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Home arrow History arrow Life History Evolution and Sociology: The Biological Backstory of Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010

Community and Religiosity

Coming Apart makes much of community, surveying the bonds that comprise it, and the social norms that maintain it. Communities that function, which are good places to live and rear children, are those that have religious members, parent-teacher association participation, and civic fund drives; they are places with some degree of giving and volunteering, investment, and concern. All such activities create social capital. Religion is repeatedly treated because it is a major source of social capital. Volunteers and benevolent foundations, youth groups and local societies, interest clubs, and political organizations, all very often have religious affiliations and are maintained by religious persons. These sources of social capital remain Belmont staples. Alternatively, the simultaneous deterioration of secular and religious participation, and the reductions in social capital that follow from it, renders Fishtown communities unfit vehicles for the socialization of children (Murray 2012).

The social capital of which Murray speaks has several parallels within the life history literature. First, there is reference to embodied capital, a term denoting investment in skill development and knowledge acquisition (Griskevicius et al. 2011). Embodied capital makes the K selected more able organizers and contributors (Kaplan et al. 2003), and thus more effective vectors of social capital. Second, and more directly, the highly Kselected also show elevations in altruism (Figueredo et al. 2004, 2005), suggesting that the blessings of embodied capital will be benevolently disseminated, rather than selfishly enjoyed (Del Giudice and Belsky 2011). More than showing nepotistic favor to kin as expected by the dictates of inclusive fitness (Hamilton 1964), elevated altruism among the highly K selected predict “long-term cooperative relationships” with non-kin (Figueredo et al. 2013), characteristic of reciprocal altruismm2 (Trivers 1971). Altruism is a logical corollary of the slow life history because reciprocal altruism, altruism directed at non-kin, provides delayed and diffuse fitness gains which can only reward on average in the kinds of stable societies that slow life history strategists reside in and construct. Altruists gain reputation and status only through iterative interactions, and only within regulated societies (Kaplan et al. 2007). Additionally, there is a correlation between religiosity and slow life history (Rushton 1985; Figueredo et al. 2006, 2007). The elevated religiosity displayed by the K strategist is more broadly symptomatic of elevations in “moral rule following” (Gladden et al. 2009). Thus, founding religious institutions, and participating in religious services, is but one expression of the K selected disposition to “formalize social and moral rules” (Gladden et al. 2009). For a summary statement of social capital, one must only look to the K Factor, an amalgamated life history variable which measures the following dispositions toward generating social capital: (1) support and altruism toward non-kin; (2) close relationship quality; (3) communitarian beliefs; and (4) religiosity (Figueredo et al. 2007).

The K selected do not just passively exhibit altruism, morality, and religiosity, they seek and create altruistic, moral, and religious communities. They solve collective action problems and provide the institutional superstructure in which the r selected can participate. The Kselected then actively coerce participation within that superstructure. The life history literature is very clear on this point. The K selected not only “formulate and promulgate social norms,” they are “overrepresented among the rule- enforcers.” Gladden et al. (2009) make this point very explicitly, writing that the K selected act the part of “altruistic punishers,” incurring the cost of punishment to facilitate social cohesiveness. They “punish or deter freeriders that violated social rules aimed at facilitating collective cooperation” (Gladden et al. 2009). As Gladden et al. (2009) state, “slow LH individuals would require more social stability and social order than fast LH individuals for their strategy to be optimal.” Sherman et al. similarly note that, at once, the K selected “rise higher in the social hierarchy” conferring the ability to enforce social norms, and “are more socially concerned and socially engaged,” conferring the motivation to enforce social norms (Sherman et al. 2013). The same pattern holds for religious norms (Figueredo et al. 2006, 2007); the K selected “are both more likely to exhibit religious behavior and more likely to follow and enforce” related norms and practices (Gladden et al. 2009). In essence, the K strategist is creating an environment conducive to the K strategy. This is just what beavers do. Beavers create the controlled aquatic environment that best suits their unique anatomy and instincts (Dawkins 2004; Odling-Smee et al. 2013). In both the beaver and the Kstrategist, there is an expression of a strategy, but also a concomitant drive to create an environment conducive to that strategy. This process of finding and constructing environments congruent with one’s traits generates serious scholarly research under the following names: Niche construction, genotype-specific habitat selection, active gene-environment correlation, experience producing drives (Penke 2010, p. 257), niche building, and niche seeking (Dumont 2010, p. 134; Hertler 2015a). In each case, the drive to experience conditions conducive to one’s strategy is part of the strategy itself. Thus, the application of life history evolution reframes the social capital produced by the broad elite as niche construction. Social capital is the K strategist’s way of establishing the stability that enables a long-term orientation, and the cooperation that maximizes it.

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