Harvard Professor on Cousin Marriages, Kinship and Democracy in Pakistan
In his recently published book entitled "The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous", Harvard Professor Joseph Henrich argues that western democracy and prosperity in America and Europe can be traced back to the Catholic Church's ban on cousin marriages and polygamy. These bans promoted individualism and created what is now known as a "nuclear family". Cousin marriages and strong kinship remain prevalent in present-day Pakistan, according to the author. Cousin marriage not only helps keep the wealth within the family but it is also used as a device to maintain kinship (biradri) networks that have negative political and economic consequences for the nation. Biradris promote nepotism and work against meritocracy. While the extent of kinship (biradri) networks in Pakistan is much higher than in America and Europe, it is not as high as in Africa and the Middle East. Biradris (kinships) play a powerful role in Pakistan's elections and political patronage networks. These run counter to meritocracy and the basic precepts of western-style democracy and national prosperity. Others, including Professor Anatol Lieven, believe that the presence of strong kinship networks makes Pakistani society strong and resilient.
|Kinship Intensity. Source: Phys.Org|
The preference for "electables" perpetuates the status quo and preserves the power of the privileged few. It denies the opportunity for new aspiring entrants to bring about any positive change. It depresses new voter turnout and discourages wider participation in the political process.
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