The Transition from Clannism to Capitalism

I cannot escape the embrace of clannism! Robin Hanson comments on clannism and the transition from clannism to modernity:

In most farmer-era cultures extended families, or clans, were the main unit of social organization, for production, marriage, politics, war, law, and insurance. People trusted their clans, but not outsiders, and felt little obligation to treat outsiders fairly.

I would only add that there have been different degrees of clannism in different areas. The farmer-era was not uniform. So, Islamic areas saw a high level, as did upland regions (Scotland, Albania), while Japan was relatively less clannish.

Our industrial economy, in contrast, relies on our trusting and playing fair in new kinds of organizations: firms, cities, and nations, and on our changing our activities and locations to support them.

Those new organizations would also include voluntary or civil society associations of all kinds—universities to parties.

The first places where clans were weak, like northern Europe, had bigger stronger firms, cities, and nations, and are richer today.

Not quite right. Northern Europe did not have bigger cities than Asia. Big firms were a much later phenomenon and did not arrive on the scene until the 1800s. Nations, however, emerging in the middle ages, did presuppose weakening clans.

Family clans tend to bring personal benefits, but social harms, such as less sorting, specialization, agglomeration, innovation, trust, fairness, and rule of law.

This may be going too far. Is innovation due to decline of clannism, or agglomeration in big cities? I would however say that the extension of trust, fairness, and rule of law to society requires a decline of clannism. Clans tend to hog those things within their tight embrace of kin.

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