The Egalitarian Individualism of HG Nordic Europeans and the Origins of WEIRD Whites: Chapter 3 of Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition

The essence of liberalism is individualism, and the primordial evolutionary fact of individualism is the “the cutting off from the wider kinship group”, and the origins of this cutting off can be traced back to northern hunter gatherers in Europe during the last glacial age in the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. This argument becomes transparent in chapter three of Kevin MacDonald’s Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition, which is the subject of Part 3 of my analysis of this book. Here are Parts 1 and 2.

The furthest back historians have gone to explain the origins of Western liberal civilization is Ancient Greece. I traced the uniqueness of this civilization back to the prehistorical Indo-Europeans during the period between 4500 BC to 2500 BC. It makes sense for MacDonald, an evolutionary psychologist, to go back in time as early as possible to determine when Europeans may have been selected for those traits he considers to be crucial for the evolution of Western uniqueness. He argues that “egalitarian individualism” has been a crucial characteristic of the West along with the aristocratic individualism of Indo-Europeans, which “dovetailed significantly” with the egalitarianism of the H-Gs they “encountered in northwest Europe” from about 2500 BC.

MacDonald observes that, as members of the same Homo sapiens species, all humans have common biological adaptations, but they do “differ in degree in adaptations” depending on environments, and these differences can generate “major differences” between cultures. Under the “harsh evolutionary pressures of the Ice Age,”  there would have been more pressures to live in small groups and in relative social isolation, rather than to form “extended kinship networks and collectivist groups” competing in close proximity for resources. There were selective pressures for males to provision simple households or nuclear families characterized by monogamy, exogamy, and bilateral kinship, because the ecology and availability of resources could not have selected for large polygynous families. This was in contrast to Near Eastern regions with their long fertile rivers supporting “large tribal groups based on extended kinship relations”. The strategy pursuit by northern Europeans was quite successful, enabling them to develop complex hunting gathering cultures during the Mesolithic era for a long time, 15,000 to 5,000, delaying the advance of farming which was slowly spreading into central and north Europe after Anatolian farmers settled in various parts of southern Europe starting 8000ybp.

Mesolithic cultures in Europe did consist of larger bands of hunter-gatherers due to their more efficient exploitation of resources and improved stone age tools, but  lacking any “stable resource” that could be controlled by an extended lineage group, their residences remained seasonally occupied by relatively small families living in a state of egalitarian monogamy and without one extended family superimposing itself over the others by controlling fertile and stable land areas. In northern Europe, families “were periodically forced to split up into smaller, more family-based groups”. These smaller groups were forced to interact both with related families and with “non-kin and strangers” also moving around from season to season. These interactions were not regulated by kinship norms but instead led to emphasis on “trust and maintaining a good reputation within the larger non-kinship based  group”.

These evolutionary selected behaviors characterized by small families, exogamous and monogamous marriages, and relations based on trust with outsiders, were the primordial ground out of which Western individualism emerged.

In the Near East complex hunting gathering societies soon evolved into agrarian villages controlled by lineage groups in charge of stable resources. I would add, as Jared Diamond observed, that most of the animals and plants susceptible to domestication were found in the Near East, which encouraged or made it easier to develop farming villages with plentiful resources controlled by the stronger kinship groups. Whereas monogamy and exogamy persisted in the West, in the East the tendency was for marrying relatives, even first cousins.

The European practice of marrying outside the extended family meant that marriage was more likely “based on personal attraction”, which meant that there was selection for physical attractiveness, strength, health and personality, in contrast to the East where marriage was arranged within the extended family. Love and intimacy between wife and husband, including greater affection and nurturance of children, MacDonald observes, were a salient trait of Europeans. Whites invented romance, in contrast, for example, to Semitic marriages where marriages were intended to solidify kinship ties, arranged by elders, with love and romance having a far lesser role.

Joseph Henrich on WEIRD Europeans

In the last pages of this chapter, MacDonald shows in quick succession how his evolutionary perspective can effectively explain the origins of the WEIRD traits Joseph Henrich and his colleagues detected among Western individuals. I should explain a bit Henrich’s argument since MacDonald assumes prior knowledge. For Henrich, humans do not have the same cognitive apparatus, the Western mind is more analytic, it separates things from each other, it focuses on what makes objects different rather than seeing objects only in relation to what’s around it. We can’t talk about “the human mind” as such, “human nature” and “human psychology,” because the Western mind is structured differently and perceives reality differently, thinks differently about fairness, cooperation, and judges what is right and wrong differently.

Henrich does not express himself in these blunt terms, but for the sake of immediate clarity, his basic argument about WEIRD people is that they see themselves as individuals rather than as members of collective ingroups. Their individualism is the difference that underlies all the other differences. It is the difference that explains why WEIRD people are less attached to extended families, tribal units, religious groups and even nation states. Because WEIRD people judge others as individuals, they are willing to extend their trust to outsiders, to people from other ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. They are more inclined to be fair to outsiders, judging them on the basis of impersonal standards rather than standards that only serve the interests of their ingroup. WEIRD people are less conformist, more reliant on their own individual judgments and capacities, willing to reason about issues without following the prescribed norms and answers mandated from collective authorities. In the non-Western world, trust is circumscribed within one’s ingroup rather than extended to individuals from outgroups.

The key to the individualism of WEIRD people is their lack of kinship ties. The most important norms and institutions humans have developed to regulate their social behavior revolve around kin groups, which are networks of individuals connected by blood ties, extended families and clans. Humans are born into these kin groups; their survival, identity, status and obligations within society, as well as their sense of right and wrong, who and when they should marry, where they should live, who owns the land and how property should be inherited, are determined by the norms of the kin group.

Given the importance of kinship networks in determining whether people are “normal” or WEIRD, Henrich set out to find what factors may have led to the breakdown of kinship networks in the West. His conclusion was that the Catholic Church was responsible for the “demolition” of kinship networks and the rise of WEIRD people.

The Catholic Church, he says, promoted individualism through the prohibition of cousin marriages, polygyny by powerful males (which weakened kinship households consisting of closely related families) coupled with the Church’s promotion of monogamy and nuclear families. This encouraged the rise of many voluntary associations in the West outside kinship ties, guilds, universities, monasteries, chartered towns. This creating competition for members between voluntary associations combined with rising impersonal markets in which individuals interacted with strangers and learned how to trust each other in the conduct of business ventures.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the traits Henrich identifies as WEIRD have been highlighted by past sociologists and historians. Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer, Ferdinand Tönnies, along with “modernization theorists” in the 1950s and 1960s, all drew clear contrasts, in varying ways, between i) traditional communities (including Europe before the modern era) with their kinship, rigid sanctions, ascription, collectivism, low mobility, obedience, loyalty, and ii) modern (Western) societies with their voluntary contracts, autonomy of private organizations, achievement orientation, inventiveness, free markets. Nevertheless, Henrich should be appreciated for his excellent research, which “synthesizes experimental and analytical tools drawn from behavioral economics and psychology with in-depth quantitative ethnography”.

Although some may argue that MacDonald does not have direct genetic evidence demonstrating that crucial elements of these WEIRD traits were selected in hunting and gathering times, we will see in our examination of Chapter 4 that he does bring up solid findings on the family structure of Europe showing a gradation in family relations, very early on in its history, from an “extreme individualism” in the northwest Europe, where the family was cut off from extended kinship networks, to a “moderate individualism” in central Europe, to a “moderate collectivism” in south and eastern Europe. It stands to reason that an evolutionary psychologist would want to dig far back in time to identify possible environmental conditions that may have selected for individualism, in light of the fact that these traits tend to be exhibited so early in Europe’s history, rather than assume, as Henrich seems to do, that the psychology of human across the planet was identical before individualistic traits made their entry into history with the “demolition” of kinship networks in the medieval era by the Catholic Church.

Henrich likes to insist that his arguments emphasize the “co-evolution” of biological and sociological factors — both natural and cultural selection of genes, not just how people learn and transmit culture but, in his words, “how culture shaped our species genetic evolution, including our physiology, anatomy and psychology”. But if he really is interested in “co-evolution,” why does he avoid thinking about the possibility of deeper psychological-genetic changes among Europeans, rather arguing that the Catholic Church imposed new norms on a psychological profile that was identical across the world? How can the “fundamental aspects” of the “psychology, motivation, and behavior” of Europeans were transformed suddenly in the Middle Ages without any prior genetic dispositions?

MacDonald acknowledges that humans create cultures that select “for different mutations and ultimately for different traits”, which is why he takes seriously the unique culture created by northern European hunters and gatherers before he considers (as we will see in our examination of later chapters) the important role the Catholic Church played in reinforcing the breakdown of kinship networks.
MacDonald observes that, because northern Europeans evolved in the context of small families interacting with outsiders, they were selected to think morally beyond their own kin group about how best to cooperate with strangers, in which breach of trust was shunned and maintaining one’s reputation as honest was important for future dealings. In contrast, the larger kinship groups of the East restricted cooperation with outsiders, and thus felt less pressure to nurture moral principles that would extend beyond their group or that would involve altruistic attitudes towards outsiders. In the East, morality was defined mostly in terms of the needs of the in-group, but northern Europeans began a tradition of moral thinking that would apply to humans generally.
MacDonald hints that the northern environment resulted in the selection of traits for spatial and mechanical ability, a tendency toward analytical thinking, which involves “thinking of oneself as independent” in contrast to the East where thinking remained “linked to thinking of oneself as interdependent with other people”. I will return to this incredibly important point when MacDonald picks it up again in Chapter 9 when dealing with “individualism as a precursor of science”.

A fair criticism, which I am sure MacDonald would welcome, is that much research is still required in support of the thesis that northwestern European h-g cultures were characterized by a bilateral kinship system, nuclear families, exogamous and monogamous marriages, individual choice in marriage and a relatively high position of women. Our side barely has any scholars willing to study European uniqueness, and zero interest if such research is initiated by white identitarians. I think it is a very promising line of research. I wish there was research as well about how the peculiarities of the European environment — its incredible ecological diversity, numerous rivers of all sizes, mountains, variations in temperatures, the longest coastlines in the world, the most seas, the most beautiful landscapes — may have selected for higher analytical abilities and aesthetic sensibilities.

14 replies
  1. George Kocan
    George Kocan says:

    Christianity does have a strong element of individualism. The Gospel, that is, the preachings of Jesus went beyond the confines of Judea. The Ten Commandment, the Eight Beatitudes and various parables were directed at mankind in general not just for Jews. For example, the parable of the Good Samaritan showed that the Neighbor is not simply they guy to lives next door or your brother. St. Paul, of course, left Judea and preached in Greece, Rome and other places. The Apostles dispersed to various lands outside of Judea and established Churches there. St. Thomas ended up in India. This does not deny MacDonald’s thesis. Rather an individualistic hunter-gather population was genetically prepared to accept the messages of the Gospel.

  2. Tom
    Tom says:

    In my mind, the European capacity and penchant for Dialectic is responsible for the past and present achievements of western civilization. Greek philosophers were already well aware of this centuries ago. Well, their writings all epitomized dialectic.
    The problem today is that dialectic is being improperly used by adolescents (college students) and hostile aliens to destroy the very foundation thereof. It’s really too bad that so many Europeans today are simply a bunch of inept suckers lacking the perspicacity to see that the slogans of the Left are simply totalitarian BS aimed not at any beneficent reform but at the violent overthrow of everything identifiable with “Europeanness”.

  3. Seek
    Seek says:

    Let us not forget that most of the finest thinkers among the American Old Right have been cranky, “WEIRD” individualists. Think, if you will, of H.L. Mencken, Sam Francis, Florence King, Murray Rothbard, Paul Gottfried, Richard Weaver, Frank Knight, Frank Chodorov, Mel Bradford and Russell Kirk. Many are/were freethinkers, not religiously orthodox. Frankly, I dread the prospect of a society in which nonconformity is ritualistically discouraged and frequently punished. There is something to be said for one’s right to be left alone.

  4. Slovenec
    Slovenec says:

    When discussing Homo Sapiens, one has to consider the Neanderthal, whose genes didn’t survive, but his culture did. And this very culture is the essence of what is nowadays considered — and rightfully so — as Western. For about 46k years, the Slovenian culture (better: what’s left of it) is authentic in this, in the past much larger, geographical region, extending from the Indian subcontinent to modern Brittany, and perhaps much further to the North. There is etymological and broader cultural evidence for this claim, allow me to just anecdotically mention the “German” town of Dresden, originally named Drezno, or perhaps the Breton word for language; yesk (Slovenian: jezik).

    You see, the Slovenian pagan culture, along with it’s lingustic foundation, representing the true classical language, compared to which even classical Greek or Roman are merely pidgins, is the true heart of Europe.

    But in the course of milleniums the militaristic Neanderthal culture has won it’s Phyrric victory, imposing the primitive desert cult of Christianity to this advanced peoples, through actions of characeters such as Charlemagne, the Habsburg gang and local warlords such as Tassilo III. of Bavaria, the descendant of mute people (the Neandarthal), called “Nemci” in Slovenian, for they could not articulate their thoughts through speech.

    And then you cry “the Jew did it”. How utterly disgusting and charecteristic of people with bad manners that choose to identify as Western or perhaps Northern.

    You believe you are “redpilled”, but you are ignorant about the history, the truth and the filth.

    I don’t think the Jew is half as dangerous as this primitive Western militaristic mentality, devouring pagans, niggers and every living creature of the planet, in the name of it’s perceived glory, wich in reality is just a pile of primitive self-worshipping crap.

    Slovenians traditionally cultivate the (spiritual and cultural) land, while you lads are specialized in devouring it. But the Jew did it, of course.

    • Rerevisionist
      Rerevisionist says:

      It’s perfectly true that absolutely typical American war now is carried out by Neanderthals, who take money and orders from Jews. Which of these is ultimately at fault is the essential point. And there’s a further point that most ‘intellectuals’ won’t even consider the issue, or attempt to assess the results of such wars.

    • Bathory
      Bathory says:

      So, if I understand you correctly:
      1. your culture is more classical than Greek/Roman, and better than others
      2. Jews are not dangerous and are not the primary threat

      That latter statement on its own is already of worthy of the ‘cretin’ qualification. There’s plenty of verifiable evidence on this site alone. How about reading? The Hapsburg regime and all such vermin were cute little fairies compared to who run the world now. With your 2 million or so numbers, you’ll be jewed out of existence faster than most anyone in Europe.
      (Ignore if you’re JIDF.)

      • Slovenec
        Slovenec says:

        I don’t understimate the power of Jewish subversion, which is extensively documented; before and during the WW2, chief members of Slovenian “Antiimperialistic Front”, later renamed to “Libaration Front” were disproportionally Jewish. This “Liberation Front” was of course the implementor of Communism, which gained absolute power through horrific postwar killings, exceeding any imagination in its barbarous cruelty. And even today, when open borders, LGBT and other expressions of progresivism is “the thing”, Slovenia has its own Barbra Spectre, an university professor of leftist anthropology named Irena Šumi of Jewish descent, who loves to say that Slovenians are selfish little cunts who won’t let their “emptied villages” to be filled with poor refugees — with that narrative being broadcast on national TV, to which people are forced to pay monthly “subscription”.

        But despite I’m well aware of Jewish trickery, I don’t believe that this is the true reason for a sorry state of affairs.

        As already stated, the reason lies in barbaric Germanic imposition of Christianity (which I call communism version 1) onto much more advanced peoples of Slovenian culture, occupaying vast territory of Europe, including Germany in substantial extent. And as they say, Church is nothing more, and never was, than a nest of hipocrisy and debauchery, quite akin to Communism and Islam. Which is no wonder, as all three cults are of Semitic origin. I’m just a bit offended that people who consider themselves to be of Germanic descent (and implying some inherent quality to this fact) are nowadays screaming that Jew did it. No, you did it — then a Jew just came along as a fly and landed on a mountain of shit.

        Regarding the superiority of great Slovenian culture, there can be no doubt in many aspects of existence. If we concentrate on language only, we can for example observe that the grammar of Dionysius Thrax is essentially a Slovenian grammar. Other linguistic constructs of Slovenian language (grammatical case, grammatical aspect, true dual, …) witness that this is a very archaic and truly classical Indoeuropean language. Even the kolovrat (dubbed “swastika”) is stolen from this ancient culture — so ancient that the eldest wheel on planet was found just a couple of hundred meters from where I live.

        The thing that interests me the most is the truth, no matter how horrible. And before historical truth on ancient Slovenian people is established, nothing profoundly deep about the European histoty can’t be understood.

    • jim
      jim says:

      What a weird post. It is barely intelligible, rambling, and the sign of a mind that is incapable of focusing and making a proper argument. You present no evidence for your claims apart from a tiny stab at etymology.

      I’m all for critiquing the west, but such a ham handed treatment is not worth reading.

  5. Perspective
    Perspective says:

    These days evolution is set aside by the terror state we live in. The controlles massmedia tend to push racemixed white looking folks and other races in the music field, and as celebreties and people that we see in the media in general.

    Also, the propaqanda for racemixing and forced exposure to the terror of other races in many public schools and also the repercussion against anyone open etno centric, is anti evolutionary.

    In our modern society it is all propaganda for racemixing.

    This is setting aside all normal competetative darwinistic evolution and hence the media masters try to controll evolution and destroy our race. Kill us all.

  6. Maple Curtain
    Maple Curtain says:

    “I wish there was research as well about how the peculiarities of the European environment — its incredible ecological diversity, numerous rivers of all sizes, mountains, variations in temperatures, the longest coastlines in the world, the most seas, the most beautiful landscapes — may have selected for higher analytical abilities and aesthetic sensibilities.”

    There is certainly research by economic historians into the effect of Europe’s physical environment on political development and the eventual industrial revolution.

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