May 27, 2007

Class in Africa

An anthropologist emails:

Steve Sailer has recently posted on isteve on trying to come up with a definition of class. Here are a few thoughts.

I don't think we can get too far from the standard sociological notion that "class" has to do with inequalities in power, wealth and status in stratified societies, without completely changing the meaning of the word. But we can add the idea that class is not only a matter of social stratification, but involves assortative mating based on Power, Wealth, and Status. I take it this is what Steve is getting at. This would mean that a rich powerful celibate priesthood would not be a class.

Why bother? On reason is that over time classes may differentiate genetically if different genes help people get into different classes. This is part of the argument of The Bell Curve. The genetic consequences of a pure class society will be different from those of a caste or ethnically stratified society. In the former situation, only genes relating to class (or linked genes) will differ between classes, in the latter, where descent not assortative mating is driving things, all sorts of other genes may differ between strata.

Even without genetics, marriage practices can make a difference to class. The anthropologist Jack Goody has spent a lot of time looking at broad differences between African and Eurasian societies. He says that by and large, African societies, even when stratified, don't form Eurasian style classes, because African polygyny means that high status groups incorporate low status females in large numbers. So you don't, Goody claims, get the distinctions between "high cuisine" and "low cuisine," and other high/low culture distinctions in traditional Africa as much as in traditional Eurasia, although the well-off of course get more of the good things in life than other folks.

I don't have any well-worked definition to offer, but the basic idea seems to be that we have to take into account that people are more than just isolated monads floating around (as in a lot of classical economics) but have families and kin and (most of us hope) descendants, and our definitions of social aggregates ought to reflect this.

I had never thought about class (or its relative absence) in traditional African societies before. It's one of those dog-that-didn't-bark phenomena that are so hard to notice, but are often very illuminating when you finally realizing they are missing.

I have a book by Goody sitting around, but the prose style is awfully academic so I haven't gotten very far.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve -- Class of course is fairly recent in European History as well. Reading Keeley's "War Before Civilization" it's astonishing how like present-day Africans Europeans were until quite recent. Archeaological evidence, Keeley states, strongly suggests Europeans were both cannibals and head-hunters as recently as 7,000 years ago.

If I had to guess at what kick-started European civilization from it's rather low origins (excepting the Romans there wasn't much going on in Classical Europe before all those Roman conquests) it would be the twin factors of urbanization and Judeo-Christian-Roman civilization.

Urbanization causes high death rates (until modern sanitation), probably leading to heavy selection for less sexual partners (less disease). It probably also had some effect on developing classes too, but I'm too tired to figure that out now.

The Christian/Classical model for barbaric tribes to aspire to empire-building had at it's core a set of free-holders with only one wife. What's astonishing when you think about it is how quickly Europe in the Dark Ages switched to monogamy (at least in theory). Charles Martel supposedly had a number of wives and was thinly Christianized at best. Barely a hundred years later it would have been unthinkable for a Merovingian to have two wives at the same time, formally. The same process happened with the Vikings as they were Christianized.

Obviously something is going on here, what I am not sure, that made Europeans change radically from their pre-Roman polygamy and unsavory practices, and Dark Ages continuation of the pre-Roman barbarism.

The implication being that if Europeans could radically change behaviors in a short period of time (say 500-800 AD) under certain selective pressures then so too could Africans under those same pressures.

I mean after all your Average Scotsman circa 500 AD was walking around naked, painted blue. About 1200 years later the Scottish Enlightenment was no joke. Something had to happen, big, to make that impact. I don't know what it is though.

TabooTruth said...

Uh, I'm not so sure about the African's ability to change into an urban civilization back then, given that they have access to western civilization for the past 50 years and have failed to create 1 viable nation state that isn't run by whites or by commodities.

Anyway, "white" civilization can be traced by to sumeria, and then you see civilization slowly progress north, not south. Perhaps Europe still had the necessary IQ at the time, but not the tech base to build an urban civilization in the harsh climate.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I find this topic fascinating. As for the conclusions about African polygyny (although I though polyandry was the norm in some parts of Africa), I think there are issues not necessarily related to the class of the females used as brood mares. The problem is more likely that one man who may have defective or at least undesirable traits is impregnating several women with his faulty genes. Just imagine if that classy guy Donald Trump engaged in polygamy instead of serial monogamy.

Mark said...

Anonymous,

That's an interesting comparison that has crossed my mind, as well. One notable distinction however, is this: at the time, Europeans had no higher authority (meaning science, not God) to appeal to in deciding how to respond to various crises, like the Plague. The Africans of today have plenty such examples - they are not civilization's trailblazers - and yet, for the most part, they don't heed them.

Just because Africa at time Y is where Europe was at time Y - 700 doesn't mean that at time Y + 700 that Africa will be where Europe is today.

Epidemics of yesteryear were rather easy to contract. You got them many times by just breathing the air, ingesting dirty water, or by being bitten by an invisible flea. In contrast, it's relatively difficult to get AIDs. You have to sleep with someone, usually multiple times.

AIDs is the perfect disease to create a more monogamous, less impulsive, less superstitious Africa through genetic preening. Given Western meddling, however, I'm not certain that will happen.

If our goal is to keep Africans down, maybe we should thank Bill Gates and Bono.

Ed said...

Though the above comment gives much food for thought, it should be noted that most people in Africa are not cannibals or headhunters. Cannibalism is illegal in Africa as it is in Europe.

Luke said...

Goody is a genius. I especially recommend his early book on the savage mind (showing the influence of writing on the way people think) and his post 9/11 book on the influence of Islam in the West, a useful (to may at least) corrective to our sometimes excessively negative take on that part of the world.

BTW, it is hard to imagine polygamy in hunter/gatherer societies.

Anonymous said...

Here's 2 articles of interest that relate to your discussions of marriage and class (and the widening divide):

http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9218127

http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_1_marriage_gap.html

Anonymous said...

Mark -- I am the top poster Anon here. Another thought on what kick-started Europe from say, the High Middle Ages through the Renaissance would be private property and the nuclear family.

Perhaps some form of private property and legal rights as Western European monarchs established Royal Law instead of uncertain baronies, state/royal monopoly of force (no private armies of the barons), growing urbanization (more disease might mean more sexual selection for faithfulness/loyalty than "big man" characteristics) was responsible for the huge leap that Europe made.

I mean, looking at history there seems a huge change between say Western Europe in 700 AD (largely rural and poor and barbarous, not much different from Africa now except of course Africa's urbanization) and 1100 which already had features: Crown Law, property rights, urbanization, fewer private armies etc. This before the Renaissance. Don't forget those Western Europeans were able to mount several crusades to the Levant and it was a fairly astonishing logistical achievement.

Taboo: if you look at urbanization, the first (according to both Wade and Keeley) cities were the Natufian Culture in the Levant. A full 15,000 years ago. Far before Europe. Which excluding Roman ones had no real cities until the Medieval Period. SOMETHING happened and if racial intelligence were the dominant factor it's hard to see how it got switched on in about 400 years, from AD 700 to 1100.

Which is my second point: the human genome may be far more malleable for intelligence than we think, and the change may have been more rapid. One of the things that Wade makes clear in Before the Dawn is how little DNA makeup has changed in Western Europe. The first domesticators of cattle's graves and DNA map pretty darn well to those who are lactose tolerant: 99% of Northern Germans, similar figures for Danes and Swedes and Dutch. Britain had changed very little DNA wise from Neolithic times.

Question: are tropical diseases in Africa (or perhaps were) barriers to urbanization? Certainly Africa had almost no cities before Europeans, while the Americas had massive and complex ones (Tenochticlan was more complex than any contemporary European city, and larger than almost all of them). Did private property rights failure to develop (because Africa never got kingdoms with Crown Law) and so retard progress?

[I'm skeptical of claims of a high native European intelligence, that simply bloomed under the right conditions: one it seemed hardly under selective pressures, i.e. Dark Ages Europe and pre-Roman Europe did not reward intelligence but a strong sword hand; and two accounts of Roman conquerors suggest that the Gauls and Iberians while tough fighters were not very smart, even in military matters where smartness helped survival. After all Rome's deadliest enemy before the Goths and Huns was the Carthaginian Hannibal. And of course 50 years is a very short time-span. Unlike Asia where the Thais Vietnamese and Malays have historical kingdoms and nations, Africa has none. Compare the Thai kingdom with fractured, tribal Phillipines.]

Mark said...

Anonymous (12:12),

Basically what you're saying is that intelligence is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the creation of civilization and all that goes with it.

Fair enough. But that does not make intelligence "malleable," anymore than we are malleable for the number of fingers or toes we possess. Studies on intelligence consistently demonstrate that in adopted children, intelligence tracks far more closely to the biological parents than to the adopted ones. My extended family has multiple adoptees, and I can vouch for that.

essex said...

Anon 12:12 wrote:

I mean, looking at history there seems a huge change between say Western Europe in 700 AD (largely rural and poor and barbarous, not much different from Africa now except of course Africa's urbanization)

and

Far before Europe. Which excluding Roman ones had no real cities until the Medieval Period.

But you CAN'T exclude Roman cities from consideration when discussing the West. Things got a little dicey from ~AD 500 to ~AD 900, but nevertheless there is an unbroken line of civilization from Rome forward (at least - since Rome was essentially a Hellenic civilization, one could argue from Greece forward) to our day. Why do you think people today are so fascinated by ancient Rome, rather than by, for example, the Persian or Chinese empires? Because they perceive, correctly, that the Romans are our cultural ancestors.

Thus, with regard to the first quote above, the "huge change in Western Europe" was a recovery from a relatively brief period of barbarity during an otherwise largely uninterrupted rise and spread of western civilation from (at least) 500 BC to the present.

There is nothing like that in Africa; there never has been.

The rival civilizations of Asia have today become so westernized that it is impossible to say what would have happened to them if there had been no Rome and all that followed. Nevertheless, none of them have been as barbaric as sub-Saharan Africa is today within recorded history. Hell, AFRICA may never have been as barbaric as it is today. The mix of Western materialism and indigenous African culture appears to be a uniquely poisonous one.

Anonymous said...

essex basically said what I wanted to say but I'll post anway because the Anonymous European History Buff is so annoying that a detailed response is required.

The implication being that if Europeans could radically change behaviors in a short period of time (say 500-800 AD) under certain selective pressures then so too could Africans under those same pressures.

This "implication" is not well thought out at all, as a couple of posters have shown. You sound like a thoughtful person in the process of breaking out of a public school education, or a GNXP jackass.

I mean after all your Average Scotsman circa 500 AD was walking around naked, painted blue. About 1200 years later the Scottish Enlightenment was no joke. Something had to happen, big, to make that impact. I don't know what it is though.

It makes no sense to discuss Scotsmen as if they evolved in a vacuum. They were on the fringe of the Western world, yes, but they were eventually exposed to the massive cultural transmission that entered the British Isles post Rome. That is how the Scottish Enlightenment appeared. It was part of the continuum of people, events and ideas that had gone before in other parts of the Western world.

You have no problem talking about Africa (negroid) as a unit, but you insist on dividing Europe into separate civilizations. That is incoherent. The total land area from Scotland to Constantinople is small compared to sub-Saharan Africa. And this land area belonged to single race of people we know as Europeans.

The white urban centers of this civilization stretch back thousands of years. You are apparently annoyed that the white urban centers didn't sprout in Scotland instead of the Aegean.

if you look at urbanization, the first (according to both Wade and Keeley) cities were the Natufian Culture in the Levant. A full 15,000 years ago. Far before Europe

Here's the news. The Ice Age has only been over for about 10,000 years. Before that all of northern Europe was an ice sheet and the rest of Europe extremely cold. It is entirely logical that urbanization would sprout to the south and only progress northward as the climate warmed. So, 15,000 year old cities were impossible in Europe, OK?

So what if the hillbillies of the western world today or yesterday are dancing around in blue paint or any other manner? You isolate the Scots but don't isolate any particular African tribe. The Scots were one of many groups of hillbillies of the old white world. But white cityslickers had been around for thousands of years.

Your inference is that whites as a racial group were laggards in civilization development, but then inexplicably sprung forward in recent times. That is nonsense.

Ancient Greece and Rome were whitebread civilizations. The entire Aegean enterprise was the old white world.

Look at the artifacts and statuary. There is no "ethnic" appearance. This was the southern part of the white world which developed first because of a more hospitable climate. But the whole group of people known as Europeans and the West is a continuum. The borders of the West change, but it's obviously the same people.

They dug up an ancient mummy of frigging Clint Eastwood in present-day western China. The whitebread Tarim mummies are 3-4,000 years old. The tall male they found was 6'6" with red hair. These people likely transmitted the Bronze Age to Asia.

And, as another poster noted, this same race of people were likely the stock of the non-Semitic ancient Sumer civilization.

Of course, public school education only allows that Greece suddenly appeared. But an intelligent person can intuit that Greece was itself part of the same continuum that stretches back into unrecorded history.

Getting back to your absurd African comparison, obviously, there is nothing remotely comparable to the White Western Continuum in the negroid world. That is why negroid African "civilization" does not budge.

Britain had changed very little DNA wise from Neolithic times.

So, once again, we can infer that the original inhabitant DNA produced insufficient intelligence? You are either ignorant or malicious in your confusion of geographical designations and race.

The reason Britain could advance with little DNA change is because the inflows into the British Isles were people of the same DNA i.e. whites from other European locales. So, the DNA did not change but the culture changed radically.

I'm skeptical of claims of a high native European intelligence, that simply bloomed under the right conditions

Oh, really? Are you also skeptical of claims of a high native Japanese intelligence, that simply bloomed under the right conditions i.e. modern Tokyo? And high native Chinese intelligence, that simply bloomed under the right conditions i.e. modern Hong Kong?

After all Rome's deadliest enemy before the Goths and Huns was the Carthaginian Hannibal

Did they teach you in public school that Hannibal was negroid? Carthage was a city state on coast of Africa. It was founded by Phoenicians who were a mix of Semitic and non-Semitic (Sumer) peoples from the Levant. Hannibal himself was a white dude. DNA testing on Hannibal is not necessary. There is statuary of him in Rome. He is another inconvenient example of Whitey. The fact that he was based out of an African coast city-state is a flimsy basis for disassociating him racially from the Europeans.

Your posts reek of GNXP whites-are-actually-morons pseudo-science. "Gee, Whitey was a caveman until just recently. He got really lucky, didn't he?" No, actually, the exact same white man has been building great civilizations for thousands of years, just not in Northern Europe until recently.