The last time Al Fin looked at Amy Chua (pictured below with husband Jed Rubenfeld) was in connection with the Tiger Mother furor. As fascinating as the Tiger Mother phenomenon turned out to be, Chua’s newest foray into popular non-fiction may be even more controversial. In her new book: The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, Chua and her husband wander into the minefield of comparative US cultures, and why some cultures fail.
Chua is being pilloried from all sides — much as she was with “The Tiger Mom” concept. The politically correct set, in particular, is upset to the breaking point. But some critics from the right are also a bit perturbed — for different reasons. When that happens, a wise person should perk up and suspect that something big is in the air.
Looking at minorities like Mormons, Nigerian immigrants, Asian-Americans and Jews, among others, Chua and Rubenfeld contend that successful groups share three traits: a superiority complex, feelings of insecurity and impulse control. America, they conclude, used to be a “triple-package culture” before it succumbed to “instant-gratification disorder.”… _NewYorkTimes
The author of the NYT piece excerpted above attempted to take a cool, superior attitude toward Chua and Rubenfeld, their life together, and their worldview. She clearly adopted that tone to distance herself from any heresies for which Chua and Rubenfeld may need to be burned at the stake. 😉
It may be taboo to say, but some groups in America do better than others. Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success. Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all. _Steve Sailer VDare on The Triple Package
And so Chua and husband Rubenfeld set out to explain the failures and successes of different population groups based upon cultural values. Certainly, cultural values are key to achievement and success. But where do cultural values come from, beyond the obvious methods of cultural transmission across generations?
The book gives examples of groups — such as Cubans in Miami — who went from poverty to success in one generation. America abounds in such examples, from Vietnamese in Southern California to Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese across the country.
And look at how quickly West Germany bounced back from the absolute depravity it suffered in the years after WWII. Or how quickly Japan and South Korea bounced back after their respective devastation from different wars. Powerful stuff, this culture — eh?
But what happened to Haitian immigrants to the US? Weren’t they supposed to rise quickly to prosperity like the Cubans? Clearly something is wrong with certain groups that seem resistant to success, but what is the problem? Is it “merely” culture, or is it something even deeper?
Why are some groups — such as American blacks — so perennially violent, prone to underachieving, so dependent on government handouts and preferences, and so blessed with an egregious sense of entitlement? And why do most immigrants of African descent fall into the same desperate positions — despite coming from different cultures?
Chua and Rubenfeld gave the example of Nigerian immigrants, as an example of a successful group that is driven by a superior culture. But Nigeria (like the rest of sub Saharan Africa) is not ethnically homogeneous — as anyone who is aware of the bloody tribal wars will know. The Igbo people of Nigeria, in particular, are a nation apart. If one focuses upon the Igbo — rather than Nigerians at large — an exceptional people can be found. And a reason beyond “mere” culture can be found for the successes of the Igbo.
Richard Lynn and Charles Murray looked at some of the same issues as Chua-Rubenfeld. While not discounting culture as an important determinant, these authors and many others built a powerful case for the importance of genes in determining the success or failure of societies, nations, and cultures.
In reality, one cannot separate cultures and genes. Genes contribute to the creation and propagation of culture, and culture helps to channel the propagation of genes in particular directions.
A culture of common chimpanzees, for example, is distinct from a culture of bonobos in behaviour. No one with an ounce of evolutionary intelligence will deny that genes are a crucial component of the difference between the two sub-species.
But when it comes to humans, even the best educated evolutionary biologists find excuses for why divergent brain evolution could not have played an important role in the differences in IQ, culture, or success between peoples derived from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia . . .
If you doubt whether breeding populations of humans have had enough time apart “out of Africa” to evolve into significantly different peoples, I suggest reading The 10,000 Year Explosion, by Cochran and Harpending. Then consider that human populations have been peeling out from Africa for hundreds of thousands of years. There has been time enough and much more.
A number of scientific projects (BGI and Project Einstein for example) are devoted to tracking down the genetic basis for intelligence, and the tendency for particular breeding populations to produce high IQ individuals. It shouldn’t be many more years before incontrovertible evidence linking genes and IQ in human populations will be flowing like a river through an unwelcoming PC landscape.
The work of Chua and Rubenfeld is important for the data it provides and for the ideas that it will open up. Rather than being seen as a contradiction to the work of Richard Lynn and Charles Murray, it should be seen as a complementary work.
It is a big deal, an important development in the evolution of humans understanding their own cultures and both their cultural and biological evolutions.