Pierre van den Berghe, The Ethnic Phenomenon (Westport: Praeger 1987)
Ethnocentrism is a pan-human universal. Thus, a tendency to prefer one’s own ethnic group over and above other ethnic groups is, ironically, one thing that all ethnic groups share in common.
In ‘The Ethnic Phenomenon’, pioneering sociologist-turned-sociobiologist Pierre van den Berghe attempts to explain this universal phenomenon.
In the process, he not only provides a persuasive ultimate evolutionary explanation for the universality of ethnocentrism, but also produces a remarkable synthesis of scholarship that succeeds in incorporating virtually every aspect of ethnic relations as they have manifested themselves throughout history and across the world, from colonialism, caste and slavery to integration and assimilation, within this theoretical and explanatory framework.
Ethnocentrism as Nepotism?
At the core of Pierre van den Berghe’s theory of ethnocentrism and ethnic conflict is the sociobiological theory of kin selection. According to van den Berghe, racism, xenophobia, nationalism and other forms of ethnocentrism can ultimately be understood as kin-selected nepotism, in accordance with biologist William D Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness (Hamilton 1964a; 1964b).
According to ‘inclusive fitness theory’ (also known as ‘kin selection’), organisms evolved to behave altruistically towards their close biological kin, even at a cost to themselves, because close biological kin share genes in common with one another by virtue of their kinship, and altruism towards close biological kin therefore promotes the survival and spread of these genes.
Van den Berghe extends this idea, arguing that humans have evolved to sometimes behave altruistically towards, not only their close biological relatives, but also sometimes their distant biological relatives as well – namely, members of the same ethnic group as themselves.
Thus, van den Berghe contends:
“Racial and ethnic sentiments are an extension of kinship sentiments [and] ethnocentrism and racism are… extended forms of nepotism” (p18).
Ethnic Groups as Kin Groups?
Before reading van den Berghe’s book, I was skeptical regarding whether the degree of kinship shared among co-ethnics would ever be sufficient to satisfy ‘Hamilton’s rule’, whereby, for altruism to evolve, the cost of the altruistic act to the altruist, measured in terms of reproductive success, must be outweighed by the benefit to the recipient, also measured in terms of reproductive success, multiplied by the degree of relatedness of the two parties (Brigandt 2001; cf. Salter 2008; see also On Genetic Interests).
Thus, Brigandt (2001) takes van den Berghe to task for his formulation of what the latter catchily christens “the biological golden rule”, namely:
“Give unto others as they are related unto you” (p20).
However, contrary to both critics of his theory (e.g. Brigandt 2001) and others developing similar ideas (e.g. Rushton 2005; Salter 2000), van den Berghe is actually agnostic on the question of whether ethnocentrism is ever actually adaptive in modern societies, where the shared kinship of large nations or ethnic groups is, as van den Berghe himself readily acknowledges, “extremely tenuous at best” (p243). Thus, he concedes:
“Clearly, for 50 million Frenchmen or 100 million Japanese, any common kinship that they may share is highly diluted … [and] when 25 million African-Americans call each other ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, they know that they are greatly extending the meaning of these terms” (p27).
Instead, van den Berghe suggests that nationalism and racism may reflect the misfiring of a mechanism that evolved when our ancestors still still lived in small kin-based groups of hunter-gatherers that represented little more than extended families (p35; see also Tooby and Cosmides 1989; Johnson 1986).
Thus, van den Berghe explains:
“Until the last few thousand years, hominids interacted in relatively small groups of a few score to a couple of hundred individuals who tended to mate with each other and, therefore, to form rather tightly knit groups of close and distant kin” (p35).
Therefore, in what evolutionary psychologists now call the ‘environment of evolutionary adaptedness’ or ‘EEA’:
“The natural ethny [i.e. ethnic group] in which hominids evolved for several thousand millennia probably did not exceed a couple of hundred individuals at most” (p24)
Thus, van den Berghe concludes:
“The primordial ethny is thus an extended family: indeed, the ethny represents the outer limits of that inbred group of near or distant kinsmen whom one knows as intimates and whom therefore one can trust” (p25).
On this view, ethnocentrism was adaptive when we still resided in such groups, where members of our own clan or tribe were indeed closely biologically related to us, but is often maladaptive in contemporary environments, where our ethnic group may include literally millions of people.
Another not dissimilar theory has it that racism in particular might reflect the misfiring of an adaptation that uses ‘phenotype matching’, in particular physical resemblance, as a form of kin recognition.
Thus, Richard Dawkins in his seminal The Selfish Gene (which I have reviewed here), cautiously and tentatively speculates:
“Conceivably, racial prejudice could be interpreted as an irrational generalization of a kin-selected tendency to identify with individuals physically resembling oneself, and to be nasty to individuals different in appearance” (The Selfish Gene: p100).
Certainly, van den Berghe takes pains to emphasize that ethnic sentiments are vulnerable to manipulation – not least by exploitative elites who co-opt kinship terms such as ‘motherland’, ‘fatherland’ and ‘brothers-in-arms‘ to encourage self-sacrifice, especially during wartime (p35; see also Johnson 1987; Johnson et al 1987; Salmon 1998).
However, van den Berghe cautions, “Kinship can be manipulated but not manufactured [emphasis in original]” (p27). Thus, he observes how:
“Queen Victoria could cut a motherly figure in England; she even managed to proclaim her son the Prince of Wales; but she could never hope to become anything except a foreign ruler of India; [while] the fiction that the Emperor of Japan is the head of the most senior lineage descended from the common ancestor of all Japanese might convince the Japanese peasant that the Emperor is an exalted cousin of his, but the myth lacks credibility in Korea or Taiwan” (p62-3).
This suggests that the European Union, while it may prove successful as customs union, single market and even an economic union, and while integration in other non-economic spheres may also prove a success, will likely never command the sort of loyalty and allegiance that a nation-state holds over its people, including, sometimes, the willingness of men to fight and lay down their lives for its sake. This is because its members come from many different cultures and ethnicities, and indeed speak many different languages.
For van den Berghe, national identity cannot be rooted in anything other than a perception of shared ancestry or kinship. Thus, he observes:
“Many attempts to adopt universalistic criteria of ethnicity based on legal citizenship or acquisition of educational qualifications… failed. Such was the French assimilation policy in her colonies. No amount of proclamation of Algérie française could make it so” (p27).
Thus, so-called ‘civic nationalism’, whereby national identity is based, not on ethnicity, but rather, supposedly, on a shared commitment to certain common values and ideals (democracy, the ‘rule of law’ etc.), as encapsulated by the notion of America as a ‘proposition nation’, is, for van den Berghe, a complete non-starter.
Yet this is today regarded as the sole basis for national identity and patriotic feeling that is recognised as legitimate, not only in the USA, but also all other contemporary western polities, where any assertion of racial nationalism or a racially-based or ethnically-based national identity is, at least for white people, anathema and beyond the pale.
Moreover, due to the immigration policies of previous generations of western political leaders, policies that largely continue today, all contemporary western polities are now heavily multi-ethnic and multi-racial, such that any sense of national identity that was based on race or ethnicity is arguably untenable as it would necessarily exclude a large proportion of their populations.
On the other hand, however, van den Berghe’s reasoning also suggests that the efforts of some white nationalists to construct a pan-white, or pan-European, ethnic identity is also, like the earlier efforts of Japanese imperialist propagandists to create a pan-Asian identity, and of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA to construct a pan-African identity, likely to end in failure.
Racism vs Ethnocentrism
Whereas ethnocentrism is therefore universal, adaptive and natural, van den Berghe denies that the same can be said for racism.
“There is no evidence that racism is inborn, but there is considerable evidence that ethnocentrism is” (p240).
Thus, van den Berge concludes:
“The genetic propensity is to favor kin, not those who look alike” (p240).
As evidence, he cites:
“The ease with which parental feelings take precedence over racial feeling in cases of racial admixture” (p240).
In other words, fathers who sire mixed-race offspring with women of other races, and the women of other races with whom they father such offspring, often seemingly love and care for the resulting offspring just as intensely as do parents whose offspring is of the same race as themselves.
Thus, cultural, rather than racial, markers are typically adopted to distinguish ethnic groups (p35). These include:
- Clothing (e.g. hijabs, turbans, skullcaps);
- Bodily modification (e.g. tattoos, circumcision); and
- Behavioural criteria, especially language and dialect (p33).
Bodily modification and language represent particularly useful markers because they are difficult to fake, bodily modification because it is permanent and hence represents a costly commitment to the group (in accordance with Zahavi’s ‘handicap principle’), and language/dialect, because this is usually acquirable only during a critical period during childhood, after which it is generally not possible to achieve fluency in a second language without retaining a noticeable accent.
In contrast, racial criteria, as a basis for group affiliation, is, van den Berghe reports, actually quite rare:
“Racism is the exception rather than the rule in intergroup relations” (p33).
Racism is also a decidedly modern phenomenon.
This is because, prior to recent technological advances in transportation (e.g. ocean-going ships, aeroplanes), members of different races (i.e. groups distinguishable on the basis of biologically inherited physiological traits such as skin colour, nose shape, hair texture etc.) were largely separated from one another by the very geographic barriers (e.g. deserts, oceans, mountain ranges) that reproductively isolated them from one another and hence permitted their evolution into distinguishable races in the first place.
Moreover, when different races did make contact, then, in the absence of strict barriers to exogamy and miscegenation (e.g. the Indian caste system), racial groups typically interbred with one another and hence become phenotypically indistinguishable from one another within just a few generations.
This, van den Berghe explains, is because:
“Even the strongest social barriers between social groups cannot block a specieswide [sic] sexual attraction. The biology of reproduction triumphs in the end over the artificial barriers of social prejudice” (p109).
Therefore, in the ancestral environment for which our psychological adaptations are designed (i.e. before the development of ships, aeroplanes and other methods of long-distance intercontinental transportation), different races did not generally coexist in the same locale. As a result, van den Berghe concludes:
“We have not been genetically selected to use phenotype as an ethnic marker, because, until quite recently, such a test would have been an extremely inaccurate one” (p 240).
Humans, then, have simply not had sufficient time to have evolved a domain-specific ‘racism module’ as suggested by some researchers.
Racism is therefore, unlike ethnocentrism, not an innate instinct, but rather “a cultural invention” (p240).
However, van den Berghe rejects the fashionable, politically correct notion that racism is “a western, much less a capitalist monopoly” (p32).
On the contrary, racism, while not innate, is, not a unique western invention, but rather a recurrent reinvention, which almost invariably arises where phenotypically distinguishable groups come into contact with one another, if only because:
“Genetically inherited phenotypes are the easiest, most visible and most reliable predictors of group membership” (p32).
For example, van den Berghe describes the relations between the Tutsi, Hutu and Pygmy Twa of Rwanda and neighbouring regions as “a genuine brand of indigenous racism” which, according to van den Berghe, developed quite independently of any western colonial influence (p73).
Moreover, where racial differences are the basis for ethnic identity, the result is, van den Berghe claims, ethnic hierarchies that are particularly rigid, intransient and impermeable.
For van den Berghe, this then explains the failure of African-Americans to wholly assimilate into the US melting pot in stark contrast to successive waves of more recently-arrived European immigrants.
Thus, van den Berghe observes:
“Blacks who have been English-speaking for several generations have been much less readily assimilated in both England… and the United States than European immigrants who spoke no English on arrival” (p219).
Thus, language barriers often break down within a generation.
As Judith Harris emphasizes in support of ‘peer group socialization theory’, the children of immigrants whose parents are not at all conversant in the language of their host culture nevertheless typically grow up to speak the language of their host culture rather better than they do the first language of their parents, even though the latter was the ‘cradle tongue’ to which they were first exposed, and first learnt to speak, inside the family home (see The Nurture Assumption: which I have reviewed here).
As van den Berghe observes:
“It has been the distressing experience of millions of immigrant parents that, as soon as their children enter school in the host country, the children begin to resist speaking their mother tongue” (p258).
While displeasing to those parents who wish to pass on their language, culture and traditions to their offspring, this response is wholly adaptive from the perspective of the offspring themselves:
“Children quickly discover that their home language is a restricted medium that not useable in most situations outside the family home. When they discover that their parents are bilingual they conclude – rightly for their purposes – that the home language is entirely redundant… Mastery of the new language entails success at school, at work and in ‘the world’… [against which] the smiling approval of a grandmother is but slender counterweight” (p258).
However, whereas one can learn a new language, it is not usually possible to change one’s race – the efforts of Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren, Jessica Krug and Michael Jackson notwithstanding. However, due to the ‘one-drop rule’ and the history of miscegenation in America, ‘passing’ is sometimes possible (see below).
Instead, phenotypic (i.e. racial) differences can only be eradicated after many generations of miscegenation, and sometimes, as in the cases of countries like the USA and Brazil, not even then.
Meanwhile, van den Berghe observes, often the last aspect of immigrant culture to resist assimilation is culinary differences. However, he observes, increasingly even this becomes only a ‘ceremonial’ difference reserved for family gatherings (p260).
Thus, van den Berghe surmises, Italian-Americans probably eat hamburgers as often as Americans of any other ethnic background, but at family gatherings they still revert to pasta and other traditional Italian cuisine.
Yet even culinary differences eventually disappear. Thus, in both Britain and America, sausage has almost completely ceased to be thought of as a distinctively German dish (as have hamburgers, originally thought to have been named in reference to the city of Hamburg) and now pizza is perhaps on the verge of losing any residual association with Italians.
Is Racism Always Worse than Ethnocentrism?
Yet if racially–based ethnic hierarchies are particularly intransigent and impermeable, they are also, van den Berghe claims, “peculiarly conflict-ridden and unstable” (p33).
Thus, van den Berghe seems to believe that racial prejudice and animosity tends to be more extreme and malevolent in nature than mere ethnocentrism as exists between different ethnic groups of the same race (i.e. not distinguishable from one another on the basis of inherited phenotypic traits such as skin colour).
For example, van den Berghe claims that, during World War Two:
“There was a blatant difference in the level of ferociousness of American soldiers in the Pacific and European theaters… The Germans were misguided relatives (however distant), while the ‘Japs’ or the ‘Nips’ were an entirely different breed of inscrutable, treacherous, ‘yellow little bastards.’ This was reflected in differential behavior in such things as the taking (versus killing) of prisoners, the rhetoric of war propaganda (President Roosevelt in his wartime speeches repeatedly referred to his enemies as ‘the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Japanese’), the internment in ‘relocation camps’ of American citizens of Japanese extraction, and in the use of atomic weapons” (p57).
Similarly, in his chapter on ‘Colonial Empires’, by which he means “imperialism over distant peoples who usually live in noncontiguous territories and who therefore look quite different from their conquerors, speak unrelated languages, and are so culturally alien to their colonial masters as to provide little basis for mutual understanding”, van den Berghe writes:
“Colonialism is… imperialism without the restraints of common bonds of history, culture, religion, marriage and blood that often exist when conquest takes place between neighbors” (p85).
Thus, he claims:
“What makes for the special character of the colonial situation is the perception by the conqueror that he is dealing with totally unrelated, alien and, therefore, inferior people. Colonials are treated as people totally beyond the pale of kin selection” (p85).
However, I am unpersuaded by van den Berghe’s claim that conflict between more distantly related ethnic groups is always, or even typically, more brutal than that among biologically and culturally more closely related groups.
After all, even conquests of neighbouring peoples, identical in race, if not always in culture, to the conquering group, are often highly brutal, for example the British in Ireland or the Japanese in Korea and China in the first half of the twentieth century.
Indeed, many of the most intense and intractable ethnic conflicts are those between neighbours and ethnic kin, who are racially (and culturally) very similar to one another.
Thus, for example, Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Greeks and Turks in Cyprus, and Bosnians, Croats, Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans, and even Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East, are all racially and genetically quite similar to one another, and also share many aspects of their culture with one another too. (The same is true, to give a topical example at the time of writing, of Ukrainians and Russians.) However, this has not noticeably ameliorated the nasty, intransient and bloody conflicts that have been, and continue to be, waged among them.
Of course, the main reason that most ethnic conflict occurs between close neighbours is because neighbouring groups are much more likely to come into contact, and hence into conflict, with one another, especially over competing claims to land.
Yet these same neighbouring groups are also likely to be related to one another, both culturally and genetically, because of both shared origins and the inevitable history of illicit intermarriage or miscegenation, and cultural borrowings, that inevitably occur even among the most hostile of neighbours.
Nevertheless, the continuation of intense ethnic animosity between ethnic groups who are genetically, close to one another seems to pose a theoretical problem, not only for van den Berghe’s theory, but also, to an even greater degree, for Philippe Rushton’s so-called ‘genetic similarity theory’ (which I have written about here), which argues that conflict between different ethnic groups is related to their relative degree of genetic differentiation from one another (Rushton 1998a; 1998b; 2005).
It also poses a problem for the argument of political scientist Frank K Salter, who argues that populations should resist immigration by alien immigrants proportionally to the degree to which the alien immigrants are genetically distant from themselves (On Genetic Interests; see also Salter 2002).
Assimilation, Acculturation and the American ‘Melting Pot’
Since racially-based hierarchies result in ethnic boundaries that are both “peculiarly conflict-ridden and unstable” and also peculiarly rigid and impermeable, Van den Berghe controversially concludes:
“There has never been a successful multiracial democracy” (p189).
Of course, in assessing this claim, we must recognize that ‘success’ is not only a matter of degree, but also can also be measured on several different dimensions.
Thus, many people would regard the USA as the quintessential “successful… democracy”, even though the US has been multiracial, to some degree, for the entirety of its existence as a nation.
Certainly, the USA has been successful economically, and indeed militarily.
However, the US has also long been plagued by interethnic conflict, and, although successful economically and militarily, it has yet to be successful in finding a way to manage its continued interethnic conflict, especially that between blacks and whites.
The USA is also afflicted with a relatively high rate of homicide and gun crime as compared to other developed economies, as well as low levels of literacy and numeracy and educational attainment. Although it is politically incorrect to acknowledge as much, these problems also likely reflect the USA’s ethnic diversity, in particular its large black underclass.
Indeed, as van den Berghe acknowledges, even societies divided by mere ethnicity rather than race seem highly conflict-prone (p186).
Thus, assimilation, when it does occur, occurs only gradually, and only under certain conditions, namely when the group which is to be assimilated is “similar in physical appearance and culture to the group to which it assimilates, small in proportion to the total population, of low status and territorially dispersed” (p219).
Thus, van den Berghe observes:
“People tend to assimilate and acculturate when their ethny [i.e. ethnic group] is geographically dispersed (often through migration), when they constitute a numerical minority living among strangers, when they are in a subordinate position and when they are allowed to assimilate by the dominant group” (p185).
Moreover, van den Berghe is careful distinguish what he calls “assimilation” from mere “acculturation”.
The latter, “acculturation”, involves a subordinate group gradually adopting the norms, values, language, cultural traditions and folkways of the dominant culture into whom they aspire to assimilate. It is therefore largely a unilateral process.
In contrast, however, “assimilation” goes beyond this and involves members of the dominant host culture also actually welcoming, or at least accepting, the acculturated newcomers as a part of their own community.
Thus, van den Berghe argues that host populations sometimes resist the assimilation of even wholly acculturated and hence culturally indistinguishable out-groups. Examples of groups excluded in this way include pariah castes, such as the untouchable ‘dalits’ of the Indian subcontinent, the Burakumin of Japan and, at least according to van den Berghe, blacks in the USA.
In other words, assimilation, unlike acculturation, is very much a two-way street. Thus, just as it ‘takes two to tango’, so assimilation is very much a bilateral process:
“It takes two to assimilate” (p217).
On the one hand, minority groups may sometimes themselves resist assimilation, or even acculturation, if they perceive themselves as better off maintaining their distinct identify. This is especially true of groups who perceive themselves as being, in some respects, better-off than the host outgroup into whom they refuse to be absorbed.
Thus, ‘middleman minorities’, or ‘market-dominant minorities’, such as Jews in the West, the overseas Chinese in contemporary South-East Asia, the Lebanese in West Africa and South Asians in East Africa, being, on average, much wealthier than the bulk of the host populations among whom them live, often perceive no social or economic advantage to either assimilation or acculturation and hence resist the process, instead stubbornly maintaining their own language and traditions and marrying only among themselves.
The same is also true, more obviously, of alien ruling elites, such as the colonial administrators, and settlers, in European colonial empires in Africa, India and elsewhere, for whom assimilation into native populations would have been anathema.
‘Passing’, ‘Pretendians’ and ‘Blackfishing’
Interestingly, just as ‘market-dominant minorities’, ‘middleman minorities’, and European colonial rulers usually felt no need to assimilate into the host society in whose midst they lived, because to do so would have endangered their privileged position within this host society, so recent immigrants to America may no longer perceive any advantage to assimilation.
On the contrary, there may now be an economic disincentive operating against assimilation, at least if assimilation means forgoing from the right to benefit from affirmative action in employment and college admissions.
Thus, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the phenomenon of ‘passing’, at least in America, typically involved non-whites, especially light-skinned mixed-race African-Americans, attempting to ‘pass’ as white or, if this were not realistic, sometimes as Native American.
Some non-whites, such as Bhagat Singh Thind and Takao Ozawa, even brought legal actions in order to be racially reclassified as ‘white’ in order to benefit from America’s then overtly racialist naturalization law.
Contemporary cases of ‘passing’, however, though rarely referred to by this term, typically involve whites themselves attempting to somehow ‘pass’ themselves off as some variety of non-white (see Hannam 2021).
Recent high-profile recent examples have included Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren and Jessica Krug.
Interestingly, all three of these women were both employed in academia and involved in leftist politics – two spheres in which adopting a non-white identity is likely to be especially advantageous, given the widespread adoption of affirmative action in college admissions and appointments, and the rampant anti-white animus that infuses so much of academia and the cultural Marxist left.
Indeed, the phenomenon is now so common that it even has its own associated set of neologisms, such as ‘Pretendian’, ‘blackfishing’ and, in Australia, ‘box-ticker’.
Indeed, one remarkable recent survey purported to uncover that fully 34% of white college applicants in the United States admitted to lying about their ethnicity on their applications, in most cases either to improve their chances of admission or to qualify for financial aid.
Although Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren and Jessica Krug were all women, this survey found that white male applicants were even more likely to lie about their ethnicity than were white female applicants, with only 16% of white female applicants admitting to lying, as compared to nearly half (48%) of white males.
This is, of course, consistent with the fact that it is white males who are the primary victims of affirmative action and other forms of discrimination.
This strongly suggests that, whereas there were formerly social (and legal) benefits that were associated with identifying as white, today the advantages accrue to instead to those able to assume a non-white identity.
For all the talk of so-called ‘white privilege’, when whites and mixed-race people, together with others of ambiguous racial identity, preferentially choose to pose as non-white in order to take advantage of the perceived benefits of assuming such an identity, they are ‘voting with their feet’ and thereby demonstrating what economists call ‘revealed preferences’.
This, of course, means that recent immigrants to America, such as Hispanics, will have rather less incentive in integrate into the American mainstream than did earlier waves of European immigrants, such as Irish, Poles, Jews and Italians, the latter having been, primarily, the victims of discrimination rather than its beneficiaries.
After all, who would want to be another, boring ‘unhyphenated American’ when to do so would presumably mean relinquishing any right to benefit from affirmative action in job recruitment or college admissions, not to mention becoming a part of the hated white ‘oppressor’ class.
In short, ‘white privilege’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
This perverse incentive against assimilation obviously ought to be worrying to anyone concerned with the future of American as a stable unified polity.
Ethnostates – or Consociationalism?
Given the ubiquity of ethnic conflict, and the fact that assimilation occurs, if at all, only gradually and, even then, only under certain conditions, a pessimist (or indeed a racial separatist) might conclude that the only way to prevent ethnic conflict is for different ethnic groups to be given separate territories with complete independence and territorial sovereignty.
This would involve the partition of the world into separate ethnically homogenous ethnostates, as advocated by racial separatists and many in the alt-right.
Yet, quite apart from the practical difficulties such an arrangement would entail, not least the need for large-scale forcible displacements of populations, this ‘universal nationalism’, as championed by political scientist Frank K Salter among others, would arguably only shift the locus of ethnic conflict from within the borders of a single multi-ethnic state to between those of separate ethnostates – and conflict between states can be just as destructive as conflict within states, as countless wars between states throughout history have amply proven.
In the absence of assimilation, then, perhaps fairest and least conflictual solution is what van den Berghe terms ‘consociationalism’. This term refers to a form of ethnic power-sharing, whereby elites from both groups agree to share power, each usually retaining a veto power regarding major decisions, and there is proportionate representation for each group in all important positions of power.
This seems to be roughly the basis of the power sharing agreement imposed on Northern Ireland in the Good Friday Agreement, which was largely successful in bringing an end to the ethnic conflict known as ‘the Troubles’.
On the other hand, however, power-sharing was explicitly rejected by both the ANC and the international anti-apartheid movement as a solution in another ethnically-divided polity, namely South Africa, in favour of majority rule, even though the result has been a situation very similar to the situation in Northern Ireland which led to ‘the Troubles’, namely an effective one-party state, with a single party in power for successive decades and institutionalized discrimination against minorities.
Consociationalism or ethnic power-sharing also arguably the model towards which the USA and other western polities are increasingly moving, with quotas and so-called ‘affirmative action’ increasingly replacing the earlier ideals of appointment by merit, ‘color blindness’ or ‘freedom of association’, and multiculturalism and cultural pluralism replacing the earlier ideal of assimilation.
Perhaps the model consociationalist democracy is van den Berghe’s own native Belgium, where, he reports:
“All the linguistic, class, religious and party-political quarrels and street demonstrations have yet to produce a single fatality” (p199).
Belgium is, however, very much the exception rather than the rule, and, at any rate, though peaceful, remains very much a divided society.
Indeed, power-sharing institutions, in giving official, institutional recognition to the existing ethnic divide, function only to institutionalize and hence reinforce and ossify the existing ethnic divide, making successful integration and assimilation almost impossible – and certainly even less likely to occur than it had been in the absence of such institutional arrangements.
Moreover, consociationalism can be maintained, van den Berghe emphasizes, only in a limited range of circumstances, the key criterion being that the groups in question are equal, or almost equal, to one another in status, and not organized into an ethnic hierarchy.
However, even when the necessary conditions are met, it invariably involves a precarious balancing act.
Just how precarious is illustrated by the fate of other formerly stable consociationalist states. Thus, van den Bergh notes the irony that earlier writers on the topic had cited Lebanon as “a model [consociationalist democracy] in the Third World” just a few years before the Lebanese Civil War broke out in the 1970s (p191).
His point is, ironically, only strengthened by the fact that, in the three decades since his book was first published, two of his own examples of consociationalism, namely the USSR and Yugoslavia, have themselves since descended into civil war and fragmented along ethnic lines.
Slavery and Other Recurrent Situations
In the central section of the book, van den Berghe discusses such historically recurrent racial relationships as “slavery”, “middleman minorities”, “caste” and “colonialism”.
In large part, his analyses of these institutions and phenomena do not depend on his sociobiological theory of ethnocentrism, and are worth reading even for readers unconvinced by this theory – or even by readers skeptical of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology altogether.
Nevertheless, the sociobiological model continues to guide his analysis.
Take, for example, his chapter on slavery.
Although the overtly racial slavery of the New World was quite unique, slavery often has an ethnic dimension, since slaves are often captured during warfare from among enemy groups.
Indeed, the very word ‘slave’ is derived from the ethnonym, ‘Slav’, due to the frequency with which the latter were captured as slaves, both by Christians and Muslims.
In particular, van den Berghe argues that:
“An essential feature of slave status is being torn out of one’s network of kin selection. This condition generally results from forcible removal of the slave from his home group by capture and purchase” (p120).
This then partly explains, for example, why European settlers were far less successful in enslaving the native inhabitants of the Americas than they were in exploiting the slave labour of African slaves who had been shipped across the Atlantic, far from their original kin groups, precisely for this purpose.
Thus, for van den Berghe, the quintessential slave is:
“Not only involuntarily among ethnic strangers in a strange land: he is there alone, without his support group of kinsmen and fellow ethnics” (p115)
Here van den Berghe seemingly anticipates the key insight of Jamaican sociologist Orlando Peterson in his comparative study of slavery, Slavery and Social Death, who terms this key characteristic of slavery ‘natal alienation’.
This, however, is likely to be only a temporary condition, since, at least if allowed to reproduce, then, gradually over time, slaves would put down roots, produce new families, and indeed whole communities of slaves.
When this occurs, however, slaves gradually, over generations, cease to be true slaves. The result is that:
“Slavery can long endure as an institution in a given society, but the slave status of individuals is typically only semipermanent and nonhereditary… Unless a constantly renewed supply of slaves enters a society, slavery, as an institution, tends to disappear and transform itself into something else” (p120).
This then explains the gradual transformation of slavery during the medieval period into serfdom in much of Europe, and perhaps also the emergence of some pariah castes such as the ‘untouchables’ of India.
Paradoxically, van den Berghe argues that racism became particularly virulent in the West precisely because of Western societies’ ostensible commitment to notions of liberty and the rights of man, notions obviously incompatible with slavery.
Thus, whereas most civilizations simply took the institution of slavery for granted, feeling no especial need to justify its existence, western civilization, given its ostensible commitment to such lofty notions as individual liberty and the equality of man, was always on the defensive, feeling a constant need to justify and defend slavery.
The main justification hit upon was racialism and theories of racial superiority:
“If it was immoral to enslave people, but if at the same time it was vastly profitable to do so, then a simple solution to the dilemma presented itself: slavery became acceptable if slaves could somehow be defined as somewhat less than fully human” (p115).
This then explains much of the virulence of western racialism in the much of the eighteenth, nineteenth and even early-twentieth centuries.
Another important, and related, ideological justification for slavery was what van den Berghe refers to as ‘paternalism’. Thus, Van den Berghe observes that:
“All chattel slave regimes developed a legitimating ideology of paternalism” (p131).
Thus, in the American South, the “benevolent master” was portrayed a protective “father figure”, while slaves were portrayed as childlike and incapable of living an independent existence and hence as benefiting from their own enslavement (p131).
This, of course, was a nonsense. As van den Berghe cynically observes:
“Where the parentage was fictive, so, we may assume, is the benevolence” (p131).
Thus, exploitation was, in sociobiological terms, disguised as kin-selected parental benevolence.
However, despite the dehumanization of slaves, the imbalance of power between slave and master, together with the men’s innate and evolved desire for promiscuity, made the sexual exploitation of female slaves by male masters all but inevitable.
As van den Berghe observes:
“Even the strongest social barriers between social groups cannot block a specieswide [sic] sexual attraction. The biology of reproduction triumphs in the end over the artificial barriers of social prejudice” (p109).
Thus, he notes the hypocrisy whereby:
“Dominant group men, whether racist or not, are seldom reluctant to maximize their fitness with subordinate-group women” (p33).
The result was that the fictive ideology of ‘paternalism’ that served to justify slavery often gave way to literal paternity of the next generation of the slave population.
This created two problems. First, it made the racial justification for slavery, namely the ostensible inferiority of black people, ring increasingly hollow, as ostensibly ‘black’ slaves acquired greater European ancestry, lighter skins and more Caucasoid features with each successive generation of miscegenation.
Second, and more important, it also meant that the exploitation of this next generation of slaves by their owners potentially violated the logic of kin selection, because:
“If slaves become kinsmen, you cannot exploit them without indirectly exploiting yourself” (p134).
This, van den Berghe surmises, led many slave owners to free those among the offspring of slave women whom they themselves, or their male relatives, had fathered. As evidence, he observes:
“In all [European colonial] slave regimes, there was a close association between manumission and European ancestry. In 1850 in the United States, for example, an estimated 37% of free ‘negroes’ had white ancestry, compared to about 10% of the slave population” (p132).
This leads van den Bergh to conclude that many such ‘free people of color’ – who were referred to as ‘people of color’ precisely because their substantial degree of white ancestry precluded any simple identification as ‘black’ or ‘negro’ – had been freed by their owner precisely because their owner was now also their kinsmen. Indeed, many may have been freed by the very slave-master who had been responsible for fathering them.
Thus, to give a famous example, Thomas Jefferson is thought to have fathered six offspring, four of whom survived to adulthood, with his slave, Sally Hemings – who was herself already three-quarters white, and indeed Jefferson’s wife’s own half-sister, on account of miscegenation in previous generations.
Of these four surviving offspring, two were allowed to escape, probably with Jefferson’s tacit permission or at least acquiescence, while the remaining two were freed upon his death in his will.
This seems to have been a common pattern. Thus, van den Berghe reports:
“Only about one tenth of the ‘negro’ population of the United States was free in 1860. A greatly disproportionate number of them were mulattoes, and, thus, presumably often blood relatives of the master who emancipated them or their ancestors. The only other slaves who were regularly were old people past productive and reproductive age, so as to avoid the cost of feeding the aged and infirm” (p129).
Yet this made the continuance of slavery almost impossible, because each new generation more and more slaves would be freed.
Other slave systems got around this problem by continually capturing or importing new slaves in order to replenish the slave population. However, this option was denied to American slaveholders by the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
Instead, the Americans were unique in attempting to ‘breed’ slaves. This leads van den Berghe to conclude that:
“By making the slave woman widely available to her master…Western slavery thus literally contained the genetic seeds of its own destruction” (p134).
Synthesising Marxism and Sociobiology
Given the potential appeal of his theory to nationalists, and even to racialists, it is perhaps surprising that van den Berghe draws heavily on Marxist theory. Although Marxists were almost unanimously hostile to sociobiology, sociobiologists frequently emphasized the potential compatibility of Marxist theory and sociobiology (e.g. The Evolution of Human Sociality).
However, van den Berghe remains, to my knowledge, the only figure (except myself) to actually successfully synthesize sociobiology and Marxism in order to produce novel theory.
Thus, for example, he argues that, in almost every society in existence, class exploitation is disguised by an ideology (in the Marxist sense) that disguises exploitation as either:
1) Kin-selected nepotistic altruism – e.g. the king or dictator is portrayed as benevolent ‘father’ of the nation; or
2) Mutually beneficial reciprocity – i.e. social contract theory or democracy (p60).
However, contrary to orthodox Marxist theory, van den Berghe regards ethnic sentiments as more fundamental than class loyalty since, whereas the latter is “dependent on a commonality of interests”, the former is often “irrational” (p243).
“Nationalist conflicts are among the most intractable and unamenable to reason and compromise… It seems a great many people care passionately whether they are ruled and exploited by members of their own ethny or foreigners” (p62).
In short, van den Berghe concludes:
“Blood runs thicker than money” (p243).
Another difference is that, whereas Marxists view control over the so-called ‘means of production’ (i.e. the means necessary to produce goods for sale) as the ultimate factor determining exploitation and conflict in human societies, Darwinians instead focus on conflict over access to what I have termed the ‘means of reproduction’ – in other words, the means necessary to produce offspring (i.e. fertile females, their wombs and vaginas etc.).
This is because, from a Darwinian perspective:
“The ultimate measure of human success is not production but reproduction. Economic productivity and profit are means to reproductive ends, not ends in themselves” (p165).
Thus, unlike his contemporary Darwin, Karl Marx was, for all his ostensible radicalism, in his emphasis on economics rather than sex, just another Victorian sexual prude.
Mating, Miscegenation and Intermarriage
Given that reproduction, not production, is the ultimate focus of individual and societal conflict and competition, van den Berghe argues that ultimately questions of equality, inequality and assimilation must be also determined by reproductive, not economic, criteria.
Thus, he concludes, intermarriage, especially if it occurs, not only frequently, but also in both directions (i.e. involves both males and females of both ethnicities, rather than always involving males of one ethnic group, usually the dominant ethnic group, taking females of the other ethnic group, usually the subordinate group, as wives), is the ultimate measure of racial equality and assimilation:
“Marriage, especially if it happens in both directions, that is with both men and women of both groups marrying out, is probably the best measure of assimilation” (p218).
In contrast, however, he also emphasizes that mere “concubinage is frequent [even] in the absence of assimilation” (p218).
Moreover, such concubinage invariably involves males of the dominant-group taking females from the subordinate-group as concubines, whereas dominant-group females are invariably off-limits as sexual partners for subordinate group males.
Thus, van den Berghe observes, although “dominant group men, whether racist or not, are seldom reluctant to maximize their fitness with subordinate-group women”, they nevertheless are jealously protective of their ‘own’ women and enforce strict double-standards (p33).
For example, historian Wynn Craig Wade, in his history of the Ku Klux Klan (which I have reviewed here), writes:
“In [antebellum] Southern white culture, the female was placed on a pedestal where she was inaccessible to blacks and a guarantee of purity of the white race. The black race, however, was completely vulnerable to miscegenation.” (The Fiery Cross: p20).
The result, van den Berghe reports, is that:
“The subordinate group in an ethnic hierarchy invariably ‘loses’ more women to males of the dominant group than vice versa” (p75).
Indeed, this same pattern is even apparent in the DNA of contemporary populations. Thus, geneticist James Watson reports that, whereas the mitochondrial DNA of contemporary Columbians, which is passed down the female line, shows a “range of Amerindian MtDNA types”, the Y-chromosomes of these same Colombians, are 94% European. This leads him to conclude:
“The virtual absence of Amerindian Y chromosome types, reveals the tragic story of colonial genocide: indigenous men were eliminated while local women were sexually ‘assimilated’ by the conquistadors” (DNA: The Secret of Life: p257).
As van den Berghe himself observes:
“It is no accident that military conquest is so often accompanied by the killing, enslavement and castration of males, and the raping and capturing of females” (p75).
This, of course, reflects the fact that, in Darwinian terms, the ultimate purpose of power is to maximize reproductive success.
However, while the ethnic group as a whole inevitably suffers a diminution in its fitness, there is a decided gender imbalance in who bears the brunt of this loss.
“The men of the subordinate group are always the losers and therefore always have a reproductive interest in overthrowing the system. The women of the subordinate group, however frequently have the option of being reproductively successful with dominant-group males” (p27).
Indeed, subordinate-group females are not only able, and sometimes forced, to mate with dominant-group males, but, in purely fitness terms, they may even benefit from such an arrangement.
“Hypergamy (mating upward for women) is a fitness enhancing strategy for women, and, therefore, subordinate-group women do not always resist being ‘taken over’ by dominant-group men” (p75).
This is because, by so doing, they thereby obtain access to both the greater resources that dominant group males are able to provide in return for sexual access or as provisioning for their offspring, as well as the ‘superior’ genes which facilitated the conquest in the first place.
Thus, throughout history, women and girls have been altogether too willing to consort and intermarry with their conquerors.
The result of this gender imbalance in the consequences of conquest and subjugation, is, a lack of solidarity as between men and women of the subjugated group.
“This sex asymmetry in fitness strategies in ethnically stratified societies often creates tension between the sexes within subordinate groups. The female option of fitness maximization through hypergamy is deeply resented by subordinate group males” (p76).
Indeed, even captured females who were enslaved by their conquerers sometimes did surprisingly well out of this arrangement, at least if they were young and beautiful, and hence lucky enough to be recruited into the harem of a king, emperor or other powerful male.
One slave captured in Eastern Europe even went on to become effective queen of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power. Hurrem Sultan, as she came to be known, was, of course, exceptional, but only in degree. Members of royal harems may have been secluded, but they also lived in some luxury.
Indeed, even in puritanical North America, where concubinage was very much frownded upon, van den Berghe reports that “slavery was much tougher on men than on women”, since:
“Slavery drastically reduced the fitness of male slaves; it had little or no such adverse effect on the fitness of female slaves whose masters had a double interest – financial and genetic – in having them reproduce at maximum capacity” (p133)
Van den Berghe even tentatively ventures:
“It is perhaps not far-fetched to suggest that, even today, much of the ambivalence in relations between black men and women in America… has its roots in the highly asymmetrical mating system of the slave plantation” (p133).
Miscegenation and Intermarriage in Modern America
Yet, curiously, however, patterns of interracial dating in contemporary America are anomalous – at least if we believe the pervasive myth that America is a ‘systemically racist’ society where black people are still oppressed and discriminated against.
On the one hand, genetic data confirms that, historically, matings between white men and black women were more frequent than the reverse, since African-American mitochondrial DNA, passed down the female line, is overwhelmingly African in origin, whereas their Y chromosomes, passed down the male line, are often European in origin (Lind et al 2007).
However, recent census data suggests that this pattern is now reversed. Thus, black men are now about two and a half times as likely to marry white women as black women are to marry white men (Fryer 2007; see also Sailer 1997).
This seemingly suggests white American males are actually losing out in reproductive competition to black males.
This observation led controversial behavioural geneticist Glayde Whitney to claim:
“By many traditional anthropological criteria African-Americans are now one of the dominant social groups in America – at least they are dominant over whites. There is a tremendous and continuing transfer of property, land and women from the subordinate race to the dominant race” (Whitney 1999: p95).
However, this conclusion is difficult to square with the continued disproportionate economic deprivation of much of black America. In short, African-Americans may be reproductively successful, and perhaps even, in some respects, socially privileged, but, despite benefiting from systematic discrimination in employment and admission to institutions of higher education, they are clearly also, on average, economically much worse-off as compared to whites and Asians in modern America.
Instead, perhaps the beginnings of an explanation for this paradox can be sought in van den Berghe’s own later collaboration with anthropologist, and HBD blogger, Peter Frost.
Here, in a co-authored paper, van den Berghe and Frost argue that, across cultures, there is a general sexual preference for females with somewhat lighter complexion than the group average (van den Berghe and Frost 1986).
However, as Frost explains in a more recent work, Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Racial Prejudice, preferences with regard to male complexion are more ambivalent (see also Feinman & Gill 1977).
Thus, whereas, according to the title of a novel, two films and a hit Broadway musical, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (who also reputedly, and perhaps as a consequence, ‘have more fun’), the idealized male romantic partner is instead tall, dark and handsome.
In subsequent work, Frost argues that ecological conditions in sub-Saharan Africa permitted high levels of polygyny, because women were economically self-supporting, and this increased the intensity of selection for traits (e.g. increased muscularity, masculinity, athleticism and perhaps outgoing, sexually-aggressive personalities) which enhance the ability of African-descended males to compete for mates and attract females (Frost 2008).
In contrast, Frost argues that there was greater selection for female attractiveness (and perhaps female chastity) in areas such as Northern Europe and Northeast Asia, where, to successfully reproduce, women were required to attract a male willing to provision them during cold winters throughout their gestation, lactation and beyond (Frost 2008).
This then suggests that African males have simply evolved to be, on average, more attractive to women, whereas European and Asian females have evolved to be more attractive to men.
This speculation is supported by a couple of recent studies of facial attractiveness, which found that black male faces were rated as most attractive to members of the opposite sex, but that, for female faces, the pattern was reversed (Lewis 2011; Lewis 2012).
These findings could also go some way towards explaining patterns of interracial dating in the contemporary west (Lewis 2012).
“The Most Explosive Aspect of Interethnic Relations”
However, such an explanation is likely to be popular neither with racialists, for whom miscegenation is anathema, nor with racial egalitarians, for whom, as a matter of sacrosanct dogma, all races must be equal in all things, even aesthetics and sex appeal.
Thus, when evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa made a similar claim in 2011 in a blog post (since deleted), outrage predictably ensued, the post was swiftly deleted, his then-blog dropped by its host, Psychology Today, and the author reprimanded by his employer, the London School of Economics, and forbidden from writing any blog or non-scholarly publications for a whole year.
Yet all of this occurred within a year of the publication of the two papers cited above that largely corroborated Kanazawa’s finding (Lewis 2011; Lewis 2012).
Yet such a reaction is, in fact, little surprise. As van den Berghe points out:
“It is no accident that the most explosive aspect of interethnic relations is sexual contact across ethnic (or racial) lines” (p75).
After all, from a sociobiological perspective, competition over reproductive access to fertile females is Darwinian conflict in its most direct and primordial form.
Van den Berghe’s claim that interethnic sexual contact is “the most explosive aspect” of interethnic relations also has support from the history of racial conflict in the USA and elsewhere.
The spectre of interracial sexual contact, real or imagined, has motivated several of the most notorious racially-motivated ‘hate-crimes’ of American history, from the torture-murder of Emmett Till for allegedly propositioning a white woman, to the various atrocities of the reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan in defence of the ostensible virtue of ‘white womanhood’, to the recent Charleston church shooting, ostensibly committed in revenge for the allegedly disproportionate rate of rape of white women by black man.
Meanwhile, interracial sexual relations are also implicated in some of American history’s most infamous alleged miscarriages of justice, from the Scottsboro Boys and Groveland Four cases, and the more recent Central Park jogger case, all of which involved allegations of interracial rape, to the comparatively trivial conduct alleged, but by no means trivial punishment imposed, in the so-called Monroe ‘kissing case’.
Allegations of interracial rape also seem to be the most common precursor of full-blown race riots.
Thus, in early-twentieth century America, the race riots in Springfield, Illinois in 1908, in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919, in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 and in Rosewood, Florida in 1923 were all ignited, at least in part, by allegations of interracial rape or sexual assault.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, multi-racial Britain’s first modern post-war race riot, the 1958 Notting Hill riot in London 1958, began with a public argument between an interracial couple, when white passers-by joined in on the side of the white woman against her black Jamaican husband (and pimp) before turning on them both.
Meanwhile, Britain’s most recent unambiguous race riot, the 2005 Birmingham riot, an entirely non-white affair, was ignited by the allegation that a black girl had been gang-raped by South Asians.
Meanwhile, at least in the west, whites no longer seem participate in race riots, save as victims. However, an exception was the 2005 Cronulla riots in Sydney, Australia, which were ignited by the allegation that Middle Eastern males were sexually harassing white Australian girls on Sydney beaches.
Similarly, in Britain, though riots have yet to result, the spectre of so-called ‘Muslim grooming gangs’, preying on, and pimping out, underage white British girls in northern towns across the England, has arguably done more to ignite anti-Muslim sentiment among whites in the UK than a whole series of Jihadist terrorist attacks on British civilian targets.
Thus, in Race: The Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here) Sarich and Miele caution that miscegenation, often touted as the universal panacea to racism simply because, if practiced sufficiently widely, it would eventually eliminate all racial differences, or at least blur the lines between racial groups, may actually, at least in the short-term, actually incite racist attacks.
This, they argue, is because:
“Viewed from the racial solidarist perspective, intermarriage is an act of race war. Every ovum that is impregnated by the sperm of a member of a different race is one less of that precious commodity to be impregnated by a member of its own race and thereby ensure its survival” (Race: The Reality of Human Differences: p256)
This “racial solidarist perspective” is, of course, a crudely group selectionist view of Darwinian competition, and it leads Sarich and Miele to hypothesize:
“Paradoxically, intermarriage, particularly of females of the majority group with males of a minority group, is the factor most likely to cause some extremist terrorist group to feel the need to launch such an attack” (Race: The Reality of Human Differences: p255).
In other words, in sociobiological terms, ‘Robert’, a character from one of Michel Houellebecq’s novels, has it right when he claims:
“What is really at stake in racial struggles… is neither economic nor cultural, it is brutal and biological: It is competition for the cunts of young women” (Platform: p82).
 Actually, however, contrary to Brigandt’s critique, it is clear that van den Berghe intended his “biological golden rule” only as a catchy and memorable aphorism, crudely summarizing Hamilton’s rule, rather than a quantitative scientific law akin to, or rivalling, Hamilton’s Rule itself. Therefore, this aspect of Brigandt’s critique is, in my view, misplaced. Indeed, it is difficult to see how this supposed rule could be applied as a quantitative scientific law, since relatedness, on the one hand, and altruism, on the other, are measured in different currencies.
 Thus, van den Berghe concedes that:
“In many cases, the common descent acribed to an ethny is fictive. In fact, in most cases, it is partly fictive” (p27).
 The question of racial nationalism (i.e. encompassing all members of a given race, not just those of a single ethnicity or language group) is actually more complex. Certainly, members of the same race do indeed share some degree of kinship, in so far as they are indeed (almost by definition) on average more closely biologically related to one another than to members of other races – and indeed that relatedness is obviously apparent in their phenotypic resemblance to one another. This suggests that racial nationalist movements such as that of, say, UNIA or of the Japanese imperialists, might have more potential as a viable form of nationalism than do attempts to unite racially disparate ethnicities, such as civic nationalism in the contemporary USA. The same may also be true of Oswald Mosley’s Europe a Nation campaign, at least while Europe remained primarily monoracial (i.e. white). However, any such racial nationalism would incorporate a far larger and more culturally, linguistically and genetically disparate group than any form of nationalism that has previously proven capable of mobilizing support.
Thus, Marcus Garvey’s attempt to create a kind of pan-African ethnic identity enjoyed little success and was largely restricted to North America, where African-Americans, do indeed share a common language and culture in addition to their race. Similarly, the efforts of Japanese nationalists to mobilize a kind of pan-Asian nationalism in support of their imperial aspirations during the first half of the twentieth century was an unmitigated failure, though this was partly because of the brutality with which they conquered and suppressed the other Asian nationalities whose support for pan-Asianism they intermittently and half-heartedly sought to enlist.
On the other hand, it is sometimes suggested that, in the early twentieth century, a white supremacist ideology was largely taken for granted among whites. However, while to some extent true, this shared ideology of white supremacism did not prevent the untold devastation wrought by the European wars of the early twentieth century, namely World Wars I and II, which Patrick Buchanan has collectively termed ‘The Great Civil War of the West’.
Thus, European nationalisms usually defined themselves by opposition to other European peoples and powers. Thus, just as Irish nationalism is defined largely by opposition to Britain, and Scottish nationalism by opposition to England, so English (and British) nationalism has itself traditionally been directed against rival European powers such as France and Germany (and formerly Spain), while French nationalism seems to have defined itself primarily in opposition to the Germans and the British, and German nationalism in opposition to the French and Slavs, etc.
It is true that, in the USA, a kind of pan-white American nationalism did seem to prevail in the early twentieth century, albeit initially limited to white protestants, and excluding at least some recent European immigrants (e.g. Italians, Jews). This is, however, a consequence of the so-called ‘melting pot’, and really only amounts to yet another parochial nationalism, namely that of a newly-formed ethnic group – white Americans.
At any rate, today white American nationalism is, at most, decidedly muted in form – a kind of implicit white racial consciousness, or, to coin a phrase, ‘the nationalism that dare not speak its name’. Thus, Van den Berghe observes:
“In the United States, the whites are an overwhelming majority, so much so that they cannot be meaningfully conceived of as a ruling group at all. The label ‘white’ in the United States does not correspond to a well-defined ethnic or racial group with a high degree of social organization or even self-consciousness, except regionally in the south” (p183).
Van den Berghe wrote this in 1981. Today, of course, whites are no longer such an “overwhelming majority” of the US population. On the contrary, they are already well on the way to becoming a minority in America, a milestone that is likely to be reached over the coming decades.
Yet, curiously, white ‘racially consciousness’ is seemingly even more muted and implicit today than it was back when van den Berghe authored his book – and this is seen even in the South, which van den Berghe cited as an exception and lone bastion of white identity politics.
True, White Southerners may vote as a solidly for Republican candidates as they once did for the Democrats. However, overt appeals to white racial interests are now as anathema in the South as elsewhere.
Thus, as recently as 1990, a more or less open white racialist like David Duke was able to win a majority of the white vote in Louisiana in his run for the Senate. Today, this is unimaginable.
If the reason that whites lack any ‘racial consciousness’ is indeed, as van den Berghe claims, because they represent such an “overwhelming majority” of the American population, then it is interesting to speculate if and when, during the ongoing process of white demographic displacement, this will cease to be the case.
One thing seems certain: If and when it does ever occur, it will be too late to make any difference to the ongoing process of demographic displacement that some have termed ‘The Great Replacement’ or a ‘third demographic transition’.
 Of course, a preference for those who look similar to oneself (or one’s other relatives) may itself function as a form of kin recognition (i.e. of recognizing who is kin and who is not). This is referred to in biology as ‘phenotype matching’. Moreover, as Richard Dawkins has speculated in The Selfish Gene (reviewed here), racial feeling could conceivably have evolved through a misfiring of such a crude heuristic (The Selfish Gene: p100).
 Actually, I suspect that, on average, at least historically, both mothers and fathers may indeed, on average, have provided rather less care for their mixed-race offspring than for offspring of the same race as themselves, simply because mixed-race offspring were more likely to be born out of wedlock, not least because interracial marriage was, until recently, strongly frowned upon, and both mothers and fathers tended to provide less care for illegitimate offspring, fathers because they often refused to acknowledge their illegitimate offspring and had little or no contact with them, and mothers because, lacking paternal support, they usually had no means of raising their illegitimate offspring alone and hence often gave them up for adoption or fostering.
 On the other hand, in his paper, ‘An integrated evolutionary perspective on ethnicity’, controversial anti–Semitic evolutionary psychologist Kevin Macdonald disagrees with this conclusion, citing personal communication from geneticist and anthropologist Henry Harpending for the argument that:
“Long distance migrations have easily occurred on foot and over several generations, bringing people who look different for genetic reasons into contact with each other. Examples include the Bantu in South Africa living close to the Khoisans, or the pygmies living close to non-pygmies. The various groups in Rwanda and Burundi look quite different and came into contact with each other on foot. Harpending notes that it is ‘very likely’ that such encounters between peoples who look different for genetic reasons have been common for the last 40,000 years of human history; the view that humans were mostly sessile and living at a static carrying capacity is contradicted by history and by archaeology. Harpending points instead to ‘starbursts of population expansion’. For example, the Inuits settled in the arctic and exterminated the Dorsets within a few hundred years; the Bantu expansion into central and southern Africa happened in a millennium or less, prior to which Africa was mostly the yellow (i.e., Khoisan) continent, not the black continent. Other examples include the Han expansion in China, the Numic expansion in northern America, the Zulu expansion in southern Africa during the last few centuries, and the present day expansion of the Yanomamo in South America. There has also been a long history of invasions of Europe from the east. ‘In the starburst world people would have had plenty of contact with very different looking people’” (Macdonald 2001: p70).
 Others have argued that the differences between Tutsi and Hutu are indeed largely a western creation, part of the ‘divide and rule’ strategy supposedly deliberately employed by European colonialists, as well as a theory of Tutsi racial superiority promulgated by European racial anthropologists known as the ‘Hamitic theory’ of Tutsi origins, which suggested that the Tutsi had migrated from the Horn of Africa, and had benefited from Caucasoid ancestry, as reflected in their supposed physiological differences from the indigenous Hutu (e.g. lighter complexions, greater height, narrower noses).
On this view, the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi was originally primarily socioeconomic rather than racial, and, at least formerly, the boundaries between the two groups were quite fluid.
I suspect this view is nonsense, reflecting political correctness and the leftist tendency to excuse any evidence of dysfunction or oppression in non-Western cultures as necessarily of product of the malign influence of western colonizers. (Most preposterously, even the Indian caste system has been blamed on British colonizers, although it actually predated them, in one form or another, by several thousand years.)
With respect to the division between Tutsi and Hutu, there are not only morphological differences between the two groups in average stature, nose width and complexion, but also substantial differences in the prevalence of genes for lactose tolerance and sickle-cell. These results do indeed seem to suggest that, as predicted by the reviled ‘Hamitic theory’, the Tutsi do indeed have affinities with populations from the Horn of Africa and East Africa. Modern genome analysis tends to confirm this conclusion.
 Exceptions, where immigrant groups retain their distinctive language for multiple generations, occur where immigrants speaking a particular language arrive in sufficient numbers, and are sufficiently isolated in ethnic enclaves and ghettos, that they mix primarily or exclusively with people speaking the same language as themselves. A related exception is in respect of economically, politically or socially dominant minorities, such as alien colonizers, as well as ‘market-dominant’ or ‘middleman minorities’, who often resist assimilation into the mainstream culture precisely so as to maintain their cultural separateness and hence their privileged position within society, and who also, partly for this reason, take steps to socialize, and ensure their offspring socialize, primarily among their own group.
 Some German-Americans were also interred during World War II. However, far fewer were interred than among Japanese-Americans, especially on a per capita basis.
Nevertheless, some German-Americans were treated very badly indeed, yet the latter, unlike the Japanese, have yet to receive a government apology or compensation. Moreover, there was perhaps justification for the differing treatment accorded Japanese- and German-Americans, since the latter were generally longer established and more integrated, and there was perceived to be a real threat of enemy sabotage.
Also, with regard to van den Berghe’s observation that nuclear atomic weapons were used only against Japan, this is rather misleading. Nuclear weapons could not have been used against Germany, since, by the time of the first test detonation of a nuclear device, Germany had already surrendered. Yet, in fact, the Manhattan Project seems to have been begun with the Germans very much in mind as a prospective target. (Many of the scientists involved were Jewish, many having fled Nazi-occupied Europe for America, and hence their hostility towards the Nazis, and perhaps Germans in general, is easy to understand.)
Whether it is true that, as van den Berghe claims, atomic bombs were never actually likely to be “dropped over, say, Stuttgart or Dortmund” is a matter of supposition. Certainly, there were great animosity towards the Germans in America, as illustrated by the Morgenthau Plan, which, although ultimately never put into practice, was initially highly influential in directing US policy in Europe and even supported by President Roosevelt.
On the other hand, Roosevelt’s references to ‘the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Japanese’ might simply reflect the fact that there was no obvious name for the faction or regime in control of Japan during the Second World War, since, unlike in Germany and Italy, no named political party had seized power. I am therefore unconvinced that a great deal can necessarily be read into this.
 This was especially so in historical times, before the development of improved technologies of long-distance transportation (ships, aeroplanes) enabled more distantly related populations to come into contact, and hence conflict with one another (e.g. blacks and whites in the USA and South Africa, South Asians and English in the UK or under the British Raj). Thus, the ancient Indian treatise on statecraft and strategy, Arthashastra, observed that a ruler’s natural enemies are his immediate neighbours, whereas his next-but-one neighbours, being immediate neighbours of his own immediate neighbours, are his natural allies. This is sometimes credited as the origin of the famous aphorism, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’.
 The idea that neighbouring groups tend to be in conflict with one another precisely because, being neighbours, they are also in close contact, and hence competition, with one another, ironically posits almost the exact opposite relationship between ‘contact’ and intergroup relations than that posited by the famous ‘contact theory’ of mid-twentieth psychology, which posited that increased contact between members of different racial and ethnic groups would lead to reduced prejudice and animosity.
This, of course, depends, at least partly, on the nature of the ‘contact’ in question. Contact that involves territorial rivalry, economic competition and war, obviously exacerbates conflict and animosity. In contrast, proponents of ‘contact theory’ typically had in mind personal contact, rather than, say, the sort of impersonal, but often deadly, contact that occurs between rival belligerent combatants in wartime.
In fact, however, even at the personal level, contact can take many different forms, and often functions to increase inter-ethnic animosity. Hence the famous proverb, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.
Indeed, social psychologists now concede that only ‘positive’ interactions with members with members of other groups (e.g. friendship, cooperation, acts of altruism, mutually beneficial trade) reduces animosity and conflict.
In contrast, negative interactions (e.g. being robbed, mugged or attacked by members of another group) only serves to reinforce, exacerbate, or indeed create intergroup animosity. This, of course, reduces the ‘contact hypothesis’ to little more than common sense – positive experiences with a given group lead to positive perceptions of that group; negative interactions to negative perceptions.
This in turn suggests that stereotypes are often based on real experiences and therefore tend to be true – if not of all individuals, then at least at the statistical, aggregate group level.
I would add that, anecdotally, even positive interactions with members of disdained outgroups do not always shift perceptions regarded the disdained outgroup as a whole. Instead, the individuals with whom one enjoys positive interactions, and even friendships, are often seen as exceptions to the rule (‘one of the good ones’), rather than representative of the demographic to which they belong. Hence the familiar phenomenon of even virulent racists having friendships and sometimes even heroes among members of races whom they generally otherwise disdain.
 However, Van den Berghe acknowledges that racially diverse societies have lived in “relative harmony” in places such as Latin America, where government gives no formal political recognition to racial groups (e.g. racial preferences and quotas for members of certain races) and where the latter do not organize on a racial basis, such that government is, in van den Berghe’s terminology, “non-racial” rather than “multiracial” (p190). However, this is perhaps a naïvely benign view of race relations in Latin American countries such as Brazil, which is, despite the fluidity of racial identity and lack of clear dividing lines between races, nevertheless now viewed by most social scientists, not so much as a model ‘racial democracy’, so much as a racially-stratified ‘pigmentocracy’ , where skin tone correlates with social status. It is also arguably an outdated view of race relations in Latin America, because, perhaps due to indirect cultural and political influence emanating from the USA, ethnic groups in much of Latin America (e.g. blacks in Brazil, indigenous populations in Bolivia) increasingly do organize and agitate on a racial basis.
 I am careful here not to refer to refer the dominant culture as that of either a ‘host population’ or a ‘majority population’, or the subordinate group as a ‘minority group’ or an incoming group of migrants. This is because sometimes newly-arrived settlers successfully assimilate the indigenous populations among whom they settle, and sometimes it is the majority group who ultimately assimilate to the norms and culture of the minority. Thus, for example, the Anglo-Saxons imposed their Germanic language on the indigenous inhabitants of what is today England, and indeed ultimately most of the inhabitants of Scotland, Wales and Ireland as well, even though they likely never represented a majority of the population even in England, and may have made only a comparatively modest contribution to the ancestry of the people whom we today call ‘English’.
 Interestingly, and no doubt controversially, Van den Berghe argues that blacks in the USA do not have any distinctive cultural traits that distinguish them from the white American mainstream, and that their successful assimilation has been prevented only by the fact that, until very recently, whites have refused to ‘assimilate’ them. He is particularly skeptical regarding the notion of any cultural inheritances from Africa, dismissing “the romantic search for survivals of African Culture” as “elusive” (p177).
Indeed, for van den Berghe, the whole notion of a distinct African-American culture is “largely ideological and romantic” (p177). “Afro-Americans are,” he argues, “culturally ‘Anglo-Saxon’” and hence paradoxically ”as Anglo as anyone… in America” (p177). He concludes:
“The case for ‘black culture’ rests… largely on the northern ghetto lumpenproletariat, a class which has no direct counterpart. Even in that group, however, much of the distinctiveness is traceable to their southern, rural origins” (p177).
This reference to “southern rural origins” anticipates Thomas Sowell’s later ‘black redneck hypothesis’. Certainly, many aspects of black culture, such as dialect (e.g. the use of terms such as ‘y’all’ and ‘ain’t’ and the pronunciation of ‘whores’ as ‘hoes’) and stereotypical fondness for fried chicken, are obvious inheritances from Southern culture rather than distinctively black, let alone an inheritance from Africa. Thus, van den Berghe observes:
“Ghetto lumpenproletariat blacks in Chicago, Detroit and New York may seem to have a distinct subculture of their own compared collectively to their white neighbors, but the black Mississippi sharecropper is not very different, except for his skin pigment, from his white counterparts” (p177).
Any remaining differences not attributable to their Southern origins are, van den Berghe claims, not “African survivals, but adaptation to stigma” (p177). Here, van den Berghe perhaps has in mind the inverse morality, celebration of criminality, and ‘bad nigger’ archetype prevalent in, for example, gangsta rap music. Thus, van den Berghe concludes that:
“Afro-Americans owe their distinctiveness overwhelmingly to the fact that they have been first enslaved and then stigmatized as a pariah group. They lack a territorial base, the necessary economic, and political resources and the cultural and linguistic pluralism ever to constitute a successful nation. Their pluralism is strictly a structural pluralism inflicted on them by racism. A stigma is hardly an adequate basis for successful nationalism” (p184).
 Thus, Elizabeth Warren was a law professor who became a Democratic Party Senator and Presidential candidate, and had described herself as ‘American Indian’, and been cited by her University employers as an ethnic minority, in order to benefit from informal affirmative action, despite having only a very small amount of Native American ancestry. Krug and Dolezal, meanwhile, taking advantage of the ‘one drop rule’, both identified as African-American, Krug, a history professor and leftist activist, taking advantage of her Middle-Eastern appearance, itself likely a reflection of her Jewish ancestry. Dolezal, however, was formerly a white, blonde girl, but, through the simple expedient of getting a perm and tan, managed to become an adjunct professor of black studies at a local university and local chapter president of the NAACP in an overwhelmingly white town and state. Whoever said blondes have more fun?
 It has even given rise to a popular new hairstyle among young white males attempting to escape the stigma of whiteness by adopting a racially ambiguous appearance – the ‘mulatto perm’.
 Interestingly, the examples cited by Paddy Hannam in his piece on the phenomenon, ‘The rise of the race fakers’ also seem to have been female (Hannam 2021). Steve Sailer wisely counsels caution with regard to the findings of this study, noting that anyone willing to lie about their ethnicity on their college application, is also likely even more willing to lie in an anonymous survey (Sailer 2021 ; see also Hood 2007).
 Actually, the Northern Ireland settlement is often classed as ‘centripetalist’ rather than ‘consociationalist’. However, the distinction is minimal, with the former arrangement representing a modification of the latter designed to encourage cross-community cooperation, and prevent, or at least mitigate, the institutionalization and ossification of the ethnic divide that is perceived to occur under consociationalism, where constitutional recognition is accorded to the divide between the two (or more) communities. There is, however, little evidence that centripetalism have ever actually been successful in encouraging cross-community cooperation, beyond what is necessitated by the consitutional system, let alone encouraging assimilation of the rival communities and the depoliticization of ethnic identity.
 The reason for the difference in the attitudes of leftists and liberals towards majority-rule in Northern Ireland and South Africa respectively seems to reflect the fact that, whereas in Northern Ireland, the majority protestant population were perceived of as the dominant ‘oppressor’ group, the black majority in South Africa were perceived of as ‘oppressed’.
However, it is hard to see why this would mean black majority-rule in South Africa would be any less oppressive of South Africa’s white, ‘coloured’, and Asian minorities than Protestant majority rule had been of Catholics in Ulster. On the contrary, precisely because the black majority in South Africa perceive themselves as having been ‘oppressed’ in the past, they are likely to be especially vengeful and feel justified in seeking recompense for their earlier perceived oppression. This indeed seems to be what is occurring in South Africa, and Zimbabwe, today.
Interestingly, van den Berghe, writing in 1981 was wisely prophetic regarding the long-term prospects for both apartheid – and for white South Africans. Thus, on the one hand he predicted:
“Past experience with decolonization elsewhere in Africa, especially in Zimbabwe (which is in almost every respect a miniature version of South Africa) seems to indicate that the end of white domination is in sight. The only question is whether it will take the form of a prolonged civil war, a negotiated partition or a frantic white exodus. The odds favor, I think, a long escalating war of attrition accompanied by a gradual economic winddown and a growing white emigration” (p174).
Thus, van den Berghe was right in so far as he predicted the looming end of the apartheid system – though hardly unique in making this prediction. However, he was wrong in his predictions as to how this end would come about. On the other hand, however, with ongoing farm murders and the overtly genocidal rhetoric of populist politicians like Julius Malema, van den Berghe was probably right regarding the long-term prognosis of the white community in South Africa when he observed:
“Five million whites perched precariously at the tip of a continent inhabited by 400 millions blacks, with no friends in sight. No matter what happens whites will lose heavily, perhaps their very lives, or at least their place in the African sun that they love so much” (p172).
However, perhaps surprisingly, van den Berghe denies that apartheid was entirely a failure:
“Although apartheid failed in the end, it was a rational course for the Afrikaners to take, given their collective aims, and probably did postpone the day of reckoning by about 30 years” (p174).
 The only other polity that perhaps has a competing claim to representing the world’s model consociationalist democracy is Switzerland. However, van den Berghe emphasizes that Switzerland is very much a special case, the secret of its success being that:
“Switzerland is one of those rare multiethnic states that did not originate either in conquest or in the breakdown of multinational empires” (p194).
It managed to avoid conquest by its richer and more powerful neighbours simply because:
“The Swiss had the dual advantage in resisting outside conquest: favorable terrain and lack of natural resources” (p194)
Also, it provided valuable services to these neighbours, first providing mercenaries to fight in their armed forces and later specialising in the manufacture of watches and what van den Berghe terms “the management of shady foreigners’ ill-gotten capital” (p194).
In reality, however, although divided linguistically and religiously, Switzerland does not, in van den Berghe’s constitute true consociationalism, since the country, with originated as confederation of fomerly independent hill tribes, remains highly decentralized, and power is shared, not by ethnic groups, but rather between regional cantons. Therefore, van den Berghe concludes:
“The ethnic diversity of Switzerland is only incidental to the federalism, it does not constitute the basis for it” (p196-7).
In addition, most cantons, where much of the real power lies, are themselves relatively monoethnic and monoliguistic, at least as compared to the country as a whole.
 Indeed, since the Slavs of Eastern Europe were the last group in Europe to be converted to Christianity, and it was forbidden by Papal decree to enslave fellow-Christians or sell Christian slaves to non-Christians (i.e. Muslims, among whom there was a great demand for European slaves), Slavs were preferentially targeted by Christians for enslavement, and even those non-Slavic people who were enslaved or sold into bondage were often falsely described as Slavs in order to justify their enslavement and sale to Muslim slaveholders. The Slavs, for geographic reasons, were also vulnerable to capture and enslavement directly by the Muslims themselves.
 Although this review is based on the 1987 edition, The Ethnic Phenomenon was first published in 1981, whereas Orlando Peterson’s Slavery and Social Death came out just a year later in 1982.
 In the antebellum American South, much is made of the practice of slave-owners selling the spouses and offspring of their slaves to other masters, thereby breaking up families. On the basis of van den Berghe’s arguments, this might actually have represented an effective means of preventing slaves from putting down roots and developing families and slave communities, and might therefore have helped perpetuate the institution of slavery.
However, even assuming that such practices would indeed have had this effect, it is doubtful that there was any such deliberate long-term policy among slaveholders to break up families in this way. On the contrary, van den Berghe reports:
“It is not true that slave owners systematically broke up slave couples… On the contrary, it was in their interest to foster stable slave families for the sake of morale, and to discourage escape” (p133).
Thus, though it certainly occurred and may indeed have been tragic where it did occur, slaveholders generally preferred to keep slave families intact, precisely because, in forming families, slaves would indeed ‘put down roots’ and hence be less likely to try to escape, lest, in the process, they would leave other family members behind to face the vengeance of their former owners alone and without any protection and support they might otherwise have been in a position to offer. The threat of breaking up families, however, surely remained a useful tool in the arsenal of slaveholders to maintain control over slaves.
 While acknowledging, and indeed emphasizing, the virulence of western racialism, van den Berghe, bemoaning the intrusion of “moralism” (and, by extension, ethnomasochism) into scholarship, has little time for the notion that western slavery was intrinsically more malign than forms of slavery practised in other parts of the world or at other times in history (p116). This, he dismisses as “the guilt ascription game: whose slavery was worse?” (p128). Male slaves in the Islamic world, for example, were routinely castrated before being sold (p117).
Thus, while it is true that slaves in the American South had unusually low rates of manumission (i.e. the granting of freedom to slaves), they also enjoyed surprisingly high standards of living, were well-fed and enjoyed long lives. Indeed, not only did slaves in the American South enjoy standards of living superior to those of most other slave populations, they even enjoyed, by some measures, higher standards of living than many non-slave populations, including industrial workers in Europe and the Northern United States, and poor white Southerners, during the same time period (The End of Racism: p88-91; see also Time on the Cross: the Economics of American Slavery).
Ironically, living standards were so high for the very same reason that rates of manumission were so low – namely, slaves, especially after the abolition and suppression of the transatlantic slave-trade (but also even before then due to the costs of transportation during the ‘middle passage’) were an expensive commodity. Masters therefore fully intended to get their money’s worth out of their slaves, not only by rarely granting them their freedom, but also ensuring that they lived a long and healthy life.
In this endeavour, they were surprisingly successful. Thus, van den Berghe reports, in the fifty years that followed the prohibition on the import of new slaves into the USA in 1908, the black population of the USA nevertheless more than tripled (p128). In short, slaves may have been property, but they were valuable property – and slaveholders made every effort to protect their investment.
Ironically, therefore, indentured servants (themselves, in America, often white, and later, in Africa, usually South or East Asian) were, during the period of their indenture, often worked harder, and forced to live in worse conditions, than were actual slaves. This was because, since they were indentured for only a set number of years before they would be free, there was less incentive on the part of their owners to ensure that they lived a long and healthy life.
Van den Berghe concludes:
“The blanket ascription of collective racial guilt for slavery to ‘whites’ that is so dear to many liberal social scientists is itself a product of the racist mentality produced by slavery. It takes a racist to ascribe causality and guilt to racial categories” (p130).
Indeed, as Dinesh D’Souza in The End of Racism, and Thomas Sowell in his essay ‘The Real History of Slavery’ included in the collection Black Rednecks and White Liberals, both emphasize, whereas all civilizations have practised slavery, what was unique about western civilization was that it was the first civilization ever known to have abolished slavery (at, as it ultimately turned out, no little economic cost to itself).
Therefore, even if liberals and leftists do insist that we play what van den Berghe disparagingly calls “the guilt ascription game”, then white westerners actually come out rather well in the comparison.
 Indeed, in most cultures and throughout most of history, the use of female slaves as concubines was, not only widespread, but also perfectly socially acceptable. For example, in the Islamic world, the use of female slaves as concubines was entirely open and accepted, not only attracting literally no censure or criticism in the wider society or culture, but also receiving explicit prophetic sanction in the Quran. For this reason, in the Islamic world, females slaves tended to be in greater demand than males, and usually commanded a higher price.
In contrast, most slaves transported to the Americas were male, since males were more useful for hard, intensive agricultural labour and, in puritanical North America, sexual contact with between slaveholder and slave was very much frowned upon, even though it certainly occurred. Thus, van den Berghe cynically observes:
“Concubinage with slaves was somewhat more clandestine and hypocritical in the English and Dutch colonies than in the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies where it was brazen, but there is no evidence that the actual incidence of interbreeding was any higher in the Catholic countries” (p132).
Partial corroboration for this claim is provided by historian Eugene Genovese, who, in his book Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, reports that, in New Orleans slave markets:
“First-class blacksmiths were being sold for $2,500 and prime field hands for about $1,800, but a particularly beautiful girl or young woman might bring $5,000” (Roll, Jordan, Roll: p416).
 Actually, exploitation can still be an adaptive strategy, even in respect of close biological relatives. This depends of the precise relative gain and loss in fitness to both the exploiter (the slave owner) and his victim (the slave), and their respective coefficient of relatedness, in accordance with Hamilton’s rule. Thus, it is possible that a slaveholder’s genes may benefit more from continuing to exploit his slaves as slaves than by freeing them, even if the latter are also his kin. Possibly the best strategy will often be a compromise of, say, keeping your slave-kin in bondage, but treating them rather better than other non-related slaves, or freeing them after your death in your will.
Of course, this is not to suggest that individual slaveholders consciously (or subconsciously) perform such a calculation, nor even that their actual behaviour is usually adaptive. Slaveholding is likely an ‘environmental novelty’ to which we are yet to have evolved adaptive responses.
 Others suggest that Thomas Jefferson himself did not father any offspring with Sally Hemmings and that the more likely father is Jefferson’s wayward younger brother Randolph, who would, of course, share the same Y chromosome as his elder brother. For present purposes, this is not especially important, since, either way, Heming’s offspring would be blood relatives of Jefferson to some degree, hence likely influencing his decision to free them or permit them to escape.
 Quite how this destruction can be expected to have manifested itself is not spelt out by van den Berghe. Perhaps, with each passing generation, as slaves became more and more closely biologically related to their masters, more and more slaves would have been freed until there were simply no more left. Alternatively, perhaps, as slaves and slaveowners increasingly became biological kin to one another, the institution of slavery would gradually have become less oppressive and exploitative until ultimately it ceased to constitute true slavery at all. At any rate, in the Southern United States this (supposed) process was forestalled by the American Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, and neither does it appear to have occurred in Latin America.
 Another area of conflict between Marxism and Darwinism is the assumption of the former that somehow all conflict and exploitation will end in a future posited communist utopia. Curiously, although healthily cynical about exploitation under Soviet-style communism (p60), van den Berghe describes himself as an anarchist (van den Berghe 2005). However, anarchism seems even more hopelessly utopian than communism, given humanity’s innate sociality and desire to exploit reproductive competitors. In short, a Hobbesian state of nature is surely no one’s utopia (except perhaps Ragnar Redbeard).
 The idea that there is “ambivalence in relations between black men and women in America” seems anecdotally plausible, given, for example, the delightfully misogynistic lyrics found in much African-American rap music. However, it is difficult to see how this could be a legacy of the plantation era, when everyone alive today is several generations removed from that era and living in a very different sexual and racial milieu. Today, black men do rather better in the mating market place than do black women, with black men being much more likely to marry non-black women than black women are to marry non-black men, suggesting that black men have a larger dating pool from which to choose (Sailer 1997; Fryer 2007).
Moreover, black men and women in America today are, of course, the descendants of both men and women. Therefore, even if black women did have a better time of it that black men in the plantation era, how would black male resentment be passed down the generations to black men today, especially given that most black men are today raised primarily by their mothers in single-parent homes and often have little or no contact with their fathers?
 Indeed, being perceived as attractive, or at least not as ugly, seems to be rather more important to most women that does being perceived as intelligent. Therefore, the question of race differences in attractiveness is seemingly almost as controversial as that of race differences in intelligence. This, then, leads to the delightfully sexist ‘Sailer’s first law of female journalism’, which posits that:
“The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.”
 A popular alt-right meme has it that there are literally no white-on-black rapes. This is, of course, untrue, and reflects the misreading of a table in a US departnment of Justice report that actually involved only a small sample. In fact, the government does not currently release data on the prevalence of interracial rape. Nevertheless, the US Department of Justice report (mis)cited by some white nationalists does indeed suggest that black-on-white rape is much more common than white-on-black rape in the contemporary USA, a conclusion corroborated by copious other data (e.g. Lebeau 1985).
Thus, in his book Paved with Good Intentions, Jared Taylor reports:
“In a 1974 study in Denver, 40 percent of all rapes were of whites by blacks, and not one case of white-on-black-rape was found. In general, through the 1970s, black-on-white rape was at last ten times more common than white-on-black rape… In 1988 there were 9,406 cases of black-on-white rape and fewer than ten cases of white-on-black rape. Another researcher concludes that in 1989, blacks were three or four times more likely to commit rape than whites and that black men raped white women thirty times as often as white men raped black women” (Paved with Good Intentions: p93).
Indeed, the authors of one recent textbook on criminology even claim that:
“Some researchers have suggested, because of the frequency with which African Americans select white victims (about 55 percent of the time), it [rape] could be considered an interracial crime” (Criminology: A Global Perspective: p544).
Similarly, in the US prison system, where male-male rape is endemic, such assaults disproportionately involve non-white assaults on white inmates, as discussed by the Human Rights Watch report, ‘No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons’.
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17 thoughts on “Pierre van den Berghe’s ‘The Ethnic Phenomenon’: Ethnocentrism and Racism as Nepotism Among Extended Kin”
This review touches on so many things I’ve been thinking about myself for a long time now. Despite relentless attempts by liberal western societies to stamp out ethnocentrism or ethno-nationalism over the past several decades since WWII, it really is telling how persistent and tenacious such ideas remain. But, as you highlight in your review, liberals’ hostility to ethnocentrism has not been applied universally. In a weird perversion of classical Marxist ideology, modern progressive liberals have sought to stamp out ethnocentrism of groups identified as belonging to an “oppressor” class (i.e., white people), while encouraging it amongst groups identified as belonging to “oppressed” groups (i.e., black and brown people).
This has resulted in the state-of-affairs that you diagnose so well, one in which we seem to be moving towards a society modeled on fragmented nations like Lebanon, in which various government positions are reserved exclusively to different ethnic/religious groups. Arguably, the United States already does this on an informal basis: President Biden’s recent decision to only consider black female candidates to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is one example of this. It’s not too hard to imagine a near future in which the Presidency is reserved exclusively to female candidates (or alternatively, in which male and female candidates must alternate each election cycle), and at least one member of each presidential ticket is expected to be non-white, and Supreme Court positions are allocated to maintain a desired racial and gender balance, such that if a black Supreme Court Justice dies, he can only be replaced with another black person. Perhaps such practices will even be enshrined in law one day.
But if such a thing were to happen, it would spell the end of the modern progressive liberal views on race and gender, because one consequence of allocating government positions based on race and gender is that a certain number will have to go to white people—as well as to men (unless white people and men will be content to never hold positions of power again, which seems most unlikely). So a certain amount of white ethnocentrism will have to be tolerated eventually—and possibly a revival of masculine pride, which can already be seen amongst young men on the far right today—both of which modern liberals regard as the Great Satan. What this will mean for the world, only time will tell. Hopefully, we are not headed for a replay of the ethnic divisions and conflicts of the 20th Century, though that is certainly one possible outcome of all this.
You can probably guess from my previous comments on your articles that I’m a huge John Grey fan boy. His two most recent columns for the New Statesman are worth checking out if you haven’t seen them (and not only because they touch on ethnocentrism). In his article on the return of eugenics (https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2022/02/the-sinister-return-of-eugenics), he writes that most western intellectuals before WWII supported eugenicist and racial hierarchy ideas, and only abandoned them once they saw those ideas taken to their logical conclusion by Nazi Germany. I suspect this traumatic history probably goes a long way to explaining, as well as justifying, modern liberals’ current views on race. The trouble is that there is a reason almost every educated person used to believe in some version of eugenics and racial hierarchies, which is that such views naturally suggest themselves to any thoughtful person. As Grey notes, the idea of molding an ideal society populated by a certain type of carefully-crafted person has been with us since at least Plato’s Republic. And insights from modern genetics naturally lead any thoughtful person to wonder, like Hitler wondered, whether it would not be possible to breed a superior race of people with ideal qualities, just as we can breed superior dogs or thoroughbred horses. One of the reasons I think John Grey is such a genius is because of how consistently and calmly he shows the folly of the human intellect in thinking it can order a world that will always remain beyond our comprehension. Yet this folly, like hope, seems to spring eternal; and so I suspect the ethnocentrism that seems to so natural and inborn to human beings will always be used to fuel one or another absurd and dangerous fantasy. All we can realistically hope for are temporary reprieves from it.
Grey’s most recent article on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is also worth checking out (https://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/geopolitics/2022/03/the-new-age-of-disorder). Like a lot of people, I was surprised Putin actually took the plunge to invade, but I was also surprised by his explanation for doing this. I haven’t really paid too much attention to Putin, so I was surprised by how much he emphasized that Russia and Ukraine are historically one nation, as well as his dismay at the 2018 schism between the Kiev and Moscow Orthodox churches. Before this invasion, it would be easy to imagine that Putin cynically appealed to pan-slavism and religion as mere tools to perpetuate his rule, but I think this invasion shows that he really does believe in these things, and is willing to undertake significant risks for their sake. Once again, I think Grey is correct to diagnose this event as signifying a resurgence of ethno-nationalism and religious fervor the likes of which the liberal West had thought long-vanquished. It seems to me that Russia and China both are pioneering an ethno-nationalism that makes Westerners very uncomfortable, and which they seem at a loss for how to counter. Once again, I fear a repeat of the massive ethnic-fueled clashes of the 20th Century. But I guess it remains to be seen if we can somehow manage ethno-nationalism more peacefully and with greater stability than Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan did.