Social Permeability, Egalitarianism, and Immigration

Throughout the Western world, immigration (whether legal or illegal, and often approximating invasion more than true migration) is perhaps the single biggest issue facing both the people and the politicians.  The Western world is finding itself facing an unprecedented mass influx of entrants from other, non-western parts of the world.  While the history of the West has certainly involved mass movements of people at various times, these have always been understood to constitute either invasions or colonisations.  The idea of millions of outsiders moving into a culture and it being considered “immigration” is a vastly new (and dangerous) concept in the West.

Nevertheless, there are many in our society who seem to be perfectly fine with the idea of mass immigration radically altering the cultural, religious, and genetic bases of Western societies.  Indeed, the acceptability, or lack thereof, of mass immigration is one of the major points of division between so-called civic nationalists on one side and ethnonationalists (speaking generally) and especially white nationalists on the other.  Civic nationalists, who are often really just straight up open borders supporters, believe that membership in a new society can be established as easily as simply taking an oath and signing some paperwork.  “You can be a polygamist totem worshiper who believes albinos should be harvested for the magical elixirs in their livers and still be a good American,” and all that.

The common assumption, at least among the coastal élites, is that openness to immigration is correlated with democratic sensibilities in particular, drawing from a more generalised standard of egalitarianism.  Because these élites rarely interact in any meaningful way with the immigrants who comprise the “mass” in mass immigration, they tend to assume the fungibility of the “lower classes.”  This is why the political arm of the Cathedral sees immigrants as a source of political capital – one voter is as good as another, and if a new set of voters can be imported who will vote the way the Cathedral wants versus recalcitrant natives who insist upon voting for their own interests, then all the better.  It wouldn’t be the first time in recent history that this has happened.  The corporate arm of the Cathedral sees immigrants in much the same way – as replacement labourers for natives who are too expensive and have a fractious insistence upon earning a fair wage.

However, increasing democratisation and equality have not noticeably served to make either the masses or their “ethno-elites” more favourably disposed to mass immigration.  Indeed, the opposite is widely occurring, as can be seen daily around us.

This perceived irony can be explained using social permeability theories developed by the Norwegian social anthropologist Fredrik Barth, especially those aspects drawn from his studies of interethnic interactions and the social acceptance of ethnically foreign individuals between the Pathans and Baluchis along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  Barth’s fundamental approach to the interactions between neighbouring ethnic groups was the observation that ethnic groupings are not isolates.  They do not exist with closed, impermeable boundaries.  Different groups are not autochthonous, remaining perpetually impermeable to neighbouring tribes.  Instead, the common occurrence is that interactions will occur, leading to cultural (and genetic) exchange.

In many cases, circumstances will work to make one linguistic or cultural group more “fit” for the common environment, resulting in its language and culture becoming dominant, gradually attracting members of other cultures to it, assimilating them into its cultural and linguistic milieu.  It is believed by many Indo-Europeanists, such as J.P. Mallory for example, that this is what occurred during the Indo-European takeover of the Balkans – the previous “Old European” cultures (e.g. the Cuceteni-Tripolyi grouping) were in some cases invaded and in some cases infiltrated by small groups of Indo-Europeans whose pastoralist culture was more suited to the drier conditions coming into existence in the region at that time.  The more hierarchical Indo-Europeans provided ways for native Cucuteni-Tripolyis to integrate into their pastoralist society, while the more egalitarian native cultures could not draw the intruders into their own agriculturalist society.  Gradually, Indo-Europeans replaced them in both language and culture, and assimilated them genetically.

As much as many in the dissident Right may wish to reject such notions, they nevertheless are true to a certain extent.  Ethnogenesis, ethnofusion, ethnopartition, and even ethnocide are all historical forces that have played roles in inter-group interactions for thousands of years of human society.

But back to Barth’s observations in Afghanistan.  Barth studied the Pathans and the Baluchis, two tribally-organised groups.  What he found was that over the long-term course of interaction between these two groups, the Baluchis were steadily gaining a linguistic and cultural dominance over the Pathans.  Essentially, individual Pathans on the margins of their society were finding places within the Baluchi organisation, were being added, Baluchis were essentially absorbing into their own population a steady flow of Pathans – and the opposite was not taking place.  As a result, Baluchi language and culture were coming to predominate between the two groups.  This was counterintuitive – the Pathan tribes were generally stronger, richer, better armed, more populous, and enjoyed the prestige of a greater military reputation.  Yet, they were losing people and ground to the Baluchis, their language being slowly replaced in an increasing number of areas.

Why?

Barth argued that the reason was because of the differences in social organisation between the two sets of tribes.  Pathans were more egalitarian – a band of brothers, a company of warriors, but with less in the way of authoritative leadership, and also less room for marginal, less warlike or less skillful members to find roles and places to exist within the cultural structure.  The Baluchis, on the other hand, were more hierarchical, with a much deeper set of vertical relationships that provided much greater opportunities for individuals seeking to join Baluchi society to find places within the patron-client system.  It didn’t matter that you weren’t really that great of a warrior, you could still find a place to serve as some chieftain’s client, and thus prove your social worth in other ways.

As a result, socially marginal Pathans could find “sponsors” in Baluchi society and be integrated into the hierarchical structure without causing undue displacement or competition with native Baluchis.  This is similar, in many ways, to how knights and clerks during the Middle Ages could travel and find service with foreign sovereigns, or how the Romans were able to integrate foreign notables into their imperial system of service.  In both cases we see hierarchical patron-client systems which were able to absorb and convert outsiders.

On the other hand, marginal Baluchis attempting to move in the opposite direction were entering an egalitarian structure where most members shared a piece of the power pie.  With little vertical hierarchy to provide support, intrusions by outsiders merely served to dilute individual power further, and thus created resentment and rejection.

This is essentially what we see going on today with mass immigration into egalitarian and democratic western countries.  Immigrants enter into direct competition with the natives, both politically and economically, diluting both the access to the power pie held by native voters and to the economic wage pie earned by native workers (as well as drawing off of native wealth directly through welfare, etc., in many instances).  Obviously this is good for the globalist, transnational, ethnically unconcerned élites, but is bad for the natives and for their native ethno-elites, who find themselves undercut in their own societies.

This contrasts with earlier and more successful assimilations of mass immigrant movements in the USA and other Anglospheric nations.  These assimilation efforts succeeded better because those earlier movements saw greater attempts at integrating immigrants into patronage systems which reinforced existing hierarchical social structures.  Everyone knew their place, and the descendants of immigrants could rise in rank as they “proved their worth,” so to speak, becoming fully acculturated members of their adopted society.  These are all things that are notably absent from current western approaches to immigration.

It also helped that the three primary countries in question (USA, Canada, and Australia) during the earlier periods of mass immigration were frontier-type societies that could better tolerate egalitarian and democratic impulses because there was plenty of room for growth and expansion, and thus greater margins for error.

Hence, we find today’s situation to be one in which millions of marginal Latinos, Africans, and Muslims are being inserted into egalitarian societies which have no place for them and which have no real mechanism for ever providing such a place for them.  Societies with well-grounded hierarchical authority structures could perhaps attempt to digest some of them.  Modern western societies which pretend against all reason that “everyone is the same” and attempt to act on that principle will completely fail to do so.

So what can western nations do to develop more credible and functional immigration schemes? That they should do so, rather than trying to isolate themselves as impermeable, autarkic entities, can easily be argued.  When done right, immigration can be a boon to a society.  It’s all about controlling the quality and quantity of immigrants to meet your nation’s desired specifications.

First, western nations must get serious about eliminating mass immigration in toto and get serious about selectivity.  Mass immigration merely feeds (and then breaks) egalitarian democracy, yet simply cannot be dealt with via patron-client mechanisms for building loyalty because it provides too many clients, not enough patrons.

Second, walk back democracy and equality, and reinstitute more rational forms of social hierarchy and restrictions upon the distribution of power.  Immigrants should not be coming to their host societies so they can vote or displace natives economically, but so they can expand and add to them in valuable and real ways through service.  We should note that following this advice would be beneficial in multiple areas, not just immigration.

Lastly, we should encourage the restructuring of patron-client relationships (via businesses, aristocrats, ethno-elites, etc.) that will selectively choose immigrants as beneficiaries.  Instead of H1-B economic mercenaries sending American technology back to China and India, we need those who will submit to patron-client relationships (tailored to circumstances as they exist on the ground) and who will then begin the process of loyalty building and genuine (rather than superficial or merely civic) assimilation and integration.

The lesson of history is that egalitarianism generally tends to fail above the level of the village or the clan, making societies less competitive and more prone to subversion by potentially unfriendly foreign elements.  This lesson certainly applies to the multifarious structures that can fall under the broad rubric of “immigration.”  Successful societies are not impermeable, but control their permeability by channeling entry into themselves through vertically-oriented hierarchical patron-client relationships that inculcate loyalty and acculturation rather than merely civic “paper” citizenship.

 

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6 thoughts on “Social Permeability, Egalitarianism, and Immigration

  1. How is this:

    Mass immigration merely feeds (and then breaks) egalitarian democracy, yet simply cannot be dealt with via patron-client mechanisms for building loyalty because it provides too many clients, not enough patrons.

    not directly in contradiction to this:

    This is why the political arm of the Cathedral sees immigrants as a source of political capital – one voter is as good as another, and if a new set of voters can be imported who will vote the way the Cathedral wants versus recalcitrant natives who insist upon voting for their own interests, then all the better. It wouldn’t be the first time in recent history that this has happened. The corporate arm of the Cathedral sees immigrants in much the same way – as replacement labourers for natives who are too expensive and have a fractious insistence upon earning a fair wage.

    Are you not simply bitching about the patron-client relationship that does exist with immigration in the West?

    And you are claiming that the West actually is egalitarian and doesn’t simply preach this egalitarianism to mask its real operations?

    It seems if you want to take this line of reasoning, you need to (1) either deny or dispute critiques of Western/American capitalism that implicate the exploitation and violent impositions of Western imperatives on the third world; or (2) make some claim that the West/America ought to be exempt from similar tactics and strategies used against their nations and populations.

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    1. How is this….not directly in contradiction to this

      It’s because simply importing millions of people and giving them the vote and allowing them to vote their natural inclination for other peoples’ stuff, yada yada is not the same thing as the genuine sort of patron-client relationship of the kind I referenced throughout the entire article and which Barth was describing in his work.

      You’re comparing apples with oranges.

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      1. It’s because simply importing millions of people and giving them the vote and allowing them to vote their natural inclination for other peoples’ stuff, yada yada

        The progressive agenda is simply the migrants’ “natural inclination?”

        of the kind I referenced throughout the entire article and which Barth was describing in his work.

        If you could provide more examples from the book, that would be appreciated. Your likening of the Baluchi-Pathans to medieval knights acting as mercenaries makes little sense regarding “assimilation into the host culture” and the example of Roman Imperialism seems to definitely fit within the patron-client relationship in today’s West (all of the Latino, Black, Muslim, LBGTQ+ representatives being funded and promoted) with the goal being the “conversion” of the notables to the liberal. What is it that makes this relationship “non-genuine?”

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  2. After further reading of Barth (though it isn’t clear which publications you’re referencing), using his work to draw the conclusions presented seems very strange.

    From his supposedly most cited essay (link in next post), Barth’s main thesis is that “ethnicity” is primarily based upon what the agents ascribe to being crucial. In other words, it isn’t based upon the “objective” forms of activity or culture that some Western anthropologist observes, rather it is based upon what members and non-members attribute to being part of this ethnicity and not that ethnicity, ie. boundaries. He specifically points out that the cultural “stuff” is not definitive, though it may be constitutive.

    Additionally, Barth claims that ethnicities primarily function, not as “culture bearing units,” but as organizational types. This doesn’t mean, as it seems you interpret in this piece, that an ethnicity is defined by its own political or social organization, but that agents organize themselves utilizing ethnicity. In fact, he specifically provides this account to emphasize his meaning:

    Likewise, we must expect to find that one ethnic group, spread over a territory with varying ecologic circumstances, will exhibit regional diversities of overt institutionalized behaviour which do not reflect differences in cultural orientation. How should they then be classified if overt institutional forms are diagnostic? A case in point is the distributions and diversity of Pathan local social systems, discussed below (pp. 117 ff.). By basic Pathan values, a Southern Pathan from the homogeneous, lineageorganized mountain areas, can only find the behaviour of Pathans in Swat so different from, and reprehensible in terms of, their own values that they declare their northern brothers ‘no longer Pathan’. Indeed, by ‘objective’ criteria, their overt pattern of organization seems much closer to that of Panjabis. But I found it possible, by explaining the circumstances in the north, to make Southern Pathans agree that these were indeed Pathans too, and grudgingly to admit that under those circumstances they might indeed themselves act in the same way. It is thus inadequate to regard overt institutional forms as constituting the cultural features which at any time distinguish an ethnic group – these overt forms are determined by ecology as well as by transmitted culture. Nor can it be claimed that every such diversification within a group represents a first step in the direction of subdivision and multiplication of units. We have well-known documented cases of one ethnic group, also at a relatively simple level of economic organization, occupying several different ecologic niches and yet retaining basic cultural and ethnic unity over long periods (cf., e.g., inland and coastal Chuckchee (Bogoras 1904-9) or reindeer, river, and coast Lapps (Gjessing, 1954)).

    When we come to the Baluchi-Pathan fieldwork, your usage seems even more counter to Barth’s claims.

    In the case of Pathan borderlands, influence and security in the segmentary and anarchic societies of this region derive from a man’s previous actions, or rather from the respect that he obtains from these acts as judged by accepted standards of evaluation. The main fora for exhibiting Pathan virtues are the tribal council, and stages for the display of hospitality. But the villager in Kohistan has a standard of living where the hospitality he can provide can hardly compete with that of the conquered serfs of neighbouring Pathans, while the client of a Baluch leader cannot speak in any tribal council. To maintain Pathan identity in these situations, to declare oneself in the running as a competitor by Pathan value standards, is to condemn oneself in advance to utter failure in performance. By assuming Kohistani or Baluch identity, however, a man may, by the same performance, score quite high on the scales that then become relevant. The incentives to a change in identity are thus inherent in the change in circumstances.
    Different circumstances obviously favour different performances. Since ethnic identity is associated with a culturally specific set of value standards, it follows that there are circumstances where such an identity can be moderately successfully realized, and limits beyond which such success is precluded. I will argue that ethnic identities will not be retained beyond these limits, because allegiance to basic value standards will not be sustained where one’s own comparative performance is utterly inadequate.

    IOW, those who view themselves as Pathan but consistently fail to exhibit the proscribed values increasingly recategorize themselves into an ethnicity whose standards can be realized. Also of note is Barth’s characterization of the reasons for Baluchi acceptance of formerly Pathan individuals:

    Southern Pathans become Baluch and not vice versa; this transformation can take place with individuals but more readily with whole households or small groups of households; it involves loss of position in the rigid genealogical and territorial segmentary system of Pathans and incorporation through clientage contract into the hierarchical, centralized system of the Baluch. Acceptance in the receiving group is conditional on the ambition and opportunism of Baluch political leaders.

    Not only does this account conflict with the description of Pathan society as “egalitarian,” but it also seems to create doubt regarding “deep vertical hierarchical” organization being the reason the Baluchi more readily assimilate the Pathan, instead offering the idea that political ambition and opportunism creates a “space” for these Pathans to be utilized (which might then lead to a reconsideration of whether the “Cathedral” is engaged in a similar patron-client relationship).

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    1. edit: The sentence above should state:

      IOW, those who view themselves as Pathan but consistently fail to exhibit the ethnically relevant values increasingly recategorize themselves into an ethnicity whose standards can be realized.

      Also; if the link gets trapped in the spam filter, the essay referenced is the introduction to “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference,” most of which can be read in a preview from google books.

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