Corrupting Family and Social Bonds

In western philosophy and social sciences there seems to persist a conceptual fallacy for more than a millennium on small-scale (monocultural) societies and urbanized (multicultural) societies. Ancient Greek states were in fact city-states and ancient Greek Athens’ population consisted for more than 50% of slaves from conquered/colonized communities, hence a very multicultural and segregated city. Karl Popper builds his entire magnus opus ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’ (1945) on constructing oppositional categories: closed and open societies. Closed societies are ‘ethnic (monocultural) communities’ and the (ideal) open society is the Greek (multicultural) city-state.

Our whole western anthropological and sociological arsenal of concepts around European societies and non-European societies is still contaminated with these kind of Eurocentric and colonial biases.

We, anthropologists, created the categories of civilized, primitive, savage and barbaric societies. Philosophy and sociology, history later on came up with bad euphemisms like traditional, pre-literate, non-industrialized, pre-modern, un(der)developed and modern and developed societies, of the Third World, (Second??) and First World.

It’s time for a radical change, to correct this categorical fallacy, which fits both the contemporary and historical facts better.


The idea that first nations (ethnic minorities/aboriginal/indigenous peoples) CAN survive without second nations (empires/world-religions/nation-states/multinationals) but the latter CANNOT survive without first nations is a powerful insight with massive potential for our analysis of and political thinking on major contemporary problems.

The historical fact that empires/world religions/nation-states/multinationals are ‘much younger’ (at the most 8000 years) than indigenous peoples (tens of thousands of years) offers foundation for this proposition.

This conception is parsimonious which means: a simple recategorization of (in)compatibilities and complementarities between first nations and second nations which explains a lot of things.

The basic idea is not knew. Sigmund Freud (Unbehagen Kultur), Norbert Elias (Civilization Process) and Michel Foucault (Persistence of Pastoral Power) already had preliminary thoughts on this idea.

These, and many other, studies point at an ancient elusive  experience of a ‘Paradise Lost’ (forms/manifestations of alienation) which is almost an exclusive European cosmology. China and India, for example, will not easily recognize these conceptions in their cosmologies/worlds.

Only sporadic we find western studies which try to look through the eyes of (western and non-western) indigenous societies to European societies. Giambattista Vico, Johann Godfried Herder and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were predecessors of many (European-civilization rooted) anthropologists who took and take a deep step out of their European comfort zone.

A number of anthropologists arrived in a position to have both a beneficial and critical eye to their own European/national culture (Radin 1935; Devereux 1967; Diamond 1974; Sahlins 2008).

Combining and modifying these cultural self-reflective conceptions with those of anthropologist’s, James Scott, ‘The Art of Not Being Governed‘ (2009) and sociologist’s Krishan Kumar, ‘Nation-states as empires, empires as nation-states: two principles, one practice?‘ (2010) directs at a claim that centuries’ old European binary conceptions of ‘Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft‘ (Tonnies 1887), of ‘barbaric/primitive-modern/civilized’ societies (Tylor 1889), of ‘open-societies (Popper 1948), first-third worlds are, persistent Eurocentric, categorical fallacies.

Integrating these conceptions a provoking thinking emerges which offers an innovative understanding of why young men in my clinical fieldwork, with their families, from ‘first nation’ minorities in The Netherlands develop specific ‘incomprehensible and unintelligible’ resistant behaviour which brought them, and state institutions, in big trouble.

The application of the twin-concept of first nations and second nations unveiled that how nation-states’ purpose is to create ‘individualized’ citizens which is, on certain levels incompatible, with the, ‘collectivistic’ reproducing, purposes of ‘indigenous/aboriginal’ families and communities. (see Human Bonding)

This bold statement is founded on a tghorough reading of Michel Foucault’s longlife efforts of deconstucting the church’s pastoral, and the state’s bio-powers to discipline and domesticate our human (evolutionary) reproductive & survival powers (Foucault; Omnes & Singulatim 1979).

Self-evident state practices & interventions like public educational law, placing children in state custody, psychiatric hospitalization and juvenile incarceration are explicitly corrupting, sometimes even destroying, family and social bonds. Which touches core family efforts (purposes) to reproduce next generations of social children.

For my Abstracts and PPT on First Nations and Second Nations here and here

Dirck van Bekkum (MSc) clinical-systemic anthropologist