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Role of Incest Taboo in Rise of Western Individualism

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pietillidie 



Joined: 07 Jan 2005


PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:49 am
Post subject: Role of Incest Taboo in Rise of Western IndividualismReply with quote

I don't think I've seen the genesis of individualism, which is an extreme cultural outlier, explained as elegantly as this before:

Sciam wrote:
According to the researchers, strict church policies on marriage and family structure completely upended existing social norms and led to what they call “global psychological variation,” major changes in behavior and thinking that transformed the very nature of the European populations.

The study, published this week in Science, combines anthropology, psychology and history to track the evolution of the West, as we know it, from its roots in “kin-based” societies. The antecedents consisted of clans, derived from networks of tightly interconnected ties, that cultivated conformity, obedience and in-group loyalty—while displaying less trust and fairness with strangers and discouraging independence and analytic thinking.

The engine of that evolution, the authors propose, was the church’s obsession with incest and its determination to wipe out the marriages between cousins that those societies were built on. The result, the paper says, was the rise of “small, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility,” along with less conformity, more individuality, and, ultimately, a set of values and a psychological outlook that characterize the Western world. The impact of this change was clear: the longer a society’s exposure to the church, the greater the effect.

Around A.D. 500, explains Joseph Henrich, chair of Harvard University’s department of human evolutionary biology and senior author of the study, “the Western church, unlike other brands of Christianity and other religions, begins to implement this marriage and family program, which systematically breaks down these clans and kindreds of Europe into monogamous nuclear families. And we make the case that this then results in these psychological differences.”

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/western-individualism-arose-from-incest-taboo/

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stui magpie 

Oh the Premiership's a cakewalk


Joined: 03 May 2005
Location: preparing the Pilosocereus suppository

PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:39 pm
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There's a bit to digest in that. At first it seems counter intuitive but after a couple of reads it makes some sense.

People grouped in a "clan" would be pretty much all related to each other, you'd have a clan leader, usually a patriarch, and independent thought would be very much discouraged. It would be "this is how we do stuff here"

Once you can't marry a cousin anymore, you have to venture outside the clan to find a wife which breaks the power of the clan, leads to exposure to other ways of thinking, which in turn leads to more individualism.

The article refers to Australia (and the USA) as nations as an outlier with high levels of independent thought and trust of strangers. I'd say that's more to do with how we were settled and grew.

England sent a bunch of convicts and political prisoners to Australia along with guards and administrators and tradesmen. Any clan bonds were busted utterly and in a foreign environment with no family or clan to call on, independent thought was an essential survival requirement as was learning to trust strangers.

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David Libra

Rose with a violent heart


Joined: 27 Jul 2003
Location: où surréal côtoie

PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:52 pm
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It’s definitely an interesting hypothesis, but seems perhaps a little too neat to me. What about all of the other historical factors that centralised global wealth in Europe and led to more advanced industrialisation, explosion of urban populations, etc.? The basic premise certainly sounds plausible enough (i.e. that a shift away from small-group proximity fosters greater individualism), but I’d be wary of presuming that a relative lack of cousin intermarriage substantially explains it on the evidence provided.
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thesoretoothsayer 



Joined: 26 Apr 2017


PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:59 am
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So does this mean that non-western cultures are a bunch of inbred, banjo-twangers?
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Pies4shaw 



Joined: 08 Oct 2007


PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:54 am
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Is Appalachian Kentucky non-western in the sense you intend?
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stui magpie 

Oh the Premiership's a cakewalk


Joined: 03 May 2005
Location: preparing the Pilosocereus suppository

PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:36 pm
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thesoretoothsayer wrote:
So does this mean that non-western cultures are a bunch of inbred, banjo-twangers?


Not necessarily, many had strong rules in place. Indigenous tribes had strict rules about who could "marry" who, although most had a different definition of "marriage" than western society and they never got round to inventing the Banjo. Wink

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thesoretoothsayer 



Joined: 26 Apr 2017


PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:10 pm
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Quote:
The impact of this change was clear: the longer a society’s exposure to the church, the greater the effect.

Interesting and unique hypothesis.
However, I would think there are large tracts of eastern and southern europe where the church has supreme influence but which have retained strong clan/kinship ties.
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