Frank Kemp Salter is an Australian academic and researcher. Most of his career was at the Max Planck Research Centre for Human Ethology, in Andechs, Germany. Salter is best known for his writings on ethnicity and ethnic interests. Originally trained at Sydney University as a political scientist, his doctoral and subsequent research focused on ethology. He studies political phenomena using the methods and theories of behavioral biology in addition to conventional methods. Those phenomena include hierarchy (Emotions in Command, 1995), indoctrination (Ethnic Conflict and Indoctrination, 1998, edited with I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt), ethnic altruism and conflict (Welfare, Ethnicity and Altruism, 2002, Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship and Ethnicity, 2004), and genetic interests (On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration, 2003). Salter has also been employed as an adviser to Australia’s populist One Nation party.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Besides the tenor and the scope of collective genetic interests in humans, your field of investigation covers the universal biological underpinnings of the obedience to one’s hierarchical superior—especially in the framework of bureaucracy. May you tell us more about your theory as it stands?
Frank Salter: In writing Emotions in Command I observed command-giving in many organizations, from the military, to courts and parliaments, to nightclub doormen and theatrical rehearsals. The methods and observational categories were very much in the ethological tradition of Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, who I later joined as a colleague at his Max Planck Research Centre.
Observing the organizations, I expected to find dominance behaviours, which I did, but also found friendly conduct. In ethology these are designated “affiliative”. Effective leaders take care to soften commands and bind subordinates to them through acts of generosity and fairness. In doing this they are helped by what I called the “dominance infrastructure”, this being the organization’s set of rules backed by inducements and punishments. My observations confirmed part of Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy—that it is a rule-governed hierarchy. Being rule governed, with obedience largely ensured by the dominance infrastructure, administrative positions can be filled by a wide range of personalities. Domineering behaviour or brilliant leadership have negative and positive effects respectively, but are not required for the organization to tick over.
It was the discovery of the affiliative component of hierarchy that led me to search for an “affiliative infrastructure”. That search resulted in me studying ethnic ties, which can bind large populations. Is there such a thing as an “ethnic infrastructure”?
Grégoire Canlorbe: A popular claim by J. Philippe Rushton is that racial differences are displayed in ethnocentrism, which strictly arise from those in genetic similarity: the least genetically heterogeneous ethnic groups being those most inclined to an ethnocentric behavior, and reciprocally. The truth of such assertion notably requires the validity of these two premises: namely that race differences are attested in the field of genetic homogeneity; and that ethnocentric behaviors cannot be high in national groups with genetically distant members, i.e., cannot be selected beyond the level of kinship. Do you endorse such couple of ideas?
Frank Salter: Philippe Rushton’s theory was not the basis of my research into ethnic kinship. Instead, it was William Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness, which is generally accepted in ethology and evolutionary biology. The theory states that kinship bonds promote the reproduction of shared genes. Hamilton extended his theory to ethnic groups. I’m not aware of the finding you describe (the variations in genetic homogeneity, and the fact the degree of genetic similarity predicts the level of ethnocentrism), though they have a certain plausibility. What I am aware of is that the degree of genetic homogeneity is related to solidarity, a sense of social cohesion; or, to put it differently, that conflict increases when society becomes more diverse genetically. That finding, which is compatible with Hamilton’s theory, has been repeated again and again. The work of the late Tatu Vanhanen is an excellent example.
Nonetheless it seems that a more diverse society can actually lead to greater ethnocentrism: not at the level of society taken as whole, though, but instead at the level of the different ethnic components of society. As you can see in the case of America especially (but this is a universal trend in the West), white majorities are now increasingly ethnocentric, but it clearly doesn’t compare to the very high ethnocentrism of black or Latino minorities. This is an issue the media and the universities don’t understand, and never talk about. I remember a recent interview with political scientist George Friedman, in which he agreed that contemporary America is based on a racial caste system ruled by a racist, ethnocentric oppressive white majority. Conversely it is maintained that non-white minorities are oppressed and free from any racial feelings. The exact opposite is true. Whites are generally more individualistic and less ethnically motivated than minorities. This is evident in surveys and degree of bloc voting in elections. Europe and its settler societies score lower in collectivism than other civilizations. Those differences make multiculturalism possible, because if whites were as ethnocentric as minorities, they would quickly end affirmative action and replacement-level immigration.
This interpretation contradicts the current mantras of the Black Lives Matter movement and its ideology derived from Marxist whiteness theory. They would have us believe that white societies are profoundly racist because they privilege white people. At the same time they deny that whiteness and by implication blackness and Hispanicness have objective ethnic dimensions. They have no theory to explain why some minorities in the U.S. have substantially higher average incomes than whites (Chinese, Japanese, Indians). Neither can they explain why a racist society fixated on white power would allow indiscriminate immigration policies to put whites on track to become a minority, or why such a society would accept anti-white curricula in universities and schools.
This and other messages current in the mass media and educational establishment indicate the wholesale politicization of the university system, resulting in a collapse of rationality in elite public discourse.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Does the cultural, political assimilationism of the ancient Roman empire (which neoconservative America has basically inherited) come as an efficient, sound “group evolutionary strategy”? As regards the flourishing of white virility in a multi-racial context: how do you assess the Crocodile Dundee trilogy’s comparison of the situation in Australia with that in the USA?
Frank Salter: It could be argued that the Roman Empire was the outcome of the Roman group strategy, though the Empire took on a life of its own with the adoption of imperial rule. The best work I’ve seen on the Roman Empire’s evolutionary impact is by Peter Frost and the late Henry Harpending. They argued that the Empire and Medieval states inadvertently genetically pacified their populations by using the judicial system to execute violent males. Up to one percent of each generation was executed or died in the legal process. The European homicide rate fell steadily from the 14th to the 20th century. To utilize a metaphor from Crocodile Dundee, genetic pacification results in fewer and fewer interactions between men ending with the words, “that is a knife”.
As for white virility, the multiculturalist reality across the West since the 1970s has been that the founding ethnic group is subordinated and reduced demographically. The character Crocodile Dundee was played by an Anglo Australian (Paul Hogan), and Anglos have been the big losers from large scale indiscriminate immigration introduced from the 1970s. The same is true in the United States. For Americans, one of the attractions of the film is that Mr. Dundee reminded them of their frontier ancestors—rugged, direct, masculine. He even carried a knife that resembled the one made famous by Jim Bowie. The reality is that Australian Anglos, like American whites, are not virile, but henpecked by the nanny state. They are pecked by affirmative action. Their history is falsified in the movies. Their children are turned against them by PC history classes. They are vilified by the mainstream media. In England their young women are raped en masse by immigrant Pakistani men. “Henpecked” is an inadequate metaphor, because these pathetic nonentities are on their way to become minorities in their own homelands.
Grégoire Canlorbe: When it comes to The Biology of Peace and War Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt judged the inter-group military conflict to occur as the product of cultural (rather than biological) evolution, while being partly predisposed at a genetic level through the instincts for xenophobia and aggression. He also contended the human species to be jointly endowed with a “biological filter” forbidding humans from taking the life of another human (in the framework of the “ritualization” of intra-group aggressiveness); and a “cultural filter” asking humans to kill their opponents in the framework of human wars. How do you assess those claims in view of the present data? After several decades of a prevalence of inter-group economic competition, do you expect a strong resurgence of the mode of group selection that is war?
Frank Salter: I think that Eibl’s core insights remain valid, though warfare needs to be distinguished from conflict. The latter occurs between individuals and groups and can occur spontaneously due to xenophobia and aggression. Warfare, on the other hand, is an organized activity. Individual soldiers need only follow orders to kill others, and those giving the orders can be motivated by a variety of motivations, including aggression but also the wish to be reelected, to make a profit or to spread an ideology. Eibl was right to emphasise the inborn taboo against killing, though there is variation in this trait; psychopaths exist in various degrees.
(Classical ethology did not handle individual variation very well. Especially with Konrad Lorenz it was focused on describing “species typical” behaviours.)
Eibl’s distinction between innate and culturally-directed sociality was a major contribution to behavioural biology. This distinction was also taken up by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox in their book, The Imperial Animal. Humans are evolved for small-scale ritualized fighting and ambushes. Modern armies demand systematic killing. The traumatic effects on soldiers is only partly mitigated by modern weapons which allow killing at a distance. No wonder that soldiers returning from combat often suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a species we are not fully evolved for this activity. Tiger and Fox extend this principle further. In their view humans are not evolved to be Weberian bureaucrats who treat other humans according to a set of formal rules.
Is warfare a form of group selection and is it likely to return on a large scale? Much modern warfare is unconnected with genetic selection, whether at the individual or group levels. Napoleonic soldiers on both sides died in their millions probably without benefiting their reproductive fitness, whether at the individual or ethnic level. The same goes for many wars. However, I think there are exceptions. Ethnic groups contain a large number of copies of their member’s genes, which can make it adaptive for individuals to sacrifice their lives to prevent genocide or displacement. The Russian soldiers who died resisting the Nazi invasion in the Second World War saved their ethnic kin from large scale replacement, which was Hitler’s war aim.
As for the future of warfare, it continues to be an instrument of foreign policy, though hopefully diplomatic methods for resolving conflicts will continue to develop.
Grégoire Canlorbe: In order to make sense of the long-established scientific helplessness of China (which has never delivered a genius veritably comparable to Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, or Benoît Mandelbrot), it has been sometimes advanced that the cognitive backwardness of Chinese civilization as a “group evolutionary strategy” should be connected to an insufficient masculine martial spirit. Yet Chinese history is one full of epic warlike males: let one think of Xiang Yy, Xue Rengui, Mao Zedong, or Jet Li; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is universally praised and studied. Another regularly invoked factor lies in the lack in creativity (both at a genetic and cultural level); but Chinese food or the Hong Kong movie industry—with masters like Tsui Hark or John Woo—are notoriously virtuoso. Do you see a valuable remaining explanation?
Frank Salter: I’m optimistic about China’s scientific potential. They and kindred populations have a high average mathematical IQ and a strong work ethic. What is remarkable is their delayed industrialization and democratisation. The evidence that China has a huge scientific potential is strong. As immigrants to democratic Western societies, they outperform whites in school and university. Their contribution to fundamental research appears to lag but is happening, for example in biomedical and computing fields. Also relevant is Taiwan’s relatively high scientific and technical innovation compared to the mainland. Another line of evidence is comparison of cultures and religions. China’s relatively low inventiveness, as indicated by the rate of patents, is probably the result of collectivist institutions. Confucious conformity was replaced by communist conformity. Constraints on free speech have not much improved with the transition to ethnic nationalism managed by a one party state.
This relates to a matter of equity that is rarely discussed. We are seeing a large scale transfer of intellectual property from the West to Asian economies, such as Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. Japan and lately Korea and Taiwan have been contributing to that knowledge for several decades. That vast body of knowledge took centuries for the liberal world to develop, often at large material and human cost. (By ‘liberal’ I mean rule-of-law and civil rights, which led to representative democracy.) Now that vast store of knowledge is treated as part of the global commons, something that should be free for all. That seems unfair. China is a regimented, undemocratic low wage society that has taken away jobs and wealth from the West. It has not adopted the democratic and liberal institutions compatible with creativity; instead it has been parasitic on Western liberalism. Liberalism has a price. It yields creativity and innovation, but also causes conflict and disorganization. Is it right that China has free access to Western intellectual property? I’m not sure if this is feasible, but it would be good to see the creative cultures of the world join together to collectively bargain with the less creative cultures. In effect our centuries-long investment in civil rights and democracy should be made to pay dividends.
That conversation was initially published in American Renaissance, in October 2020