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Kevin MacDonald’s Individualism & The Western Liberal Tradition
Part 3: The Origins of the Weird Whites

2,069 words

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 prehistoric 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 an emphasis on “trust and maintaining a good reputation within the larger non-kinship based group.”

These evolutionarily 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 Henrich’s argument a bit, 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, and it thinks differently about fairness and 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 by 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 created 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,  and 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, and 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 of Europe, where the family was cut off from extended kinship networks to a “moderate individualism” in central Europe, to a “moderate collectivism” in southern 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 humans 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.

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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 be 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.


This article originally appeared on the website of the Council of European Canadians.


  1. Posted March 11, 2020 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Please stop taking anything leftists say at face value. Leftism is a scam to put leftists (media academia complex/modern priest class) in power. That’s all it is. That’s all it ever was going back to before the French revolution. They engage in psychological operations to demonize their rival, the natural aristocracy, and convince people leftists should have even more power and money. One year they champion the worker. The next year they’re flooding the country with cheap labor. The only thing they are consistent about is hating white people because white people uniquely have the capacity to put truth above authority. So white people are the one remaining obstacle to their complete control.

    • Aristocratic thievin
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      What is a “natural aristocracy”? Seems to me that feudalism was just as if not more brutal, however it didn’t lead to the death of billions as the current “aristocracy” has presided over!

      • Razvan
        Posted March 12, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        In order to become an aristocrat, someone had to prove himself, usually in battle, and more than anything to respect a code of rules. Which was not easy at all. Also they had to prove themselves, generation after generation. Otherwise the rank and the domain could be lost.

        The left lied so much about aristocracy. You can start with the Communist Manifesto; it has a section regarding the literature which is explanatory… This monstrous lie still is a wedge between the natural aristocracy and the common people.
        Instigated by the left, the common people refuse the natural aristocracy, raised from themselves, only to be tormented by a leftist elite of foreign origin.

        • Aristocratic thievin
          Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          Please, the so called “aristocrats” stole everything they could that the surf’s produced… but we’re following the “Code of Chivalry”… bullshit liars, (might is right) … and for what, a protection racket over the surfs? please, it BS!! Same shit now, just using different “weapon’s, i.e. fraudulent usury (i.e. real no consideration ever loaned) and fraudulent contract.

          • Razvan
            Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            There are people beneath us and assuredly people above us. One should hate neither.
            What makes you think that a strong family, whose members displayed extraordinary virtues and talents for hundreds of years have acquired their wealth by theft and not due to their merits?
            I am talking of course about the natural aristocracy.

            You might be talking about a foreign elite, usually imposed by an external occupation force. The external force is external from a racial, ethnic or religious.
            The foreign elite is designed, it is designed not naturally raised, to utterly destroy and humiliate the conquered people, to make sure that the they will never raise again.

            The foreign elite has an asian, hunic, mongolian, tatar character, meaning it is more genocidal than exploitive.

            The anti-aristocratic politics were never directed against the foreign elite but against the natural aristocracy.

            The hatred and envy of the lowly are used by the foreign elite. So the lowly becomes an easy target without the civilizational and defence force of the natural aristocracy.

          • Razvan
            Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

            Practically you say that it is better to be a castrated slave toiling in Kasbah, with your wife and dauthers sexual slaves instead following an aristocrat the same race with you, or even trying hard to become yourself a natural aristocrat.
            The foreign elite trained you well.

            • Aristocratic thievin
              Posted March 14, 2020 at 7:45 am | Permalink

              Quite the contrary, the ancient Celtic societies put thieves to the death. I have no problem with “people above” and people below” as you say, its the systematic thieving that needs to stop!!

            • Aristocratic thievin
              Posted March 14, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

              Finally comment, my ancient ancestors dis not practice hierarchical “aristocracy” but practiced the local and naturally holon “Thing” … families, clans, tribes and nations are not Hierarchies of each other, … they are holon’s of each other.

              The pyramid hierarchical type of government is purely communist and comes from the east look at the Chinese!!

          • Razvan
            Posted March 14, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            Indeed the thieving must stop.
            The ugly truth is that the people below are thieving, on their level, with the same intensity and passion as the people above. I mean the lumpen is as corrupt as the foreign elite.

            The Celts were healthy and wise putting every thief to death.

            The quintessential natural aristocrat, that proved himself in battle as in right judgement was Vlad the Impaler. Probably the only historical figure that eradicated theft in only few years.
            He impaled every thief, from pesant to monk, from nobleman to merchants, no matter the etnicity or sex. Men, women, Romanians, Turks, Germans, Italians, Jews, Armenians once they broke the law, they were swiftly impaled. No matter the consequences for himself!
            The most savage penalty was reserved for traitors and invaders, of course.
            The Impaler was a great aristocrat.

  2. inq
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “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 (…)”.
    OK, that’s analysis.

    Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind
    The book about how ideas that have been generated through time shaped the thinking in the West.
    OK, in my view generating ideas requires an abstract mind (capable of abstract thinking). That’s synthesis.

    And then this.
    R. Kevin Seasoltz, A Sense of the Sacred: Theological Foundations of Christian Architecture and Art:
    “Asians (..) pay attention to wide range of events; they search for relationships between things; and they think you can’t understand the part without understanding the whole. Westerners live in a simpler, more deterministic world; they focus on salient objects or people instead of the larger picture; and they think they can control events because they know the rules that govern the behavior of objects.”

    Analysis is the opposite of synthesis.
    Does it make the above two Western claims contradictory ?

    • Ricardo Duchesne
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      The claim that Chinese have a more encompassing mind that sees connections whereas Whites see isolated parts is common in academia, and very misleading. Historically Chinese mind has been unable to even separate its own mental faculties from the surrounding world and bodily instincts, because it is less developed intellectually. Europeans have both analysis and synthesis; it is true that many scientists engage in analysis of minute parts, which is necessary, but Europe has intellectual traditions emphasizing context, historical background, social relations, etc, the “whole is the truth”. You need analysis to do proper synthesis, and European analysis is great when it is aware of interconnections. Western scholars erroneously project their pragmatic, hermeneutic mind onto concrete operational (to use Piaget term) mind of Chinese. See,

      • Ullr
        Posted March 15, 2020 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        This is what the weaponized migrations are all about, the destruction of the formal operational and higher thinking man…

  3. R.ang
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    “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.”
    There’s simple proof of this: just look at wolves, foxes, or deer – those species live pretty much all over the world, yet they differ greatly depending on the climate they live in. Not only in build, but also in behaviour and sometimes in social structures (not all wolf species live in packs).
    Given that we differ animal species based solely on slightly different stripes (zebras, tigres, …), it’s ironic anybody would dare claim there aren’t any differences among human races (which differences are painfully obvious even to the naked eye).

    “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.”
    The proof for this is the fact that even among aristocrasy the girls were sometimes able to marry a different man that their father intended, because they were in love with that different man, and they always had the choice of entering a monastery is marriage to a certain individual was out of question for them.
    Defying the parents’ decision was impossible in other cultures and often resulted in the death of the daughter.

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