Kevin MacDonald’s Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects For the Future (2019) is the first book that employs an evolutionary psychological approach to explain the rise of the West — actually, it is the first book that aims to comprehend the dynamics of the entire history of the West from prehistoric to current times to explain as well the decline of the West, the ways in which the “egalitarian individualism” originated by northwest Europeans in hunting and gathering times planted the seeds of the West’s current decision to destroy its genetic heritage through the importation of masses of immigrants.
Difficult as this task may seem, MacDonald performs it extremely well. In a normal academic world in which criticism of immigration was permissible, MacDonald’s book would have been the subject of immediate debate rather than complete silence. The books currently dominating the “rise of the West” tend to downplay any substantial differences between the West and other civilizations. They talk about “surprising similarities ” between the major civilizations as late as the 1750s, and argue that the West diverged only with the spread of the Industrial Revolution. Some books go back in time to the family structure of medieval northwest Europe, or to the enforcement of monogamy by the Catholic Church, or to the rise of modern science in the seventeenth century. While MacDonald makes effective use of earlier arguments on Western uniqueness, including my own argument about the importance of the “aristocratic egalitarianism” of prehistoric Indo-Europeans, he believes that the starting point must be “the genetic history of the West.”
For MacDonald, the most unique trait of Europeans is their individualism, a trait manifested in two different forms; in the aristocratic individualism of Indo-European cultures, and in the hunter-gatherer egalitarian individualism of northwestern Europe. There is a genetic basis for these two forms of individualism. To understand their origins it is necessary to document how these two forms were naturally selected within populations living in particular environmental settings, as well as within the novel cultural-environmental settings they created. The egalitarian form of individualism, in MacDonald’s estimation, was the form that eventually came to dominate European culture. While the aristocratic individualism of Indo-Europeans predominated in ancient Greece and Rome, the trend in European history was for the accentuation of egalitarian individualism, with the Church playing a critical role, and then the Puritan revolution with its “moralistic Utopianism” gradually spreading in the United States.
The Jews did not invent this egalitarian individualism. They interpreted this egalitarianism into a call for a plurality of cultures and races inside the West — the “ethnic dissolution of non-Jews” — while protecting Jewish in-group solidarity and ethnocentrism. They insisted that the egalitarian values of Europeans required them to abolish their exclusive and unequal ethnic-based concept of citizenship for the sake of a truly egalitarian multiracial concept open to the arrival of millions of immigrants.
MacDonald’s emphasis on the “primordial” foundations of the egalitarian individualism of northwest hunter-gatherers should not be confused with the standard observation that hunters and gatherers across the world were egalitarian. His focus throughout the book is on kinship systems, whether lines of descent were bilateral or patricentric, whether marriages were exogamous or endogamous, monogamous or polygamous, whether families were nuclear or extended, whether there was individual choice in marriage or arranged marriages, and whether individuals were inclined to establish relations outside their kinship group, with relatively weak ethnocentric tendencies, or whether they were seen as embedded to their kinship group, with relatively strong levels of ethnocentrism. His central argument is that already among northwest European hunter-gatherers we can detect relatively weaker collective kinship systems, which gave room for more individual initiative and relationships outside extended families and bloodlines, with individuals forming associations outside kinship relationships as if they were in a state of equality rather than in a state of inequality between ingroups and outgroups.
It is this focus on the individualistic family systems of the West that allows MacDonald to offer a comprehensive explanation of both the rise and the decline of the West. Most scholars writing about the rise of the West today are concerned to answer why the Industrial Revolution occurred in eighteenth-century England/Europe. Some emphasize the unique family structure of northwest Europe, but they trace this family structure to the Middle Ages, and none of them go back to the evolution of genetic dispositions among northwest hunter-gatherers to explain the rise of the West. I am not aware of any scholar who focuses so consistently on the weak ethnocentric tendencies of Europeans to explain both the rise and decline of the West. If meeting the scientific criteria for parsimony is valuable to you, then reading MacDonald’s book will be very illuminating indeed.
What follows is the first of nine or ten commentaries I will be writing about Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition.
Three Foundational Genetic Populations of Europe
Chapter One brings up the latest research on population movements into prehistoric Europe to argue that three distinct populations came to constitute the genetic foundations of this continent:
- A “primordial population” arriving in Europe about 45,000 years ago, which he calls “Western hunter-gatherers (WHGs),” and which developed a unique culture of egalitarian individualism in the northwest areas of Europe.
- Early Farmers arriving from Anatolia about 8000 years ago, bringing agriculture and having the greatest genetic effect on the WHG population in the southern areas of Europe.
- Indo-Europeans migrating from the Pontic-Steppes beginning around 4500 years ago, starting with the Yamnaya peoples and later associated with the Corded Ware culture. The greatest genetic impact of the Yamnaya and Corded Ware peoples was on central Europe and some regions in the north, with less impact in the east and south.
This first chapter — the shortest at 25 pages — may be the most tricky for readers to digest; and I fear that, if not read carefully, it may create the impression that MacDonald is arguing that Europe’s population was formed by non-white genetic groups coming from the outside; “mysterious” Yamnaya peoples coming from “the steppes,” as they were described in the mainstream media, and by farmers from the Near East. Because MacDonald presents this argument in a scholarly and judicious manner, using the geographical and ethnic terminology of the literature, and avoiding descriptions about the “white race” until the last pages, it may lead some readers to infer that only the WHGs in the northwest were white and native to the continent.
Up until about page 13, MacDonald describes (correctly) the EFs as a people from “Anatolia.” He describes the I-Es as an “amalgam of Armenian-like Near Eastern people,” Caucasus hunter-gatherers, Siberian North Eurasians (“related to North American Indians”), and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers. I have no dispute with this terminology, except that it may lend itself to manipulation by the mainstream media — into the notion that only one genetic population, WHGs (in the north) was white. This seems to be the impression of Morris V. de Camp, the reviewer of Individualism and the Liberal Tradition at Counter-Currents , when he writes that “Western Hunter-Gatherers are Europe’s indigenous population” while describing the other two populations using the ethnic-geographical terms MacDonald uses, without adding that these two other populations were also white, or undergoing selection for white skin, brown eyes and tallness.
Readers may underestimate the subsequent points MacDonald develops in the closing pages of this chapter where he states with definiteness that the EFs who entered Europe from Anatolia had “white skin and brown eyes” and that they actually eliminated “the dark-skinned WHGs in the south of Europe.” (p. 24) While “proto-Indo-European genes for light skin pigmentation were relatively infrequent. . . compared to contemporary Ukrainians,” there was selection for white skin and other European physical traits as the I-Es “spread north.” He describes the I-Es from the Pontic Steppes that migrated into Europe 4000 years ago as “white-skinned, brown-eyed peoples.”
Making white skin or eye color the defining traits of Western Civilization is not the point. I am in agreement with MacDonald that “individualism” is the best word that defines and allows us to understand the unique trajectory of Europeans. But we must be upfront about the racial identity of Europeans in light of the extremely deceitful way in which the mainstream media and academics are using these recent findings on the population genetics of Europeans to argue that Europe was not the “ancestral home of white people,”  but was from the beginning a continent populated by “diverse immigrants” from external regions.
The current promoters of mass immigration want us to believe that Europe’s original populations were already diverse and that whites were not the original population, even though these findings actually demonstrate that evolution, or genetic differentiation along different racial paths, occurred in different regions of the world, including Europe, after homo sapiens migrated out of Africa some 60 or 50 thousand years ago. The media, and the scientists themselves, are deceitfully speaking about the “mysterious ” Yamnaya and the Anatolian farmers as evidence that Europe was a “melting pot ” of “immigrants” from “diverse” racial groupings arriving from “Eurasia” and the “Near East.” Indeed, since the WHGs themselves were descendants of African migrants, the media has been contriving headlines and arguments about how Europeans were an amalgam of “Africans, ” “Near Eastern migrants,” and “mysterious” Yamnaya people who “shared distant kinship with Native Americans.”
Many reacted with disbelief at the African look of the “first European” Dr. Richard Neave created from fragments of fossils of a 35,000 years-old skull found in Europe, with Lawrence Auster calling it an “undisguised fraud .” But why should we expect the first generations of homo sapiens in Europe to have evolved “white” traits not long after they entered this continent? The research that is coming out suggests that today’s races are very young (outside Africa), and did not appear until about 12,000 to 10,000 years ago; and it may be that the European race is the youngest race, the last evolutionary stage of homo sapiens.
The WHGs were not initially European but evolved into Europeans thousands of years after they had inhabited the northwest regions of Europe. From a Darwinian perspective, the question that should matter is when and how the inhabitants of Europe became European. According to Sandra Wilde et. al. “strong selection favoring lighter skin, hair, and eye has been operating in European populations over the last 5000 years .” In terms of these physical markers, Europeans are a very young race emerging in the course of centuries from a preceding people that were not European. This evolution, of course, was not merely about the evolution of “white” physical traits, though we should not underestimate the importance of these traits. It stands to reason that there were other key traits, including behavioral traits, which did not emerge at once but through time, which means that it is difficult to state with any definiteness when the inhabitants of Europe became “European.”
This argument is implicit in MacDonald’s observation that new evolutionary pressures in the natural environment of Europe, including in the “novel environments” created by farmers and by Indo-European horse riders, selected for different mutations and eventually different traits, including lighter skin and eyes combined with individualist behaviors. He uses the phrase “selection in situ” to refer to how the environment of Europe selected for new mutations among the EFs and I-Es, or for physical and psychological predispositions, making them more pronounced. Genes for lighter skin and eyes likely become more pronounced as I-Es and EFs spread into the northwest. MacDonald writes, “the larger point is that. . . selection for lighter eye, hair, and skin pigmentation occurred within Europe after the EFs and I-Es migrations.”
We need to think of Europeans as a race that evolved through thousands of years inside Europe, not always gradually, but at an accelerated pace from about 10,000 years ago in response both to the unique ecology of Europe and to their own unique cultural activities. The upper Paleolithic peoples who first inhabited Europe, coming from Africa via the Near East, were not Europeans but a people closely descended from the homo sapiens who left Africa some 50,000 (or 60,000 years ago), carrying in their genes only a fraction of the African genetic diversity, which set them on a different evolutionary trajectory as they inhabited and reproduced under very different environmental pressures, relatively isolated from other evolving/isolated races.The genetic history of Europeans has been totally politicized. The media used the African-like reconstructions of the “first Europeans” to put Africans at the center of European ancestry, with the British anthropologist Dr. Alice Roberts gushing over the reconstruction and going to Africa to trace her ancestral roots for a BBC documentary called “The Incredible Journey,”  which aired in 2009. The fact that this early Upper Paleolithic inhabitant of Europe was dark, and that lighter skin, eyes, and hair were later evolutionary acquisitions, supports our side of the debate. The cultural Marxist view that human genetic evolution somehow came to a halt after homo sapiens migrated out of Africa, as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin argued, and as the entire establishment today continues to insist, has been falsified.
Population Movements into Europe after Origins of European Race
We don’t know exactly when other racial traits and differences may have evolved in Europe, such as the rate of physical maturation, gestation period, details about body built, blood types, resistance and susceptibility to various diseases, and brain size. But we know that Europeans were a race that evolved certain anatomical and behavioral traits by reason of breeding for thousands of years within a geographical area we call Europe. The I-Es were not a “mysterious” people who came from outside Europe but a people native to this continent. The official geographical definition of the “continent of Europe” is consistent with the cultural history of this continent in comprising “European Russia,” the Pontic Steppes located north of the Black and Caspian seas, and present-day Ukraine, the original homelands of the I-Es.
Other than the EFs who came from Anatolia, who already had genes for white skin, and then evolved into Europeans in Europe, there is strong genetic evidence showing that once a European race emerged out of the three populations MacDonald highlights, Europe did not experience any major genetic mixing from non-European immigrant races.
We learn this from Jean Manco’s Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings (2013). This book draws on the recent ability of geneticists to trace ancestry and human migrations by studying two types of DNA, mtDNA, which traces direct chains of descent from mother to maternal grandmother, and Y-DNA, which traces descent from father to paternal grandfather. Using this technique it investigates the “peopling” of Europe from the “first Europeans” all the way to the Viking era. Even as Manco plays up politically correct tropes about multiple “migrants” moving into Europe, most of the “invaders” and “migrants” she mentions came from within Europe’s boundaries, and the ones coming from outside barely had any genetic impact, which is why she can’t help saying there is a “high degree of genetic similarity among Europeans.”
Manco shows that the Angles and Saxons who colonized Britain around AD 400-600 came from the Proto-Germanic Corded Ware and Bell-Beaker cultures that had melded during the Nordic Bronze Age (1730-760 BC) in Jutland, or what is present-day Denmark. After connecting the Mycenaeans to the Indo-Europeans, she writes that the Classical Greeks “came to think of themselves as European.” (p. 177) She refers to Rome as a “melting pot,” but then adds that those contemporaneous Roman authors, in the first centuries AD, who “railed against the level of immigration” for diluting the Roman character, were “rather short-sighted” since the Italian-born, she estimates, made up about 95% of its inhabitants. (p. 199) She writes about the “great wandering” of the Germanic peoples who overran the Roman Empire: the Goths, Gepids, Vandals, Burgundians, Angles, and Saxons in favor of her ‘migrationist’ thesis, but not only were these movements strictly intra-European affairs, but, as she observes, “we should not expect much, if any, genetic distinction between these peoples. They were of the same stock.” (p. 213)
She writes about the Slavic expansion and movements between 300-700 AD through what we today consider to be Slavic countries, yet goes on to emphasize “the striking genetic similarity of Slavic speakers. . . Slavic populations are more similar across national boundaries than non-Slavic nations.” (p. 224) She describes the movements of Bulgars and Magyars in the seventh century AD, two mobile peoples from the Asian side of the steppes, connected to the Turkic-Mongoloid in race. But she then informs us that, while the Bulgars gave their name to Bulgaria, the Bulgarians of today are genetically similar to Slavic speakers, with genes distinctive for Asian Turkic speakers occurring in only 1.5 percent of Bulgarians. While the Magyars gave their Ugric language to Hungary, “modern Hungarians appear genetically much like their Slavic neighbors,” for even though Magyars imposed their rule upon a Slavic population, subsequent migrations from Slavs diluted the Magyar input to Hungary. (p. 235-40)
Europeans evolved in the course of time inside Europe and have remained European through almost their entire history until mass immigration came to be promoted in the last three decades. In our examination of chapters 2 and 3 of MacDonald’s book, we will go over his crucial argument that Europeans were selected for egalitarian individualism as well as aristocratic elite social ties, “where kinship was deemphasized, and individual talents and accomplishment valued.” How important were these two behavioral traits in determining the unique historical trajectory of Europeans?