amoral familism

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Social action persistently oriented to the economic interests of the nuclear family. In a controversial account of poverty in a village in southern Italy (The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, 1958), Edward C. Banfield argued that the backwardness of the community was to be explained ‘largely but not entirely’ by ‘the inability of the villagers to act together for their common good or, indeed, for any end transcending the immediate, material interest of the nuclear family’. This was attributed to the ethos of ‘amoral familism’ which had been produced by the combination of a high death-rate, certain land-tenure conditions, and the absence of the institution of the extended family. Banfield's thesis provoked considerable debate about the nature of ‘familism’ and the role of culture generally in preventing or facilitating economic development (see development, sociology of).

Subjects: Sociology.

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