The clustering of the world

Razib Khan writes,

Serbia has a much stronger affinity with Russia, Croatia is in Catholic Europe, while Slovenia seems more like Northern European nations than Croatia.

You have to go read the whole thing. He discusses a cultural map of the world, based on two scales: traditional values vs. secular/relational values; and survival values vs. self-expression values.

He then goes on to discuss the Peter Turchin, et al paper that I’ve seen referenced on several blogs. It’s the paper that develops an index of social complexity. I think of it as something like an IQ measure that operates at a cultural level.

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2 Responses to The clustering of the world

  1. Charles W. Abbott says:

    That’s a nice article.

    The Inglehart-Welzel map is definitely worth looking at periodically. I think it takes a while to get used to is, especially because the two axes are a bit abstract.

    The article that Khan links to is a lot to digest.

  2. Charles W. Abbott says:

    It often seems to me that it’s hard to summarize certain things briefly. Elements of national identity and “national character” turn on mundane specifics and historical memories true and false, as well as folk traditions and half articulated fears and hopes. These can often be of relatively deep historical depth.

    Often there is a “marker” used to distinguish in-groups from out-groups, but the marker itself can be rather trivial in essentials. (Serbs are Orthodox, Croats are Roman Catholic)

    History is important. I recall seeing a list in Albert and Joan Seaton’s _The Soviet Army_ that listed who actually served in the old Russian Imperial army. Dozens of groups served, and some tended to be excluded or just ignored. The Chechens were not incorporated into the Russian Empire until the 19th century. In contrast, Volga Tatars have long served, and developed a reputation as the best material for NCOs (and apparently, janitors in Moscow).

    To really appreciate much of this you need knowledge of “mundane specifics” (Thomas Sowell likes to use this work in his book _Intellectuals and Society_). The mundane specifics are important, and often there are intellectuals who possess a skill with “verbal virtuosity” who come along and are attempting to explain or understand something. They may be journalists or interested outsiders. But they can’t really get a nuanced understanding.

    George Kennan (among other people) wrote about European nationalism, noting that the older, “historic”nations of Europe seemed calmer and less hysterical about their identity. I’m paraphrasing. This is in his memoirs, the first book.

    I was political conscious and in my 20s when the Wars of Yugoslav Dissolution broke out–I wasn’t really able to follow it much detail, though there was a steady drumbeat of news about it, and the place names became familiar (Vukovar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica).

    A decade or more later I was teaching a unit on Yugoslavia for an introductory geography course. Some of the best background I could get hold of was in chapters in the US Publication _Yugoslavia: A country study_. Especially illuminating were the chapters written by Charles Sudetic.

    At the moment I can’t find the fully searchable text online. It may have gone away just as the country did, though you can still see it in full text PDF.

    At any rate, Razib Khan’s point is an interesting one. If someone doesn’t want to believe what you are telling them, their tendency is to refute and attack. The more evidence you introduce, the more opportunities for people to call you a showoff or an egghead or someone who is confused by trivia and bogus, half-baked arguments.

    You can say (to channel Charles Sudetic) “The Serbs and Croats speak the same language yet seem like Siamese twins born in opposition…their very way of life is a provocation each to the other…in a conflict the Croat reaches for his pen and the Serb for his rifle”…or Yugolavia is ‘a grotesque spatchcock of a nation’ (I don’t recall who used the phrase offhand) held together by force, Tito, and external threat…”

    The person who wishes to disbelieve you will say “Well, they speak the same religion, and the religious marker is obviously trivial and Communists promoted atheism, and what’s the big issue anyway?” How complicated could this be? Why are you *talking* about all this stuff?

    (Much damage was done, I suspect, by the historian Hobsbawn who treated nationalism as “an invented tradition” which has some merit but which can also be used to dispense with any need for historical knowledge. )

    Another artificial country is Iraq. Consider the American invasion of Iraq–a quest (apparently) to reshape Iraq by invasion, for whatever reason (to punish Saddam, to open up oil fields, to send a message by object lesson, to bring democracy at rifle point, to remove a threat to Israel, whatever). Probably a “fool’s errand,” but everyone who wanted to point this out could not get enough traction to stop it.

    Happy New Year, btw.

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