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Link: The cultural explanation of the difficulty of development

Silent Cal          24 July 2015 03:35 PM


(You may have preconceptions about the author; if so, the content may surprise you. I take its hypotheses very seriously within a worldview very far from the one the author's name evokes) Long article, but the part I'm interested in is following hypothesis (extrapolated a bit): Much of the difficulty of modernizing the developing world comes from their cultures' focus on familial responsibility. In particular, government officials are obligated to be corrupt and share the gains with their families. This type of culture is not so much objectively bad as ill-suited to modernization. The article rests on personal experience, but I can say that I've observed the same thing in milder form: I am close to a family from a developing nation, and they have a notably stronger sense of family obligation and much less concern about large commonses.



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Alice 27 July 2015 03:52 PM
73%

In a way it's a chicken-and-egg problem. It's true that progress and modernization seem to be closely tied with ideology that places the rule of law, equality, and individualism as biggest values, while lack of modernization is often associated with corruption, putting family ties and other circumstances above the law, putting the family/tribe/nation before the individual etc. Does modernization cause this different mindset, or does this mindset lead to progress? It's not clear. Maybe in a natural evolution of a society these things go together. Or maybe they can happen in either order.

By the way, there are some other examples of countries that are not too successful and where corruption is widespread, but which don't have this tribal mindset, e.g. Russia and some other Eastern European countries. They have other issues that hold them back.


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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 08:41 AM
56%

Listing Russia as a country that isn't working that well seems kinda odd. Granted it doesn't do well on western standards but it is still a big country with a big economy that is very internationally relevant.

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Alice 28 July 2015 02:29 PM
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A very corrupt country, with no freedom of speech, 24/7 propaganda on government-owned TV (and there is no other), and de-facto dictatorship. Oil-based economy, that is going to be in big trouble now that the oil prices are going down. Doesn't produce much. No such thing as the rule of law. Though of course, everything in comparison, and relatively say to North Korea it's an OK country.

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melian 25 July 2015 11:51 AM
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Couldn’t the focus on familial responsibility be more the result of precarious economic conditions and of absent rule of law rather than their cause? In such conditions, people simply cannot survive as individuals and tight connection to extended family becomes a necessity. In Western Europe and Eastern Asia family ties also used to be extremely important, but this did not prevent these regions from developing.


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Silent Cal 29 July 2015 07:52 AM
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My hypothesis is that there's mutual causation--in the West, development was slow and culture could adapt to the changing conditions. Today we're shortcutting the technological and governmental development of developing nations, and the cultures can't keep up.

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melian 29 July 2015 10:47 AM
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This makes sense, but how would you explain that in some countries (e.g., Singapore) strong family ties created no barrier to fast modernization?

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VoiceOfRa 25 July 2015 08:47 PM
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In Western Europe family ties were a lot less important than in other parts of the world. See hbdchick's theory of the Hajnal line and exogamy. Basically, the Hajnal line divides areas where cousin marriage was permitted from areas where it wasn't, i.e., Western Europe. It correlates with a bunch of stuff including attitudes towards individuality.



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melian 26 July 2015 03:51 AM
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Hajnal line was discovered in 1965 when Western Europe was already an economically developed region. Before the XXth century, cousin marriage used to be pretty popular in Western Europe and not just among the local hillbillies (for example, Charles Darwin was married to his cousin).

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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 08:38 AM
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Modernization means many things but here it is quite clear that the efffect that is most relevant is the increase in income disparity. If the increased efficency of the new jobs would be more evenly distributed then there would not be such a moral hazard. But we insist that those that work on the new jobs receive the benefit while persons in the old farming jobs that now upkeep more educated specialised professions keep the old wages.

It is kinda worrying if financial incentives to further society only work if we are letting as private citizens those closest to us be on the bottom rungs.

One can not uplift a country by uplifting small parts of it. If you upgrade only parts of it the structure will change into something that could not form without outside interference.


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Silent Cal 29 July 2015 02:51 PM
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The doctors dividing their incomes to support large families don't harm the country. The government officials going corrupt to support large families do.

Put another way, the problem isn't that people put their families' needs above their own, it's that they put their families' needs above random strangers' rights--a very natural human behavior in some circumstances, but also sometimes a very pernicious one

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Jiro 13 October 2015 12:32 PM
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I'd suggest that the doctors dividing their incomes to support large families *does* harm the country. If making a lot of money means you can't keep it and have to give it to three dozen desperately poor relatives, it's going to be hard to accumulate money to do something, like pay to educate yourself or your kids, invest money in a business, or buy any personal item that might give you a long term chance of bettering yourself or your family (such as a car, a home in a better neighborhood, etc.) The result is that your relatives gain a safety net, but no individual ever gets to escape poverty.

It's actually a well known phenomenon.

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