Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important


Premise 2, Section 3

Pre-industrial, rural, societal development

Feudal, hierarchical, agricultural, or "peasant-based" societies tend to retain pack-centered values and behavior longer and more intensely than those who have embraced the urban post-industrial values of secular education, individual political and economic rights and responsibilities and a respect for diversity and stranger engagement. The industrial revolution started in Great Britain.

Brother and Sister

In this connection, Allen Macfarlane proposes an historical-economic vision of England from 1200 AD through the 1800 and 1900s. From his viewpoint, the early English yeoman emerges as the precursor of a novel paradigm; the free, lawful citizenry of a modern world. In contrast, Edward Banfield describes a rural, preindustrial phenomenon in analyzing the peasant based contemporary cultures of (Italy)Southern and Eastern Europe where the immediate in-group (family, village, church) like the pack, intervenes and secures daily sustenance and safety while demanding strict adherence to established values and customs. Forces outside the immediate pack are typically viewed as hostile.


Therefore, all members of the extended family (pack) must remain unified against outsiders in defense of the common interest. Strangers are assumed to be malevolent.

Successful members merge themselves with the group to defend its traditions psychologically and often physically; certainly economically. Personal individuation, independence, is quite reasonably seen as a threat to the strength of the group and the welfare of its members. Not only has deviation no useful function, it is perceived as weakening the group. Therefore, it brings rejection, even retaliation, for the individual.

The Financial Times editorial below is recent enough to illustrate the influence of history, geography and macroeconomics. When contrasted with the TV series "THE SLAP"'s artistic portrayal of family dynamics in a Greek (or Mediterranean) family one can see a relationship and its patterns of reciprocal, spiraling mutual influence. Mistrust is again a central (non-economic) factor in the economic sphere.

JUNE 26,2015, FT.COM, EDITOR, TONY BARBER
"Another chapter will be written this weekend in Greece’s proud, painful history of national suffering, defiance and martyrdom, real as well as imagined, at the hands of foreign oppressors....

"Greek society – excluding the breathtakingly selfish super-rich – will remain burdened with economic hardship, whether or not the nation defaults on its debt or drops out of the Eurozone...

 "The nation will feel betrayed both by the Europeans it thought were its providers, and by the domestic political classes it thought would protect them...

"This may prove to be a poisonous political mix, whenever Greeks next go to the polls to elect a new government...

"And so it will be that, for generations to come, Greeks will learn of the intolerable pressure to which foreign creditors subjected their country in the Eurozone crisis, just as happened in earlier historical cycles of debt and submission to external overseers after the 1821-32 war of Greek independence....

"The latest debacle will reinforce each side’s prejudices, turning reconciliation and national renewal after the debt crisis into distant dreams.

"From a wider, European perspective, the disturbing prospect arises that the foundations of a new, enduring mistrust between Greece and more powerful western nations will be laid, to the detriment of the optimistic vision of European unity that is the EU’s defining principle...

"There was mistrust, not to say hatred, in earlier times, ...

"But this mistrust was supposed to dissipate as a result of Greece’s admission into the old European Economic Community in 1981 and its Eurozone entry in 2001. The problem for today, tomorrow and many years into the future is that the debt crisis and its unhappy outcome have shattered such trust as was built up over the past three decades...

"The pernicious long-term effects of the debt crisis and the acrimonious negotiations with the creditors are not only economic. They lie in the way the crisis has shredded Greek trust in Europe and undermined Greece’s confidence in its modern identity."

Industrial, urban societal development


Economically, industrial capitalism has favored ever increasing psychic and legal individualism by elevating the right of private property, urbanization, geographic and status mobility. It exalts geographical mobility, gender equality and female emancipation, individual initiative, precision, innovation, and technical expertise. In turn English industrialization had been encouraged by a more independent, less feudal peasantry together with complex societal laws and institutions going back to 1200 AD and earlier Roman occupation.

They favor precision, structure, organization and individual rights. "The Enlightenment", modern capitalism, urbanization, and industrialization has inevitably eroded traditional belief systems and exposed more people to more ideas.

Mother with Daughter

Generally speaking, the more profound the progress towards post-industrialization, the more likely it is to promote an individualistic personal understanding of self, broader social awareness, tolerance of "otherness", intellectual curiosity, respect and acceptance of law, order and authority imposed from outside the parameters of the pack, village, tribe or immediate in-group.

Parenting practices today, in the individuating cultures, are observably different from the more tribal societies. 

Cultural integrity vs Lack of cultural integrity

According to Macfarlane and others, individualism on the personal, economic and political dimension favored industrialization and in a multi-factorial pattern, industrial development drove and nurtured individualism, cultural autonomy and integrity.

England and America have not been occupied-invaded since 1600. There has been no civil war or violent revolution in England since 1650.

Northern Europe, Scandinavia, has not been occupied by non-westerners for hundreds of years. Not so southern and eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Homogeneous, self-directed societies historically free from foreign intrusion and domination seem to encourage and normalize individuation more readily than societies historically ruled and occupied by culturally alien outside imperial forces.

In patterns similar to individual development, when stress reaches problematic levels there develop defensive and sometimes dysfunctional reactions; in order to achieve hoped for security and balance.

Clinical observation has shown that if an individual is lucky enough to avoid those stressful intrusions on "normal" development the natural tendency is for growth towards some sort of independent identity and individuation.

It follows that citizens of those societies that are lucky enough to avoid the stresses of war or repeated alien occupation (because of geography or other factors) will be less inclined over time to embrace the locked down tribal approach and be more willing to endorse a give and take with the larger society.

Such individualized societies, which are now themselves most often industrialized and politically democratic, tend to foster acceptance of rationally chosen authority and simultaneous respect for personal autonomy vs. arbitrary allegiance to surrogates for the pack. These industrially derived values make possible a comfortable relationship with centrally imposed law. They tend to promote social orderliness and personal self-restraint, straightforwardness, respectfulness, cooperation. Emotions are expressed verbally rather than "acted out". Nationalism may become extremely virulent in such countries, but even this kind of nationalism requires abandonment of in-group loyalties to a larger vision emphasizing the individual’s personal, if submissive-cooperative, relationship to the state.

Conversely, societies that have historically, repeatedly, suffered culturally alien, imperial domination tend to be:

1. less industrialized, and

2. less willing to renounce pack loyalties for a broader social affiliation.

These two conditions are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.

A history of repeated, multi-generational exploitation and occupation by distinctly different (and putatively superior-exploitative) cultural groups tends to reinforce pack loyalty as a means of stable survival and a medium for psychological resistance to the tyrant. The citizen’s ability to sustain trust, empathy and hope outside the pack are major casualties in such scenarios. (Is it a coincidence that the most repeatedly occupied and imperialized continent, Africa, is the most plagued by these and other society destroying attitudes and behaviors. Corruption, fusion and tribalism, gender exploitation, lack of civic society and minimal industrialization are rife, perhaps related to its imperialized history.)

This experience reinforces intense, self-perpetuating multigenerational in-group loyalty and deep antagonism to national or distant governing authority. In this context, the impulse to fuse with the immediate or extended in-group strengthens psychological (and often physical) resistance to external domination. In-group fusion elevates normative behaviors including comfort with denial, evasiveness, defiance, bargaining, deception, duping officials, evading their rules and laws.

As in slavery based populations, we see a general tendency to manipulate, rather than engage, cooperate or confront, as an acceptable mechanism for coping with the imbalance between peasant and perceived alien authority. Over time, through the multigenerational transmission process, intimate and interpersonal relations retain the influence of this historical experience to perpetuate interpersonal patterns, social norms, economic values, habits, expectations, and performance at the ground level.

Northwest, Southeast

 We are all limited by our evolutionary endowment. We are all wired for tribalism; whether it is CIA vs FBI, LEFT vs RIGHT, TROTSKY vs STALIN, or any other imaginable category-based divisions between people. It is simultaneously mankind's hope and danger. By separating from mother> family> pack>tribe, we tread new roads with new ideas so civilization can and does evolve.

By needing to exclude, win, vanquish, create fiefdoms and exploit, and by being wired for self-centered revenge, to not turn the other cheek, we can negate many of the benefits of those ideas.

Please read this Ft.com description of the virtues of northern (Scandinavian) banks:

“Like performing seals that never drop a ball, Nordic banks have an endearingly dependable quality that their clumsy European peers struggle to mimic. Investors have come to expect decent revenue and profits, low cost-to-income ratios, loan book and deposit growth, solid capital bases and a focus on returns…“

In the roughest terms, "Northern and Western" European societies tend to display attributes of the urbanized industrialized non-subordinate model, while "Southeastern" Europeans tend to display attributes of the agrarian, peasant, non-industrialized, historically exploited-imperialized model.

In both, daily, practical traditions become cultural attributes largely through their incorporation at the family group level. Murray Bowen and others have investigated and explained this family multigenerational transmission process in families regardless of the ethnic component.

Embedded in the family over generations, these habits influence the broad spectrum of human behavior at every level, from intimate and family dynamics, to cultural institutions to international economics. For example: multi-generational exploitation by culturally different imperial powers (e.g. domination of Poles and Galicians by Russians, French, Germans and Austrians, of Arabs by Mongols/Turks/Europeans) over centuries and human generations, yields distinct attitudinal patterns. These are characterized by generalized, passively expressed antagonism to both strangers and governing authority.

Related interpersonal behavioral norms such as evasiveness, defiance, denial, emotional bargaining and manipulation, "acting out", short term thinking, impulsiveness ("hot headed") and deception are considered relatively acceptable coping mechanisms within the sub-culture.

In contrast, Great Britain, Scandinavian and other northwestern countries have remained unoccupied by external cultures for at least 500 years, or 250 generations.

National groups which have tended to be dominant (or free of occupation and dominance) in their economic relations with other groups, the English, Germans, great Russians, Scandinavians, northern French and northern Italians) tend to develop social and interpersonal norms consistent with cultural wholeness or integrity: personal autonomy, acceptance of control, precision and orderliness, self-possession, straightforwardness, respectfulness, and cooperation.

Conversely, authority-resistant behavior finds less acceptance and is therefore less prevalent in these societies. Such patterns become enduring cultural attributes largely through their incorporation at the family group level, via the multigenerational transmission process explicated most notably by Bowen.