.

  18. AVI,

    I went to college a little earlier than you. The brainwashing must have been more effective in the 60’s. What I see is the triumph of multiculturalism which has defeated assimilation.This has left the cultural field to the genes. But recall Benjamin Franklin’s view of the Germans:

    I am perfectly of your mind, that measures of great Temper are necessary with the Germans: and am not without Apprehensions, that thro’ their indiscretion or Ours, or both, great disorders and inconveniences may one day arise among us; Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation, and as Ignorance is often attended with Credulity when Knavery would mislead it, and with Suspicion when Honesty would set it right; and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain. Their own Clergy have very little influence over the people; who seem to take an uncommon pleasure in abusing and discharging the Minister on every trivial occasion. Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it; and as Kolben says of the young Hottentots, that they are not esteemed men till they have shewn their manhood by beating their mothers, so these seem to think themselves not free, till they can feel their liberty in abusing and insulting their Teachers.

    But, do you think today’s German-Americans, the most prevalent ethnic group in America, have really retained their culture, outside of unassimilated Amish and Hutterites, and can easily be identified in daily interactions? And being the predominant ethnic group America has not shed its English foundation and become a Germanic culture. I think this is because Ben did not give up hope:

    Yet I am not for refusing entirely to admit them into our Colonies: all that seems to be necessary is, to distribute them more equally, mix them with the English, establish English Schools where they are now too thick settled, and take some care to prevent the practice lately fallen into by some of the Ship Owners, of sweeping the German Goals to make up the number of their Passengers. I say I am not against the Admission of Germans in general, for they have their Virtues, their industry and frugality is exemplary; They are excellent husbandmen and contribute greatly to the improvement of a Country.

    We need to stop the acceptance of multi-culturalism and resume intense assimilation. Then genetic differences will be left to the individual.

  19. Here’s a thing, though: We do not understand nearly enough about what makes us “us” to be really certain of what is going on.

    You have the genetic factor going on, which I think we might ideate as being somewhat equivalent to a magnetic tape on the old reel-to-reel machines beloved of equally old-school audiophiles. The machines themselves could be thought of as equivalent to the cells of your body acting on those genes, which we get primarily from our maternal lineages in the form of the egg fertilized by the genetic payload of our father’s sperm cells.

    As you might have noted from any exposure to the old-school tapehead audiophile, there are tremendous differences between the machines in terms of sound quality and expression. The same tape played on different machines sounds similar, but the nuances of tone and expression are totally different.

    This, I suspect, is the same thing going on with a lot of the things we’re terming “genetic” in regards to human behavior. Sure, there may be things coded into the genes, but what of the cell structures that interpret those genetic codes in the DNA? Surely, they cannot be without their influence, can they?

    We simply don’t know enough to say for certain what is going on. All that we have available is mere observation, from which we may work our inferences and deductions on, and I’ll submit that there are valid things encoded into social stereotypes that we’ve abandoned to our detriment. The ancients and not-so-ancients were not stupid people, and they observed things a lot more closely than we give credence to. The fact that they didn’t reason their way into their conclusions with actual data may be immaterial, given the length and breadth of their observations.

    Long story short, I’m suspicious of any of the current crop of “social sciences”, simply because they lack depth and breadth, in terms of observation, and because they simply don’t have enough data or understanding of the underlying mechanisms of it all, in order for anyone to really say much of anything for certain in regards to answering this question of nature vs. nurture.

    Personally, I think it’s a hell of a lot more complex than we think. My suspicions are that there are complex interactions going on with regards to behavior that originate in genetics, environment, internal microflora, and God alone knows what else. I strongly suspect that there are effects on culture and behavior stemming from all the estrogen-like compounds we’ve been pumping into the environment, ones that explain all too much of what’s going on in society around us. The reality is that there is no simple answer like “Yeah, you’ve got the gene for red hair, and being a whiny bitch…”.

    Instead, it’s more like you’ve got a predisposition for broad behavioral reactions to situations, a bit of methylation going on that’s triggered some epigenetic things, and your gut bacteria aren’t helping ameliorate your tendency towards bipolar behavioral issues… It’s all interlinked, with multiple feedback loops and reinforcers.

  20. Adding to Mike K’s comment that Plomin (who treads gently but seems to be an honest man) came down in favor of 50% genetic: that is true, but that doesn’t make the other 50% environmental. It seems to be random…now that’s frightening. If there is something environmental, it has to be tucked into that 50% somewhere, but so far we haven’t found much of anything that says “There! That’s environmental!” Better schools? When we try to equalise for the entrance test scores, the schools with high SATs and graduation rates had high test scores in kindergarten as well. Strict parenting versus permissive parenting? We have opinions, but somehow the results turn out to be not measurable. Parent’s income or education, books in the home, vocabulary used…all come up empty. We hate this.

    For example, children whose fathers leave do worse than those whose fathers stay. But children whose fathers die in war turn out the same as other military kids. Psychologists tried to explain this by the good influence of the idealised father still honored by the mother, with a picture still on the mantel, but that doesn’t fit anything else we know about the influence of absent relatives. It is far simpler to understand that the decent dads left behind decent genes.

  21. AVI, thanks for the observation about military children.

    I don’t care much for the theory of a “father in the home”. The fathers who “walked away” probably don’t have much to offer their children if they had been some how forced to stay. A genetic component seems to be more relevant to the success/failure of the childrent hat they abandoned.

    Genetics is a big component but I am intrigued by studies noted at Star Slate Codex some months ago, that good teachers can improve social outcomes even when tthere is no identifiable improvement in academic capability.

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