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Harvard Professor on Cousin Marriages, Kinship and Democracy in Pakistan

RiazHaq

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In his recently published book entitled "The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous", Harvard Professor Joseph Henrich argues that western democracy and prosperity in America and Europe can be traced back to the Catholic Church's ban on cousin marriages and polygamy. These bans promoted individualism and created what is now known as a "nuclear family". Cousin marriages and strong kinship remain prevalent in present-day Pakistan, according to the author. While the extent of kinship (biradri) networks in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe, it is not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Biradris (kinships) play a powerful role in Pakistan's elections and political patronage networks. These run counter to the precepts of western-style democracy and national prosperity.


What's WEIRD About the West?

The WEIRD acronym in the title of the book stands for Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democracies. It represents the the West's cultural evolution (distinct from biological evolution) over the last few centuries that has produced what the author describes as "Self-focused, individualistic, nonconforming, patient, trusting, analytic, and intention-obsessed capture just a small sampling of the ways in which WEIRD people are psychologically unusual when seen in a global and historical perspective".


Kinship Intensity Index:

The extent of kinship in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe but not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Professor Henrich defines what he calls Kinship Intensity Index to capture the strength of kinship in different societies.

The KII combines the data about cousin marriage, nuclear families, bilateral inheritance, neo-local residence, and monogamous marriage (vs. polygyny) with information on clans and customs about marrying within a certain community (endogamy).

Biradri's Role in Pakistani Elections:

Electioneering in Pakistan is rarely about debating issues and offering solutions; it's more about biradris (kinship networks). Political parties and politicians are rarely judged based on their capabilities, ideas and performance. The focus is on recruiting "electable" candidates with a known vote bank of their ethnicity and "biradri" (clan).

Pakistan's mainstream political parties continue to rely on the "electables" to win general elections. "Electables" are powerful, resourceful and wealthy, often land-owning individuals from certain biradris who have a greater chance of winning enough votes to get elected regardless of their party affiliation. Major political parties recruit them to run on their "tickets" as their nominees. Winning more seats in the parliament helps political parties form governments to gain control of the state's resources for the benefit of their leaders and their cronies in their political patronage networks. It is a good investment for the electables to be aligned with the party in power.

The preference for "electables" perpetuates the status quo and preserves the power of the privileged few. It denies the opportunity for new aspiring entrants to bring about any positive change. It depresses new voter turnout and discourages wider participation in the political process.

Kinship (Biradri) in Pakistan:

Professor Joseph Henrich says that kinship system (biradri), cousin marriages and polygamy remain prevalent in Pakistan. He cites a study showing that cousin marriages were 76% of all marriages for second-generation Pakistani Brits, while in Pakistan comparable rates were under 50%.

To make this point about identities, the author cites a 1972 quote from late Pakistani politician Khan Abdul Wali Khan who said, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.” Professor Henrich explains that "what Khan was saying is that his lineage comes well before both Islam and Pakistan. In fact, his dates suggest that his lineage was four to five times more important than his universalizing religion, Islam, and 240 times more important than his country, Pakistan".

Strong Society, Weak State:

British Professor Anatol Lieven described Pakistan as "strong society, weak state" in his 2012 book entitled "Pakistan: A Hard Country". Here's an excerpt of his book:

Marriage with members of the same kinship group, and when possible of the same extended family, is explicitly intended to maintain the strength, solidarity and reliability of these groups against dilution by outsiders. (Professor Alison) Shaw writes of the Pakistanis of Oxford that in the year 2000, almost fifty years after they first started arriving in Britain, there had been barely any increase in the proportion of marriages with non-kin, and that over the previous fifteen years 59% of marriages had been with first cousins; and the proportion in strongly Pakistani cities such as Bradford is even higher:

Greater wealth was perceived not solely in terms of individual social mobility, although it provides opportunities for this, but in terms of raising the status of a group of kin relation in their wider biradiri and neighbours in Pakistan . . . Status derives not only from wealth, mainly in terms of property and business, but also from respectability (primarily) expressed by an ashraf (noble) lifestyle. One element of being considered a man worthy of respect derives from having a reputation as being someone who honours his obligations to kin. Cousin marriage is one of the most important expressions of this obligation. The majority of east Oxford families have not achieved social mobility and status through massive accumulation of property and business. For them the marriage of their children to the children of siblings in Pakistan is an important symbol of honour and respectability, a public statement that even families separated by continents recognize their mutual obligations.

Summary:

Harvard's Professor Joe Henrich has argued in his recent book that the Catholic Church's ban on cousin marriages and polygamy has spurred democracy and prosperity in the West. The ban has promoted individualism and created the modern nuclear family. This cultural evolution of the West has distinguished it from much of Asia and Africa where kinship remains strong. While the extent of kinship (biradri) networks in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe, it is not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Biradris (kinships) play a powerful role in Pakistan's elections and political patronage networks. These run counter to the precepts of western-style democracy and national prosperity.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan's Rough Road to Democracy

Asian Tiger Dictators Brought Prosperity; Democracy Followed

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Why Do Pakistanis Prefer Military Over Political Parties?

US DoD 1999 Forecast: Pakistan Disappears by 2015

Has Pakistan Lost All Wars to India?

Pakistani Politicians' Corruption & Money Laundering

Is India a Paper Elephant?

CPEC & Digital BRI

Pakistan's National Resilience, Success Against COVID19

China-Pakistan Defense Production Collaboration Irks West

Balakot and Kashmir: Fact Checkers Expose Indian Lies

Is Pakistan Ready for War with India?

Pakistan-Made Airplanes Lead Nation's Defense Exports

Modi's Blunders and Delusions

India's Israel Envy: What If Modi Attacks Pakistan?

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Jet

Pakistan Navy Modernization

Pakistan's Sea-Based Second Strike Capability

Who Won the 1965 War? India or Pakistan?

Pakistani Military's Performance in 1971 War

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network


 

Pandora

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So according to him Americans stigmatizing Cousin marriages has made prosperous. Although i do agree on avoiding cousin marriages for medical reasons but saying that it has transformed western society is nothing but load of crap.
 

RiazHaq

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So according to him Americans stigmatizing Cousin marriages has made prosperous. Although i do agree on avoiding cousin marriages for medical reasons but saying that it has transformed western society is nothing but load of crap.
Cousin marriage is a device to maintain kinship (biradri) networks that have negative political and economic consequences for the nation. Biradris promote nepotism and work against meritocracy.
 

PakFactor

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Cousin marriage is a device to maintain kinship (biradri) networks that have negative political and economic consequences for the nation. Biradris promote nepotism and work against meritocracy.
Birdari Network and Cousin Marriage doesn’t tell someone to loot and plunder the nation at will. It’s how one is raised and controlling oneself in positions of power. The whole basis this individual is going about is pure and utter BS.

West “Nuclear Family”, majority of kids don’t know who their biological father is. I know many females “whites” as this article is basics of European advancement not Africans etc. who have 2-3 kids with different males through extramarital relationships and the husband is raising them thinking it’s his when their not.
 

Armchair

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The quality of Harvard has really gone down the drain, what a shame. Of all the things that could have been given as reasons (note: multiple) for the development of the West. Moe here suggests its cousin marriage. LOL In Bangladesh it is rare that cousins marry, strange yet how we haven't become a beacon of civilization yet. Another great country where cousin marriage is rare: Papua New Guinea. One of the world's shittiest countries... damn, I think they missed the memo.
 

RiazHaq

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Birdari Network and Cousin Marriage doesn’t tell someone to loot and plunder the nation at will. It’s how one is raised and controlling oneself in positions of power. The whole basis this individual is going about is pure and utter BS.

West “Nuclear Family”, majority of kids don’t know who their biological father is. I know many females “whites” as this article is basics of European advancement not Africans etc. who have 2-3 kids with different males through extramarital relationships and the husband is raising them thinking it’s his when their not.

Pakistan's mainstream political parties continue to rely on the "electables" to win general elections. "Electables" are powerful, resourceful and wealthy, often land-owning individuals from certain families who have a greater chance of winning enough votes to get elected regardless of the party. Major political parties recruit them to run on their "tickets" as their nominees. Winning more seats in the parliament helps parties form governments to gain control of the state's resources for the benefit of their leaders and their cronies. It is a good investment for the electables to be aligned with the party in power.

The preference for "electables" perpetuates the status quo and preserves the power of the privileged few. It denies the opportunity for new aspiring entrants to bring about any positive change. It depresses new voter turnout and discourages wider participation in the political process.

 

Pandora

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Cousin marriage is a device to maintain kinship (biradri) networks that have negative political and economic consequences for the nation. Biradris promote nepotism and work against meritocracy.
I disagree with that concept that people get married in baradaris to maintain their political networks. Even in a society where there is no Kinship/ baradari system you can have very high nepotism. Europe never had a system with tightly knitted communities or families. They are different culture altogether and their values shouldn't be implanted into our societies. If you want to get rid of nepotism then adopt laws to discourage nepotism in politics rather than trying to change basic structure of our society. In Pakistan we have nepotism bcz of Elitist mindset not bcz of baradaris. We can always get rid of fault lines in our culture without trying to adopt European model in our societies. Europe had centuries to evolve so let our society evolve in its own way without forcing a foreign model on it.

Take example of Nawaz Sharief and Zaradri both of them have followings from a diverse backgrounds not exclusive to one baradari or sect. There are entirely different dynamic at play here.
 

TNT

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This doesnt make much sense. Even without cojsin marriages, we keep oir relations steong, we invest in it and help each other. In our family we hardly have cousin marriages, mostly with non relatives but we keep oir relations strong and we stand for each other. While in west, they dont even care about their parents, they kick them out. Parents dont care abt kids n kick them out. Every relationship is equated with money and materials. They hate sacrificing and spending on each other. Everyone is selfish.
 

Cookie Monster

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Cousin marriage is a device to maintain kinship (biradri) networks that have negative political and economic consequences for the nation. Biradris promote nepotism and work against meritocracy.
It is still too farfetched of a correlation. Even if we take at face value that cousin marriages and "biradris" somehow negatively impact economy...any such effect should be miniscule at the marco scale of a nation state.

The reality of it has more to do with which nations were colonial powers at the right time. At a time when industrial revolution was starting and warfare was changing to the point where swords and arrows were on their way out. At a time when radio and telegram(in terms of communication) and railroads and steam ships(in terms of transportation) made it possible to govern and manage vast empires. It was at this point in time that the countries that were on top...were able to colonize many a lands and the ppl. Through that labor(often treated horrendously around the world) and resources...these countries gained further economically, which further fueled their progress...and so the cycle went.

If such an era(where distances that used to take months or even years to travel instead took days...and communication anywhere in the world could be instant) existed during the time of Alexander the Great...then Greece would have been a superpower today(economically and otherwise). Same goes for Egypt, Rome, Carthage, etc. Call it progress, luck, or whatever else...it was certain key changes in technology that enabled the countries that were on top(just a couple hundred years ago) to remain on top by squeezing those below.

Countries like Britain, France, Germany, Spain still had plenty of cousin marriages if we rewind the clock only by a 150 years or so...and yet they held tremendous amounts of lands and resources(were superpowers). It's not like these countries were like Pakistan or some African country...and all of a sudden as soon as cousin marriages went on a decline...these countries catapulted to the top.

P.S. I'm against cousin marriages but the article is making a mountain out of a molehill.
 

Thorough Pro

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Westerners don't have any concept of family, what would they understand kinship?
Cusine marriages though should be legally banned.




In his recently published book entitled "The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous", Harvard Professor Joseph Henrich argues that western democracy and prosperity in America and Europe can be traced back to the Catholic Church's ban on cousin marriages and polygamy. These bans promoted individualism and created what is now known as a "nuclear family". Cousin marriages and strong kinship remain prevalent in present-day Pakistan, according to the author. While the extent of kinship (biradri) networks in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe, it is not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Biradris (kinships) play a powerful role in Pakistan's elections and political patronage networks. These run counter to the precepts of western-style democracy and national prosperity.


What's WEIRD About the West?

The WEIRD acronym in the title of the book stands for Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democracies. It represents the the West's cultural evolution (distinct from biological evolution) over the last few centuries that has produced what the author describes as "Self-focused, individualistic, nonconforming, patient, trusting, analytic, and intention-obsessed capture just a small sampling of the ways in which WEIRD people are psychologically unusual when seen in a global and historical perspective".



Kinship Intensity Index:

The extent of kinship in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe but not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Professor Henrich defines what he calls Kinship Intensity Index to capture the strength of kinship in different societies.

The KII combines the data about cousin marriage, nuclear families, bilateral inheritance, neo-local residence, and monogamous marriage (vs. polygyny) with information on clans and customs about marrying within a certain community (endogamy).

Biradri's Role in Pakistani Elections:

Electioneering in Pakistan is rarely about debating issues and offering solutions; it's more about biradris (kinship networks). Political parties and politicians are rarely judged based on their capabilities, ideas and performance. The focus is on recruiting "electable" candidates with a known vote bank of their ethnicity and "biradri" (clan).

Pakistan's mainstream political parties continue to rely on the "electables" to win general elections. "Electables" are powerful, resourceful and wealthy, often land-owning individuals from certain biradris who have a greater chance of winning enough votes to get elected regardless of their party affiliation. Major political parties recruit them to run on their "tickets" as their nominees. Winning more seats in the parliament helps political parties form governments to gain control of the state's resources for the benefit of their leaders and their cronies in their political patronage networks. It is a good investment for the electables to be aligned with the party in power.

The preference for "electables" perpetuates the status quo and preserves the power of the privileged few. It denies the opportunity for new aspiring entrants to bring about any positive change. It depresses new voter turnout and discourages wider participation in the political process.

Kinship (Biradri) in Pakistan:

Professor Joseph Henrich says that kinship system (biradri), cousin marriages and polygamy remain prevalent in Pakistan. He cites a study showing that cousin marriages were 76% of all marriages for second-generation Pakistani Brits, while in Pakistan comparable rates were under 50%.

To make this point about identities, the author cites a 1972 quote from late Pakistani politician Khan Abdul Wali Khan who said, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.” Professor Henrich explains that "what Khan was saying is that his lineage comes well before both Islam and Pakistan. In fact, his dates suggest that his lineage was four to five times more important than his universalizing religion, Islam, and 240 times more important than his country, Pakistan".

Strong Society, Weak State:

British Professor Anatol Lieven described Pakistan as "strong society, weak state" in his 2012 book entitled "Pakistan: A Hard Country". Here's an excerpt of his book:

Marriage with members of the same kinship group, and when possible of the same extended family, is explicitly intended to maintain the strength, solidarity and reliability of these groups against dilution by outsiders. (Professor Alison) Shaw writes of the Pakistanis of Oxford that in the year 2000, almost fifty years after they first started arriving in Britain, there had been barely any increase in the proportion of marriages with non-kin, and that over the previous fifteen years 59% of marriages had been with first cousins; and the proportion in strongly Pakistani cities such as Bradford is even higher:

Greater wealth was perceived not solely in terms of individual social mobility, although it provides opportunities for this, but in terms of raising the status of a group of kin relation in their wider biradiri and neighbours in Pakistan . . . Status derives not only from wealth, mainly in terms of property and business, but also from respectability (primarily) expressed by an ashraf (noble) lifestyle. One element of being considered a man worthy of respect derives from having a reputation as being someone who honours his obligations to kin. Cousin marriage is one of the most important expressions of this obligation. The majority of east Oxford families have not achieved social mobility and status through massive accumulation of property and business. For them the marriage of their children to the children of siblings in Pakistan is an important symbol of honour and respectability, a public statement that even families separated by continents recognize their mutual obligations.

Summary:

Harvard's Professor Joe Henrich has argued in his recent book that the Catholic Church's ban on cousin marriages and polygamy has spurred democracy and prosperity in the West. The ban has promoted individualism and created the modern nuclear family. This cultural evolution of the West has distinguished it from much of Asia and Africa where kinship remains strong. While the extent of kinship (biradri) networks in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe, it is not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Biradris (kinships) play a powerful role in Pakistan's elections and political patronage networks. These run counter to the precepts of western-style democracy and national prosperity.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan's Rough Road to Democracy

Asian Tiger Dictators Brought Prosperity; Democracy Followed

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Why Do Pakistanis Prefer Military Over Political Parties?

US DoD 1999 Forecast: Pakistan Disappears by 2015

Has Pakistan Lost All Wars to India?

Pakistani Politicians' Corruption & Money Laundering

Is India a Paper Elephant?

CPEC & Digital BRI

Pakistan's National Resilience, Success Against COVID19

China-Pakistan Defense Production Collaboration Irks West

Balakot and Kashmir: Fact Checkers Expose Indian Lies

Is Pakistan Ready for War with India?

Pakistan-Made Airplanes Lead Nation's Defense Exports

Modi's Blunders and Delusions

India's Israel Envy: What If Modi Attacks Pakistan?

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Jet

Pakistan Navy Modernization

Pakistan's Sea-Based Second Strike Capability

Who Won the 1965 War? India or Pakistan?

Pakistani Military's Performance in 1971 War

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network


 

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