Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Notes on Sociologist Epistemology and Catholic Power Fossils

A good question, (via) being asked by hbdchick. Humanity was tribal everywhere before city-states. City-states did not replace tribes, but were some evolution of certain tribes. Regional contempt still exists, but it is based almost entirely on region, not on bloodlines that just happen to be associated with regions. Where did the tribes end up?

It appears that sociology is real easy up until the very end bit. As an aside, this is unfortunate for balance-of-power theories.

Second, great examples of how power grabs fossilizing into popular attitudes and received wisdom.

"The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups."
The key point is that they did so on purpose, and more or less on the first try. Imagine the complexity of society, then for an analogy, a software program or car of similar complexity. Imagine getting the program or auto prototype to work on the first try. Or on the fourth or fifth, using only armchair logic to iterate.

Lenin wanted to make Russia run by soviets, so he did. He just...did.

It's just the end bit that's hard - the consequences. The powerful can decide to change society to more or less whatever they want it to be. But this fools them into thinking they can choose the consequences of it being that way.

Lenin couldn't make soviets a good organizational principle. Nobody can - it is logically impossible. The Catholics couldn't make weakening tribes a good thing, so it is lucky that it probably is.

Part of the problem is that the powerful almost never (ctrl-f 'Cowperthwaite') have the interests of society in mind. I'm sure the soviets worked out just fine for Vladimir Lenin, and the Church got exactly the power it craved.

Which is unfortunate for balance of power theories. The Church was to an extent balanced by tribes, so it rid itself of tribes. Since sociology is easy, you can expect that most attempts by a power 'balanced' by another to succeed in its attempts to rid itself of the competitor.

As to the specific measures...
"From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history."
I don't want to commit the broken window fallacy. What did the Church do that didn't work, and thus wasn't listed, or was abandoned? I don't know, but my hypothesis predicts that it wasn't much, and that bad initiatives were abandoned quickly, where 'quick' is scaled to the communication and information-processing abilities of the time.

There's an interesting detail at the end.
"The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union."
Sound familiar?
It became the legal right of brides to reject suitors. Then, they start feeling entitled to reject suitors, as if it were the natural order of things. (Hmm, entitled? Turns out humans were human in 1000 AD too.) This, in time, naturally progressed to women demanding their lovers in fact love them and inspire love in return.

The modern romance novel has its roots in a successful Catholic attempt to wrest power away from tribes.

"However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominant."
Modern 'family values' have the same roots. Which would be fine if it didn't apparently entail the absurd practice of having women to either hire an nanny or be the sole nanny. If the 2:1 average is true, I'd expect that children and mothers would be adapted to the expectation of, for example, getting enough sleep every other night as the other wife took over. At the very least.

"In contrast, the percentage of such [consanguineous] marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent."
Fifty percent? Wow. Gross.
The Church decided it wanted us to find marrying a cousin creepy, and so now we do. No muss, no fuss. Just flash some raw power, thus status, and you're good to go.

"But, inadvertently, they also seem to have laid the groundwork for the civilized western world"
This is where Hanson signalling is a good thing. Then as now, the Church wouldn't have been able to sell its anti-tribe campaign, even to its own clergy, as 'we want more stuff.' It probably, then as now, noticed that tribal fighting is vicious and brutal, and sold the campaign as one to stop that. Propaganda being extremely primitive relative to modern kinds, they had to find a good thing their campaign would actually do.

(Found April 7)
"One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name "kin selection," is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other."The Church worked this out a little earlier. Without any formal scientific method. Glad to see independent corroboration, though.


Alex J. said...

The Church decided it wanted us to find marrying a cousin creepy, and so now we do.

The interests of the couple don't correspond fully with the interest of the patriarch, so we may have always found cousin marriage creepy, but not been in a position to do anything about it.

Some older, abandoned, Church positions are: tolerance of prostitution, as less-bad than homosexuality adultery and masturbation; and suppression of public baths, which arguably made disease worse.

Alrenous said...

Thanks, that's the kind of abandoned strategies I was looking for.

I would expect hunter tribes to find kin marriage creepy, but not farmer tribes. And now it's creepy again.

Would you happen to know why the Church didn't like public baths? I can't imagine it was a power issue.