Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important


Family Systems Theory

Within the larger cultural context of family systems we focus on several non-traditional dimensions; among them are, individual and family relationships going back at least two generations and more if practical. The family’s political, cultural, and economic experiences over generations usually play a role in its current structure and dynamics. As noted above, understanding a society’s family structure and dynamics can usefully guide us in making decisions for the macro-economy.


From Wikipedia

“Systems theory differs from conventional models that center on individuals, structures, departments and units, separates in part from the whole, instead of recognizing the interdependence between groups of individuals, structures and processes that enable an organization to function. Laszlo[6] explains that the new systems view of organized complexity went "one step beyond the Newtonian view of organized simplicity" which reduced the parts from the whole, or understood the whole without relation to the parts. The relationship between organizations and their environments can be seen as the foremost source of complexity and interdependence. In most cases, the whole has properties that cannot be known from analysis of the constituent elements in isolation. Béla H. Bánáthy, who argued — along with the founders of the systems society — that "the benefit of humankind" is the purpose of science, has made significant and far-reaching contributions to the area of systems theory. For the Primer Group at ISSS, Bánáthy defines a perspective that iterates this view:

The systems view is a world-view that is based on the discipline of SYSTEM INQUIRY. Central to systems inquiry is the concept of SYSTEM. In the most general sense, system means a configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships. The Primer group defines system as a family of relationships among the members acting as a whole. Von Bertalanffy defined system as "elements in standing relationship"

Going further, 

“...Similar ideas are found in learning theories that developed from the same fundamental concepts, emphasizing how understanding results from knowing concepts both in part and as a whole. In fact, Bertalanffy’s organismic psychology paralleled the learning theory of Jean Piaget.[8] Some consider interdisciplinary perspectives critical in breaking away from industrial age models and thinking, wherein history represents history and math represents math, while the arts and sciences specialization remain separate and many treat teaching as behaviorist conditioning.[9] The contemporary work of Peter Senge[10] provides detailed discussion of the commonplace critique of educational systems grounded in conventional assumptions about learning, including the problems with fragmented knowledge and lack of holistic learning from the "machine-age thinking" that became a "model of school separated from daily life." In this way some systems theorists attempt to provide alternatives to, and evolved ideation from orthodox theories which have grounds in classical assumptions, including individuals such as Max Weber and Émile Durkheim in sociology and Frederick Winslow Taylor in scientific management.[11] The theorists sought holistic methods by developing systems concepts that could integrate with different areas.”

To summarize;

1. a single social/existential impulse continues to find expression at all levels of family, culture, and economic activity.

2. this pattern occurred in nature long before we did.

3. the family and the political economy interact through the mechanisms of multigenerational transmission process, nonlinear systemic functioning, and culturally shared definitions of personal, emotional, cultural and legal boundaries, obligations, and merit.

The Pack

Father and Daughter

We all began in a pack. Evolution selected for survival those human beings who could function by pack rules. Individual survival required the genetically refined tendency to function effectively within the pack. Survival-anxiety, driven by the fundamental will to live, shaped and maintained abiding dread of exclusion.

The social unit which secured sustenance and safety on a moment-to-moment basis was managed by emotions and reasoning powers developed and installed in our wiring by evolution, to keep the species in play. This did not resemble a civilized, cognitive, rationally derived contract. Rather, as for dogs, wolves, primates, and other species, life outside the pack rendered survival unlikely. The single hunter, or gatherer, was doomed. All individuals needed each other. Within this primary social unit survival and pack success depended on automatic adherence to, and individual fusion with, life-sustaining norms and expectations. Evolution influenced and determined our hardwiring for socialization. The individual who fused more efficiently lived more securely and reproductively.

Today, society replaces the pack as ultimate guarantor of sustenance and safety. But the genetically honed impulse to identify and reckon with one's status in the smaller, more local pack or in-group, remains part of our evolutionary, wired endowment.

Of course there are individual variations but we are all wired to be tribal. What does that mean? From birth we care about our position in the group. The group can be called a family or an orphanage or a kindergarten. In ever expanding circles we relate and care about others and we care whether they care about us. The regard of our immediate pack members and for our pack position, is an inborn source of anxiety and pleasure; albeit not often verbalized.

So why do we call some societies tribal and some individual? Tribal feelings and impulses, our connection to other humans, are our species' legacy and endowment. How that endowment expresses itself today varies from culture to culture. It forms “our identity”. It has always been thus. A society, the larger herd, functions to protect itself and stably survive as a group. The subtle interplay between our wiring and the societal survival imperative has not been adequately explored. That is one of our goals here.

Getting back to tribalism and individualism; The Fused vs The Individualized form of tribalism divergence can be delineated along several academic dimensions.

Most tribes are hierarchical. As in a wolf pack there is a leader or tribal council that determines what is best for the tribe. The rule in these cultures is that there is often no rule of law; there is only a hierarchical rule pertaining to one's position in the tribe. In the area of political governance and legality, to be tribal means the institutions of the societal prohibitions and rewards are geared not towards the individual citizen. What is best for the tribal “powers that be” is considered before what is best for its citizens.

Britain and The United States have a Bill of Rights as a foundational legal document. The title however should be, The Bill of Rights of The Individual Citizen. The Anglosphere and Scandinavia tribes are based on a principle that says the government purpose is to serve the inalienable rights of its citizens. Those rights are enumerated.

In a southeastern fused tribal framework going way way back, there are no actual inalienable enumerated rights. The citizens work for the tribal leaders. The family structure in tribal societies takes a similar road. The father is the leader and his authority is sacrosanct. What a post industrial family sees as appropriate post teenage emancipation and provocative independence is seen in tribal cultures, as arrogance and rebellion. Even worse in the case of teenage and adult women.

Unlike other species, man has been blessed with almost infinite adaptability. He can be a hunter, a gatherer, living in a location for 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years; or he can be a farmer living in one location for 2 millennia. Unlike other species he can learn not only for survival or impulse necessity, but from simple experience.

To what extent is tribalism still a feature for all of us? Are we all narcissists (excluding and hierarchically defining all others) or ethnocentricists?

To what extent?

Consider one economist’s discovery of tribalism in his experience as an economic journalist:

John Kaye, ft.com “Keynes”

“The incident shocked me then: but I am wiser now. I have read some of the literature on confirmation bias: the tendency we all have to interpret evidence, whatever its nature, as demonstrating the validity of the views we already hold. And I have learnt that such bias is almost as common in academia as among the viewers of Fox News: the work of John Ioannidis has shown how few scientific studies can be replicated successfully. In my inexperience, I had foolishly attempted such replication before the article was published.”

“It is generally possible to predict what people will think about abortion from what they think about climate change, and vice versa; and those who are concerned about wealth inequality tend to favor gun control, while those who are not, do not. Why, since these seem wholly unrelated issues, should this be so? Opinions seem to be based more and more on what team you belong to and less and less on your assessment of facts.”

"But there are still some who valiantly struggle to form their own opinions on the basis of evidence. John Maynard Keynes is often quoted as saying: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” This seems a rather minimal standard of intellectual honesty, even if one no longer widely aspired to.”

Here is one man’s description of what might be a variety of European societal (tribal) approaches:


A nation's fortune hinges on culture

by Victor Davis Hanson, Tribune Media • Friday, June 1, 2012 6:30 AM

“This week I am leading a military history tour on the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam. You can learn a lot about Europe’s current economic crises by just ignoring the sophisticated barrage of news analysis and instead watching, listening and talking to people as you go down river.

Switzerland, by modern standards, should be poor. Like Bolivia, it is landlocked. Like Italy, it has no real gas or oil wealth. Like Afghanistan, its northern climate and mountainous terrain limit agricultural productivity to upland plains. And like Turkey, it is not a part of the European Union.

Unlike Americans, the Swiss are among the most homogeneous people in the world, without much diversity, and make it nearly impossible to immigrate there.

So Switzerland supposedly has everything going against it, and yet it is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Why and how?

To answer that is also to learn why roughly 82 million Germans produce almost as much national wealth as do 130 million Greeks, Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards. Yet the climate of Germany is somewhat harsh; it, too, has no oil or gas. By 1945, German cities lay in ruins, while Detroit and Cleveland were booming. The Roman historian Tacitus remarked that pre-civilized Germany was a bleak land of cold weather, with little natural wealth and inhabited by tribal savages.

Race does not explain present-day national wealth. From 500 B.C. to A.D. 1300, Switzerland and Germany were considered brutal and backward in comparison to classical Greece and Rome, and later Renaissance Venice and Florence.

Instead, culture explains far more — a seemingly taboo topic when economists nonchalantly suggest that contemporary export-minded Germans simply need to spend and relax like laid-back Southern Mediterranean, and that the latter borrowers save and produce like workaholic Germans to even out the playing field of the European Union.


But government-driven efforts to change national behavior often ignore stubborn cultural differences that reflect centuries of complex history as well as ancient habits and adaptations to geography and climate. Greeks can no more easily give up siestas than the Swiss can mandate two-hour afternoon naps. If tax cheating is a national pastime in Palermo, in comparison it is difficult along the Rhine.

I lived in Greece for more than two years and often travel to northern and Mediterranean Europe and North Africa. While I prefer the Peloponnese to the Rhineland, over the years I have developed an unscientific and haphazard — but often accurate — politically incorrect method of guessing whether a nation is likely to be perennially insolvent and wracked by corruption.

Do average passersby throw down or pick up litter? After a minor fender-bender, do drivers politely exchange information, or scream and yell with wild gesticulations? Is honking constant or sporadic? Are crosswalks sacrosanct? Do restaurant dinners usually start or wind down at 9 p.m.? Can you drink tap water, or should you avoid it? Do you mostly pay what the price tag says, or are you expected to pay in untaxed cash and then haggle over the unstated cost? Are construction sites clearly marked and fenced to protect pedestrians, or do you risk walking into an open pit or getting stabbed by exposed rebar?

To put these crude stereotypes more abstractly, is civil society mostly moderate, predicated on the rule of law and meritocratic — or is it better characterized by self-indulgence, cynicism and tribalism?

The answers to these questions do not hinge on race, money or natural wealth, but they do involve culture and the way average people predictably live minute by minute…

What do they hinge upon?

Again, these national habits and traditions accrued over centuries, and as much as politics or economics, they explain in part why Bonn is not Athens, and Zurich is not Naples, or for that matter why Cairo is unlike Tel Aviv or why Mexico City differs from Toronto.

Will this serve as an explanation? This underlines our very purpose here. We want to create and/or discover a way of conversing about Dr. Hanson’s article without bigotry or PC considerations. To do this, a fairly precise vocabulary and set of principles need to be agreed upon.

There is one final funny thing about contemporary culture: What people say and do about it are two different things. We in the postmodern, politically correct West publicly pontificate that all cultures are just different and to assume otherwise is pop generalization, but privately we assume that you would prefer your bank account to be in Frankfurt rather than Athens, or the tumor in your brain to be removed in London rather than Lisbon.

A warm sunset with an ouzo on a Greek island beach may be more relaxing than schnapps on the foggy Rhine shore, but to learn why Greeks will probably not pay back what they owe Germany — and do not believe that they should have to — take a walk through central Athens and then do the same in Munich.”

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University

Please read an example of a similar but different view of a society’s evolution.

Why Are Some Cultures More Individualistic Than Others? , from nyt.com, DECEMBER 3, 2014

M. Luhrmann

"AMERICANS and Europeans stand out from the rest of the world for our sense of ourselves as individuals. We like to think of ourselves as unique, autonomous, self-motivated, self-made. As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz observed, this is a peculiar idea.

People in the rest of the world are more likely to understand themselves as interwoven with other people — as interdependent, not independent. In such social worlds, your goal is to fit in and adjust yourself to others, not to stand out. People imagine themselves as part of a larger whole — threads in a web, not lone horsemen on the frontier. In America, we say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In Japan, people say that the nail that stands up gets hammered down.

These are broad brush strokes, but the research demonstrating the differences is remarkably robust and it shows that they have far-reaching consequences. The social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett and his colleagues found that these different orientations toward independence and interdependence affected cognitive processing. For example, Americans are more likely to ignore the context, and Asians to attend to it. Show an image of a large fish swimming among other fish and seaweed fronds, and the Americans will remember the single central fish first. That’s what sticks in their minds. Japanese viewers will begin their recall with the background. They’ll also remember more about the seaweed and other objects in the scene.

Another social psychologist, Hazel Rose Markus, asked people arriving at San Francisco International Airport to fill out a survey and offered them a handful of pens to use, for example four orange and one green; those of European descent more often chose the one pen that stood out, while the Asians chose the one more like the others".

Please note that there is no mention of family of systems thinking or family principles in either article.