A reader wonders whether the French are using the term "polygamy" to refer to the general tendency of black Africans toward low paternal investment family structures, which is bound up with low paternal certainty. My impression is that there is some degree of formal polygamy found in France, but that he may be on to something. The French may be using "polygamy" to refer to what we call "illegitimacy:" the whole complex of low-father involvement family structures that are found more among blacks than other groups:
What does your French correspondent mean by "polygamy"? Does France permit polygamy? Or does it just mean that black men in Africa live with several women at the same time without benefit of marriage under the same roof? Or do they indeed live under the same roof? In some forms of polygamy each woman and her children have separate homes.
Thus, if there is no marriage in France, and the "wives" live with their own respective children in separate dwellings, what we see is the classic ghetto pattern in the USA: black men servicing several women concurrently, traveling from house to house as the spirit moves, and leaving it up to the women to take care of themselves and their children.
And by extension, American ghetto patterns are nothing more than a reversion to the classic peasant African social pattern: marginally employed males traveling from hearth to hearth impregnating females, and leaving it up to the women to take care of themselves and their children, typically by growing food in small plots in the homelands areas [or, in America beginning in the 1960s, by collecting welfare].
The New York Times occasionally pays note to how little work men in Africa do compared to their womenfolk. Helene Cooper recently wrote on the NYT editorial page an essay entitled "Waiting for Their Moment in the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman" [i.e., Africa] about a memory from her trip to the Congo:
I've been unable to get one image from Bukavu out of my mind. It is of an old woman, in her 30's. It was almost twilight when I saw her, walking up the hill out of the city as I drove in. She carried so many logs that her chest almost seemed to touch the ground, so stooped was her back. Still, she trudged on, up the hill toward her home. Her husband was walking just in front of her. He carried nothing. Nothing in his hand, nothing on his shoulder, nothing on his back. He kept looking back at her, telling her to hurry up.
Likewise, respectable publications have started to discuss a major reason why the AIDS rate is so high in black Africa: the tendency of women to have "multiple concurrent relationships."
Of course, only individual aspects of the African tradition are open for criticism in polite society. Anyone who puts the pieces of the puzzle together, like my reader, is banished. Especially verboten is linking African customs to black social patterns in America or Europe.
I speculate that, at least in the western half of Eurasia, Europe and Africa, there is a "cline" running from, say, Finland in the north to sub-Saharan Africa in the south, of decreasing personal tendency toward monogamousness.
The roots are probably economic: women have traditionally been more reliant on men for food for their children the farther north they are, for various reasons. For example, in the the heavy soil of the north a man's labor is required to get rid of weeds by plowing, but in the light soil of tropic Africa, women with hoes can do the weeding.
The mechanism, I would guess, is shyness. Finns are painfully shy, so chasing women is hard work. Once you've got one, you do what it takes to keep her happy so you don't have to go through the agony of meeting another woman.
The farther south you go, the more forward men become. This leads to a "jealousy belt" in the lower temperate latitudes, like Sicily, where shyness is low and men tend to be vain and cocksure, but the economy and culture still require intense paternal investment. There, the men are constantly trying to seduce all the women they meet and trying to keep their womenfolk from meeting and being seduced by other men. Life is full of interest in the jealousy belt!
South of the Sahara, men tend to be extremely outgoing, and talented in the arts of seduction (chatting up girls, dancing, singing, and so forth). But the traditional low paternal investment tropical agricultural economy doesn't require much certainty of paternity, so they invest more effort in chasing new women than in providing for their current women or keeping other men away from their women.
Islam's attitude toward women is very much a product of the jealousy belt. Indeed, I suspect that Islamic social customs are driven in part by Arab revulsion toward the seemingly chaotic black African family structures that Arabs came in contact with when slaving in Africa.
This is one of the reasons it's likely that Islamic fundamentalism will become even more popular in the slums of Europe. Its strictures can serve to prevent moral collapse in a welfare state. When American states followed the Scandinavian lead and boosted AFDC payments to single mothers in the early 1960s, the moral collapse of poor blacks was almost instantaneous. Crime, illegitimacy, and drug use shot upwards as many black men reverted to their forefathers' family structures and started to live off their women.
Very roughly speaking, the farther north a people originated, the slower the welfare state works its moral rot. But nobody is immune. Illegitimacy has reached 24 among whites in America and almost twice that among Hispanics.
Islam can retard the process. Saudi Arabia became a feather-bedded welfare state over 30 years ago, but, while it's hardly thriving today, it hasn't yet decayed into the moral chaos of the American slums, probably due to the fanatical version of Islam practiced there.
It's likely that Muslim immigrant parents in welfare-state Europe, in the hopes of keeping their sons out of a life of street crime, will try ever harder to inculcate fundamentalist Islam in their children. Like the Black Muslims in America, whose Death Angels offshoot was apparently responsible for 71 executions of random whites in Northern California during the Zebra murders reign of terror in the 1970s, it would be logical for fundamentalist Muslims in Europe to attempt to restrain crime within their own communities by turning their young men's aggression outward against a common enemy, their host society.
We shall be living in interesting times.