Thursday, August 10, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #17 (second of two supplements to #15): Mark Weiner, "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014)


Mark Weiner's "The Paradox of Modern Individualism" (2014) provides still more observations about the significance of the clan form. This article appears in an issue of the journal Cato Unbound, along with three review articles by other Cato-related authors. Weiner's article, plus the review articles, all focus on how and why living under clan rule, versus living under government rule, can alter the prospects for individualism versus collectivism.
• Here Weiner reinforces his theme that government rule benefits individual freedom:
"As I argue in my recent book The Rule of the Clan, among its important benefits, a strong central state provides the most effective means to ensure that persons are treated as individuals, not merely as cousins. In its absence, people are forced to look to other institutions to address their social and legal problems, and the most enduring such organization in human history is the extended family, the clan — for which group loyalty trumps individual rights.
"… Clan organization is now capable of taking a variety of new forms beyond traditional kinship associations, which underscores the fact that individuals must claim their freedom not only against the state, but also through it." 
• Here Weiner reiterates what he means by "rule of the clan":
"First, and most prominently, by the rule of the clan I mean the legal institutions and cultural values of societies organized primarily on the basis of kinship —
"Second, by the rule of the clan I mean the political arrangements of societies governed by what the U.N.’s 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls “clannism.” These societies possess the outward trappings of a modern state but are founded on informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship, and on traditional ideals of patriarchal family authority.
"Third, and most broadly, by the rule of the clan I mean the antiliberal social and legal organizations that tend to grow in the absence of state authority or when the state is weak, including in modern democracies where the writ of government fails to run. These groups include associations dedicated to unlawful activity, such as petty criminal gangs, the Mafia, and international crime syndicates, such as the drug gangs of Mexico — which in their cultural markers of solidarity, their lack of opportunity for exit, and their feuding patterns look and act a great deal like traditional clans. Today racial identity groups and multinational corporations have the potential to transform into similar clanlike systems."
•. Here Weiner explains in more depth the paradox he sees for individualism in the context of the clan versus the state, assuming a state performs effectively:
"In this respect, modern individualism rests on a paradox. For persons to be treated as individuals, and for clans to become clubs, we require the state. If modern individualism is to survive, society needs effective government institutions dedicated to advancing the substantive end of personal autonomy. The state I have in mind need not be centralized (I am personally a strong supporter of federalism in the American context), but it must at all levels be dedicated to vindicating the public interest, defined as policies most citizens would rationally support regardless of their position within society at any given moment.
"Equally, to maintain its legitimacy, government must seek to address the needs that the rule of the clan meets far more directly. It must pursue policies that moderate economic inequality; it must provide a space for the flourishing of voluntary civil society organizations that provide opportunities for solidarity; and it must ensure that individuals have fair opportunities to exercise their autonomy within the marketplace and that they can effectively navigate the host of bureaucratic state institutions that provide the conditions of modern life."
There is surely much more material in Weiner's book, but I've not read it yet. Anyway, this completes my effort to provide two supplements to the major reading (#15) about Weiner's sterling writings about clans and clannism.


To read for yourself, go here:
https://www.cato-unbound.org/2014/03/10/mark-s-weiner/paradox-modern-individualism
 
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on July 25.]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #16 (first of two supplements to #15): Interview by Deven Desai, "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013)


Weiner's analysis of clans is so pertinent to this series of readings that I'm adding two supplements to post #15, in order to present passages from the two other articles mentioned in post #15. The three articles have overlaps, but I'm hoping that posting these two as supplements will help make his points sink in, even if they seem redundant.
First is this interview by Deven Desai, titled "Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan" (2013). Weiner's answers provide additional insightful observations about what he means by "clans", why he decided to study them, and why they have modern as well as traditional significance.
• Here again is what Weiner means by clans:
"…In my book, I consider clans both in their traditional form, as a subset of tribes, but also as a synecdoche for a pattern by which humans structure their social and lhegal lives: “the rule of the clan.” Clans are a natural form of social and legal organization. They certainly are more explicable in human terms than the modern liberal state and the liberal rule of law. Because of the natural fact of blood relationships, people end to organize their communities on the basis of extended kinship in the absence of strong alternatives."
• Here’s why Weiner decided to study clans now:
"Two reasons. First, the United States is involved militarily in parts of the world in which traditional tribal and clan relationships are critical, and if we don’t understand how those relationships work, including in legal terms, we have a major problem.
"The second reason to study clans, and ultimately for me even more important than the first reason, has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies — that is, attacks on government. By this I mean not simply efforts to reduce the size of government or to make it more efficient. Instead, I mean broadside criticisms of the state itself, or efforts to starve government and render it anemic."
• Here's why rule by government improves and protects individual freedom, more than does rule by clan:
“It’s often said that individual freedom exists most powerfully in the absence of government. But I believe that studying the rule of the clan shows us that the reverse is true. Liberal personal freedom is inconceivable without the existence of a robust state dedicated to vindicating the public interest. That’s because the liberal state, at least in theory, treats persons as individuals rather than as members of ineluctable status or clan groups. So studying clans can help us imagine what our social and legal life would become if we allow the state to deteriorate through a lack of political will.”
• Finally, here is why it’s beneficial for societies to evolve from clans to clubs, and from kinship to social networks:
"But clans are local power brokers, and the development of central authority diminishes their autonomy. One of the objects of constitutional reform in countries with strong clan identities is to provide national incentives for people to cede local power — and, more generally, for people to give their loyalty to a larger public identity that rises well above kinship structures. The ultimate goal of this process is the transformation of clans from hard institutions with legal and political significance to purely soft institutions with cultural and psychological importance. From clan to club. From kinship to social networks. …
"For clan societies to modernize, the economic, social, and political significance of extended kinship needs to be replaced by relationships based especially on individual choice. Societies need to undergo a change “from kinship to social networks” as part of the transformation of the clan from a hard, legal institution to a soft, cultural one."


To read for yourself, go here:
https://concurringopinions.com/archives/2013/03/bright-ideas-mark-weiner-on-his-new-book-rule-of-the-clan.html
 
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 27.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Readings about tribes and clans — #15: Mark Weiner's "The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013)



Mark Weiner's article "The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013) has more in common with TIMN than any prior reading in this series. So do two other articles and an interview he did based on his then-new book The Rule of the Clan (2013). This post draws on all but his book, which I've not read. Yet, as today's reading, I'm pointing only to the article named up top — I like it best as an overview.

WEINER'S KEY POINTS: STRONG FIT WITH TIMN THEORY


As I keep repeating, tribal (TIMN’s T) forms of organization, their dynamics and effects, have been widely ignored by national-security policymakers, grand strategists, development economists, and counter-terrorism theorists, among others — at their peril, to their discredit, and without their even knowing it. They’ve ignored tribes as a distinct form — yet it's the first and forever form, the form upon which every society is grounded. They have also ignored how the tribal form relates to the other TIMN forms that societies use to organize themselves. Yet excessive commitments to the T form lie behind most of the violent troubles we now face around the world; and its pernicious entanglement with the +I institutional and +M market forms accounts for much of the systemic corruption and political illiberalism we see in so many societies.
That doesn't apply to this author. He has an excellent understanding of the tribal / clan form, it's effects and implications. His understanding is not as thorough as TIMN proposes, but it’s the best I’ve seen so far. 
So I'm doing my write-up differently from others in this series. For the others, I've tried to show they advance a recognition of the T form. But this reading is already so advanced that I'm going to emphasize instead where it matches TIMN, such that they mutually validate each other. Also, the points I make below fit with today's reading, but I use quotes from all the articles noted above. (See source note at end for clarification.)
• Weiner, much like TIMN, views clans as a variant of the tribal form — as "a subset of tribes". Clans first took shape around biological kinship principles to become the initial "basic building blocks of civic life”, as “a natural form of social and legal organization.” Later, some clans also became based on "the adjunct principle of “fictive kinship” — in which a non-consanguineous group is treated “like family”." Thus, says Weiner, clan rule "is more explicable in human terms than that most historically anomalous of institutions: the modern liberal state. … Clannism is tribalism’s historical shadow.”^
• Weiner finds, much like TIMN, that clan structures are so decentralized and collectivist that clan system depends on imposing a “culture of group honor and shame”. Indeed, he says, "Group honor and shame allow the rule of the clan’s devolution of power to work by promoting both internal self-regulation within extended kin groups and coexistence among them". In other words, "Honor and shame form the cultural circuitry of such a collectivist system." 
• Weiner observes, again like TIMN, that as societies progress, the clan form does not go away — it persists. This persistence occurs not only via the clan's traditional blood-kin form, but also via morphed modern forms based on "fictive kinship". Indeed, people may remain partly if not wholly beholden to the clan form for both defensive and offensive purposes, for it gives them a place from which to defend and/or expand their personal as well as clan interests. In TIMN terms, people will remain in clan forms to the extent that they cannot find appropriate places in sectors structured by the institutional, the market, or now the new information-age network forms.
• Weiner recognizes, as does TIMN, that people revert back to clan forms especially when societies break down — this is true not only for far-away societies but also, increasingly, right here at home in America. Accordingly, "People … reflexively turn to it as a principle of social organization, especially when state alternatives break down." “For when there is no such thing as society, eventually there are only cousins and clans.” Thus, "people who live under clan rule often — and sensibly — hold it in high regard, just as they rationally return to it when other social structures break down."
• Weiner’s analysis is evolutionary, somewhat like TIMN, in that he looks beyond clan rule to the rise of government rule. As he sees matters, “When clan rule diminishes, two aspects of a society change: its legal and political structure and its culture." What's needed, then, "is the transformation of clans from hard institutions with legal and political significance to purely soft institutions with cultural and psychological importance. From clan to club. From kinship to social networks.” Indeed, Weiner often notes as a theme, that clans must soften into clubs, and their exclusive kinship networks must loosen and evolve into broader more inclusive social networks, in order for social evolution to advance.
• Weiner, like TIMN, warns that clannism is becoming rife and risky here at home as well as abroad. According to Weiner, “The second reason to study clans … has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies — that is, attacks on government.” As he notes elsewhere, "… today, clan rule poses grave international challenges, not just in tribal societies, but in more developed nations, and even in modern liberal democracies.” Extensive clannism has the effect of "making it more likely that conflicts will escalate and spiral out of control."
• Because of the above, Weiner advises, much like TIMN, that foreign-policy and national-security strategists acquire a better understanding of the clan form. Indeed, "appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges." In particular he highlights how “The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious.” He sees, as does TIMN (though I lag in writing it up), that "clannism" explains corruption in systems where institutions do not take hold properly: “One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism — like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt — suffer from corruption and stifled economic development.” Weiner also sees urban gangs as another manifestation of clannism in modern societies.
A couple of final points: 
While TIMN treats tribes as a cardinal form of organization, Weiner's focus on clans has resonance in other comparative organizational frameworks: notably, William Ouchi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, and markets; and Clay Spinuzzi’s typology about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks. Weiner’s work helps validate these. Jim Gant deserves credit as well for his efforts to gain recognition of the significance of the tribal/clan form in all sorts of societies. For more on this, see my blog post and accompanying charts here:
http://twotheories.blogspot.com/…/organizational-forms-comp…
Finally, let’s notice that Weiner wrote about "rule by clan" years ago — well before Donald Trump became president. Yet Weiner's analysts bears on this, for in some ways Trump, more than any American president, operates like a clan chieftain who is seeking to install a familial loyalty-driven clan-state inside our nation-state. (An example of a country that has always been more a clan-state than a nation-state is North Korea.)

SELECTED PASSAGES FROM WEINER'S ARTICLE


• First, here's how Weiner describes the nature of clans and "rule by clan":
“What do the European sovereign debt crisis, the difficulty of building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan, and a Mexican drug cartel have in common? To begin with, all three are the predictable result of weak government institutions. On a deeper level, however, they are products of a single basic impulse: They all implicate the fundamental human drive to live under the rule of the clan. Grasping this impulse and appreciating the range of forms it takes are vital to solving a surprisingly long list of foreign-policy challenges.
“So what is the rule of the clan? Ancient Highland Scotland provides a helpful example. Until well after the failed 1745 Jacobite rising, when Britain roundly defeated the cause of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," no robust public identity or state institution in the Highlands effectively superseded clans. Society was organized around kinship groups -- like the MacGregors, Macphersons, and MacDonalds, each associated with its own region -- and the ever shifting confederacies they established over centuries. Under clan rule, groups of extended families formed the basic building blocks of civic life. They remained largely autonomous from central government authority, maintaining their own law and settling disputes according to local custom.”
• Here's how Weiner describes the corrosive corrupting grip of "clannism" in clan-riven societies:
“One step up the development ladder, nations that posses the outward trappings of a modern state but are still firmly in the grip of clannism -- like the Palestinian Authority or Egypt -- suffer from corruption and stifled economic development. Although they possess stronger state institutions, they nevertheless govern through informal patronage networks, especially those of kinship. President Bashar al-Assad centralized and maintained his power through such patronage in Syria. So did Yasir Arafat after his return to Palestine in 1994. Where clannism reigns, governments are co-opted for purely factional purposes, and states, conceived on the model of the patriarchal family, treat citizens not as autonomous actors but rather as troublesome dependents to be managed. At the same time, kin-based patronage groups have the power to discipline their members in accord with their own internal rules."
“The social and cultural consequences of clannism are insidious. Corrupt governments regularly set factions against each other to avoid scrutiny of their own practices, and a lack of economic dynamism encourages out-migration of workers and fosters social unrest. More profoundly, in the words of the 2004 Arab Human Development Report, by "implant[ing] submission, parasitic dependence and compliance in return for protection and benefits," clannism destroys "personal independence, intellectual daring, and the flowering of a unique and authentic human entity." But clannism is not just a relic of the developing world. Modern liberal democracies can and do succumb to clan rule when their central-government institutions are weak or perceived to be illegitimate. In inner cities of the United States, for example, where the writ of the state often runs out, petty criminal gangs enforce their own social order. Likewise, in countries like Italy and Mexico, international criminal organizations and drug syndicates dictate their own internal codes of discipline and engage in intergroup behavior -- like blood feuds -- strikingly akin to that of traditional clans. Even the weakening transnational institutions of the European Union have accelerated the rise of right-wing parties, such as Greece's fascist Golden Dawn party, which claim to provide alternative social orders based on ethnicity."
• Here Weiner again contrasts clan values with liberal values, arguing that the former must soften if the latter are to take hold:
“The rule of the clan everywhere challenges liberal values. But it need not. Over time, as they did in Scotland, clans of all sorts will transform from hard political entities to soft -- if cherished -- markers of personal identity. Over a long span of history, clans will become clubs -- even in the most difficult parts of the world."

SOURCES FOR THIS POST 


I’ve based this post mostly on today’s reading — Mark Weiner's ”The call of the clan: why ancient kinship and tribal affiliation still matter in a world of global geopolitics" (2013), at:
http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/15/the-call-of-the-clan/

This post also draws on two other sources I mentioned up front. One is the interview by Deven Desai, titled “Bright Ideas: Mark Weiner on his new book Rule of the Clan” (2013), at:
https://concurringopinions.com/…/bright-ideas-mark-weiner-o…
 
The other is Weiner’s “The Paradox of Modern Individualism” (2014), which is published in a special issue of the periodical Cato Unbound, along with discussion articles by several other analysts, located at:
https://www.cato-unbound.org/…/mark-s-weiner/paradox-modern…


For a review of Weiner’s book, including comments I made that reappear above, see Mark Safranski's illuminating blog post "Review: The Rule of the Clan" (2016), at:
http://zenpundit.com/?p=49580
 
All quotes above are from these sources. However, my write-up here does not specify exactly which quotes are from which sources. I lost track, and I hope to take care of that tiresome slip-up later.

To read for yourself, go here:
http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/15/the-call-of-the-clan/
 
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on June 26.]

Monday, August 7, 2017

Readings about tribes and tribalism — #14: Richard Landes's “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015)


Here's an argument I've not seen before: “What’s needed is more tribalism, not less”.
It's the subtitle and crucial point of Richard Landes's “How Thinking Right Can Save the Left” (2015). I keep urging we do more analysis using a tribal optic, but mostly for purposes of decreasing tribalism. Landes uses a tribal optic here, but for a contrary purpose: He sees virtue in urging that a particular kind tribalism be increased. 
The article focuses on Jewish responses to the jihadi terrorist attacks in Paris in 2013. His starting point is to identity a paradoxical "split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks". The split is between Jews who hold tribalist views of what's going on and what to do, versus Jews who hold universalist views. The paradox is that Europe is mostly full of universalists who feel an affinity for the Jewish universalists, but, says Landes, their views only make Europe and Israel more vulnerable to terrorism. It's the tribalists who have the more accurate views.
Here's what Landes writes up front about the paradox, before analyzing one view as tribalist, the other as universalist: 
“In a deeply disturbing and repeating 21st-century, paradox, however, the approach of Israel’s generous and selfless ones [i.e., the universalists] has worked to the benefit of most regressive forces on the planet — while on the contrary, the voice that awakening Europe needs most to heed in the current crisis is that of those self-centered Israelis [i.e., the tribalist] who relate European woes to their own pain. The failure to understand this paradox explains both why Western elites are so poor at resisting global jihad, and why, for a disaffected youth — Muslim by birth or by choice — it makes sense to join that jihad. Indeed, this split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks illustrates the disproportionate impact of a peculiar Jewish dispute on the current cognitive disorientation of the West."
What makes this apropos for this series is that Landes then turns to contrast two types of thinking. First up is the tribalist type:
“But first, let’s explain our terms. Let’s call the first response the tribalist approach. It is centered on the self, preoccupied with defending family, clan, group; suspicious by default of others, especially of strangers; and easily rendered defensive by threatening behavior. Tribalists think in terms of “us vs. them”; they treat “their own” differently from others, and when they feel sufficiently threatened, they will lash out. They think of their own pain and feel anger at hypocrisy (in this case against the French for their 15-year-long indifference to the pain of their Jews). This mindset historically favors vengeful attitudes — “they deserve it” — and rough justice.
“Politically, these folks appear on the “right” of our spectrum, and they remind us of historical periods when people with power lacked empathy and used it cruelly, a political culture of rule or be ruled, that democracies hope to have outgrown. Tribalists are the zero-sum folks: “I only win if they lose,” and, “they only understand force.” Like Huntington, one of their intellectual heroes, these tribalists tend to look for enemies. They find reasons to be belligerent, to provoke war, they “invent the enemy.”
I think that's a good accurate description of how the tribalized mind works.

Here's what he says next about the universalist:
“Let’s call the second response the universalist: considerate of others, self-abnegating: “This is not about Israel.” These are the positive-sum folks, the ones who make friends, who build on trust, who come up with mutually beneficial projects from which everyone profits, who look for the voluntary win-win rather than the coerced win-lose. They reject the selfish me first, the invidious us-them, the tribal my side right or wrong.
“These folks appear on the “left” of our political spectrum. They empathize with the “other” and embrace diversity. They can and want to trust. In renouncing the win-lose, they become capable of granting dignity and freedom to others — the fundamental social contract of a successful egalitarian culture. They imagine themselves as inhabitants of a future diverse, civil, and peaceful global community, where racism and xenophobia are no more."
Again, that's a fair description. And it hones in on the dichotomy behind the paradox that concerns him in both Israel and Europe:
“This dichotomy between tribal and universal sheds light on the current paradoxical situation in Europe, where the most extraordinary cognitive disarray rules.” 
The article then becomes long, offering an intricate analysis of Jewish and European perspectives. I'm going to skip over that, in order to provide you with Landes' hard-hitting conclusion. It's about why Europeans should heed the Jewish tribalists, for they are better than the universalists at understanding the enemy and thus at knowing how best to defend the future of democracy:
“What has this got to do with the two Jewish-Israeli responses with which I began this discussion? Ironically, it suggests that those tribal Jews/Israelis that Europe deplores are fighting not only for themselves, but for a decent democratic and egalitarian culture the world over, against a deeply regressive, triumphalist Islam. The “left-wing” Israeli responses that disdain tribalism, and promote lofty universalist values, dismiss this Israeli tribal voice as paranoid, conspiracy-minded, xenophobic, Islamophobic. Yet, in so doing, they contribute to the cognitive disorientation of the outside nations and peoples. In their eagerness to confess Israel’s sins, to consider Palestinians innocent and Israel guilty, they shield outsiders from hearing the much harsher jihadi voice that explicitly targets not just Israel but them.”
Landes usually focuses on honor-shame dynamics in the Middle East, as well as on the kinds of cognitive warfare that result from this. This 2015 article is one of the few where he explicitly focuses on tribalism per se. For that, I'm delighted to include it in this series of readings.


To read for yourself, go here:
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/195279/terror-right-left

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 19.]

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Readings about tribes, tribalism, tribalization — #13: Kenan Malik, "Britain’s Dangerous New Tribalism" (2015)


Speaking of NYT's attentiveness to the tribal form (see reading #12), this NYT op-ed shows an early grasp of tribalism: Kenan Malik's "Britain’s Dangerous New Tribalism" (2015). 
It was written in the wake of jihadi attacks that were followed by rising tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim (not to mention anti-Muslim) Britons. Yet, Malik is intent on pointing out, the hostility toward Muslims was not relentless, for in many ways Muslim and non-Muslim communities were getting along well enough in Britain.
Here's what he says, after reviewing recent trends and incidents: 
"All this might suggest a nation polarized between alienated Muslims and non-Muslims hostile to Islam. The reality is otherwise. What is striking about the past decade is not conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, but the relative ease with which different communities have got along. …
"While anti-Muslim hatred is certainly present, there is by no means a climate of “relentless hostility” toward Muslims."
In light of this reassuring observation, Malik next explores why matters stay so polarized anyway. He attributes this, on the one hand, to value-loaded political rhetoric and harsh counter-terrorism measures from the top, and on the other hand, to a growing disaffected politics of identity at mass levels of society — and to how these top and bottom dynamics reactively reinforce each other. At least that's what I think he is saying. 
Here's an excerpt:
"So, if in practice Muslims and non-Muslims coexist relatively peaceably, how do we explain the polarization in attitudes? Why do so many non-Muslim Britons regard Islam as a threat, while so many Muslims yearn for Shariah law? …
"Politicians constantly call for a defense of British values against extremism. But beyond platitudes about liberal democracy, they find it hard to articulate what those values are. At the same time, these leaders constantly undermine fundamental liberal values in the name of fighting terrorism: They have increased state surveillance, restricted free speech and banned certain organizations.
"Meanwhile, a growing disaffection with mainstream politics among Muslims and non-Muslims alike has found expression in a politics of identity, which encourages people to understand their problems through the narrow lenses of culture and faith. The overall result is that people see values less as ideals than in terms of identity. For many non-Muslims, for example, the idea of Shariah conjures images of Islamic State beheadings or the oppression of women. For many Muslims, supporting Shariah may mean no more than an affirmation of identity."
In conclusion, Malik says the persistence of rancorous hostility derives from "the emergence of a tribalized society". That limits how people can go about having a sense of identity and belonging. It also increases the probability that disaffected people will end up becoming more tribalized, in one direction or the opposite.
"The real problem is neither Muslim disloyalty nor rampant Islamophobia. It is, rather, the emergence of a tribalized society in which people have an increasingly narrow sense of belonging. At the fringes, this can funnel disaffection into jihadism on one hand, and into anti-Muslim hatred on the other.
"Britain is not divided into warring camps, as some would have it. But the consequences of tribalism can be devastating."
Malik's is a pertinent insightful op-ed. I'm pleased it's in my folder. Yet it's flow of logic about tribalism leaves me a little puzzled. If he is saying that polarization, the politics of identity, etc., have led to tribalism, well, OK, in a way. But that's very close to saying that the attributes of tribalism cause tribalism — which verges on being a tautology. However, if he is saying that how people talk and act can make a big difference for how tribal they become toward each other, then I say bravo. At least he has a disposition toward fine-grain analysis that offers some encouragement and promise that malignant tribalism will not carry the day in Britain.

To read for yourself, go here:
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/opinion/kenan-malik-britains-dangerous-new-tribalism.html

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 16.]

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Blog update

This blog is and will continue to be even more slowed down than usual, or desirable. Because of my taking a bad fall in late June, I'm going through long slow uncertain recovery phases.

Meanwhile, I expect to remain more active at my Facebook page than here. I will continue trying to re-post here, belatedly, what I post there about TIMN or STA:C.

Onward, haltingly …

Readings about tribes, tribalism, tribalization — #12: Ross Douthat, “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016)


This post covers Ross Douthat’s column on “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016). As you'll see, it's about tribalism as much as cosmopolitanism.
Tribalism, like most isms, is not an ism unto itself; it's become an alternative to other isms. The comparisons I mostly see are about tribalism versus globalism, or versus cosmopolitanism (which is a kind of globalism). I also see contrasts between nationalism and globalism, as well as between populism and globalism — but, in TIMN, nationalism is a modern kind of tribalism. So is populism, though populism implies a belief in government (+I) solutions as well. So we are back to tribalism versus globalism as the most common comparison. 
What is significant for my efforts is that these comparisons fit TIMN: Tribalism is obviously an expression of the T form. Globalism — the alternative that comes up most often — is a function of the +M and +N forms; for economic and other kinds of globalism reflect the spread of market (+M) and network (+N) forces around the world. Much the same can be said of cosmopolitanism.
According to my browsing, the New York Times is doing much better than other newspapers at regularly calling attention to the tribalism afoot in our country, and comparing it to other isms. Its regular columnists, notably David Brooks and Ross Douthat on the right, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman on the left, have been fairly effective at doing so, starting a few years ago. 
A good example of NYT's attentiveness to the tribal form is Douthat’s “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism” (2016). In it he makes a rarely made but insightful point: some presumed cosmopolitans are really camouflaged tribalists.
He opens with an observation about the spread of tribalism in our country that is still a bit alarming but no longer unusual to encounter — tribalism is increasingly in conflict with the internationalism, globalism, and cosmopolitanism that have long been transcendent. Quite so. But then he turns a knife — he questions the validity of the cosmopolitanism that some elites claim for themselves:
"… From now on the great political battles will be fought between nationalists and internationalists, nativists and globalists. From now on the loyalties that matter will be narrowly tribal — Make America Great Again, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England — or multicultural and cosmopolitan.
"Well, maybe. But describing the division this way has one great flaw. It gives the elite side of the debate (the side that does most of the describing) too much credit for being truly cosmopolitan."
Here's why he says that many of today's presumptuous elite cosmopolitans — notably, Davos men — are like tribalists who comprise a tribal cohort much like any other:
"They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home.
“Indeed elite tribalism is actively encouraged by the technologies of globalization, the ease of travel and communication. Distance and separation force encounter and immersion, which is why the age of empire made cosmopolitans as well as chauvinists — sometimes out of the same people. (There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)"
After noting there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, he turns to make sharp points about the downsides of these elites thinking and behaving like tribes, while denying they are so:
"But it’s a problem that our tribe of self-styled cosmopolitans doesn’t see itself clearly as a tribe: because that means our leaders can’t see themselves the way the Brexiteers and Trumpistas and Marine Le Pen voters see them.
"They can’t see that what feels diverse on the inside can still seem like an aristocracy to the excluded, who look at cities like London and see, as Peter Mandler wrote for Dissent after the Brexit vote, “a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations.” …
"They can’t see that their vision of history’s arc bending inexorably away from tribe and creed and nation-state looks to outsiders like something familiar from eras past: A powerful caste’s self-serving explanation for why it alone deserves to rule the world."
And thus many upper-class elites who preen like forward-looking progressive globalists turn out to be little more than clannish aristocratic cronies who can be as tribal as the people they look down on.


To read for yourself, go here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/03/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-cosmopolitanism.html

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 14.]

Monday, June 26, 2017

Readings about the tribalization of America — #11: NeoTribes, "NeoTribal Emergence” (2016)


While most readings in this series are about the malignant forms of tribalism polarizing America, this one is about an attempt to foster a positive transnational form called "neo-tribes". The reading is by a collective named NeoTribes, writing "NeoTribal Emergence” (2016).
NeoTribes draws its inspiration from philosopher Daniel Quinn's writings recommending "new tribalism" as a way for people to move beyond the ruinous effects of modern civilization and chart a course to a better life. NeoTribes is also associated with the pro-commons P2P (peer-to-peer) movement. The neo-tribal orientation is thus on the Left — but an innovative kind of Left that combines classic tribal and new information-age network types of ideas. And while classic tribes were built around ethnic identities and sought to maximize pride, these neo-tribes are being built around work and lifestyle identities and seek to maximize purpose.
NeoTribes agree that tribes were our earliest form of organization, and that "human beings have evolved to live in tribal society as opposed to mass society." They also believe that, because modern civilization has resulted in such untenable waste and destruction, "we’re in the throes of a re-tribalizing moment." So their motto is "The future is tribal". As they see it, "In many ways the “neo-tribal” moment is being ushered in by a deep longing to escape cultures that belong to a bygone era." In a sense, this means starting societies over by reverting back to the tribal form — but NeoTribes is future-oriented, and it means to accomplish more than that.
At present, NeoTribes consists of five cutting-edge transnational collectives: OuiShare, Wisdom Hackers, Agora, Sistema B, and Perestroika. But they are just getting going, and will campaign to expand this year.
Here're a few passages about the above: 
"We are a transnational collective of community builders, facilitators, strategists, entrepreneurs, provocateurs, researchers, experience designers and social architects from diverse tribes, serving an emerging paradigm. We delve into different forms of community, networks and subcultures to reveal best practices, tools and experiential knowledge; to "re-mix", share and apply within modern ways of living and organizing. At our core is an effort to create visibility, shared learning and relationship between emerging pockets of insurgency."
"We as NeoTribes, an emerging collective of neo-tribal communities, have come together to ask some timely questions and create a frame through which we all may continue to develop common language, wisdom and practical know-how. We are experimental communities searching for viable alternative forms of living in an era of deep transition. We are digital natives yearning for an analogue reality that is marked by the physicality of existence. We strive to align our pace of life with natural rhythms that make space for love, trust, belonging and solidarity – values too often absent from mass society. Since September 2015, we’ve been gathering in digital meeting rooms as well as face-to-face for learning journeys in Brazil, Berlin and Costa Rica, forging bonds of trust between our communities, and making space for reflecting on who we are, where we are heading and why we feel the way we do about the present moment."
"Over the course of the next 6-months we will embark on a learning journey, crafting and curating a cookbook of practical “how to” wisdom from over 50+ neo-tribes around key themes related to community design, group practices and rituals, methods of self-organization and facilitation, and tools for governance, financing, and mutualism."
One quality I like about NeoTribes is their insistence on combining individualism and collectivism (or mutualism). This is consistent not only with P2P theory's concept of "collective individualism", but also with TIMN theory's view that all four of TIMN's cardinal forms of organization (tribes, institutions, markets, networks) and thus societies as a whole involve both individualism and collectivism — often different kinds and in different ways at different times, but always a combination nonetheless.
Here are a few quotes showing this: 
"[We] aren’t naïvely cocooning ourselves in “Cumbaya collectivism.” We recognize the human need for a community where one can pursue belonging in the context of a collective, while also remaining autonomous, self-expressive and unique. We affirm that each individual should be witnessed and understood, without being pressured to disappear into group identity or camouflage her authenticity. We believe in the power of individual autonomy, and also in the power of mutualism. Many of our tribes are finding new ways to mutualize resources and build commons in the forms of shared operational infrastructure, housing, work spaces, food, and so on – without demanding that anyone martyr themselves for a higher cause."
"In constructing our communities, many of us think about how to create a place of shared identity, while also maintaining inclusivity. Traditional tribes are often very closed. You inherit an identity based on kinship and the place you were born. But neo-tribes most often represent your “chosen tribe.” You opt in, and can have multiple tribal allegiances or cycle through different tribes in a lifetime."
This insistence by NeoTribes on being for both individualized and mutualist approaches contrasts with the canard I've heard from tribalized conservatives that they are for individualism while liberals /progressives are for collectivism. This canard has awful problems: First, all the liberals I know are for individualism too. Second, conservatives may oppose the collectivism they see in big government and the welfare state, but they like other kinds of collectivism — e.g., family, community, patriotism, etc., not to mention that their tribalism is itself a kind of collectivism. Third, as I noted above, all progress-oriented societies require mixtures of individualism and collectivism, otherwise they cease progressing. This is another area of doctrinal thinking where the tribalization of conservatism has led to a defective defense of a false dichotomy (not to mention that it provides further evidence that conservatives think mainly in terms of boundaries, liberals mainly in terms of horizons).
But to get back to the NeoTribes' initiative, here's what else I appreciate: They are for openness, in transnational networked ways, not isolation and exclusivity. They recognize a need for "alternative forms of governance", suited to a next phase of social evolution, "without delusions of separateness to entirely “escape the system”." Indeed, they recognize "the interdependence of personal well-being and structural forces".
Furthermore, they prefer to focus on local matters, yet feel part of a global consciousness. In their words, "We long to root down in local contexts, and often find more pride in the cities that we contribute to than the stale rhetoric of participation offered at a national level. At the same time, our digital infrastructure and social media has imparted to us a global consciousness."
I see some overlap in all this with TIMN theory about past, present, and future social evolution — but I shall note three points only lightly: First, by combining tribal and network impulses, NeoTribes reflects the TIMN dynamic that each new form starts its rise with a tribal impulse, before it matures and professionalizes around its own distinctive principles. Second, NeoTribes reflects a TIMN dynamic that says efforts will be made to adapt prior forms to new needs — and the neo-tribes movement surely is such an adaptation, suited to the Information age. Third, TIMN is partly and ultimately about the rise of the +N network form and the creation of a new sector based around it. This may be a commons sector, but I think it's still too early to tell. NeoTribes has aspects that fit this, but I don't see that it corresponds fully to +N.
Thus, I find the neo-tribes concept quite positive and appealing. Yet, as a TIMN quadriformist, I should temper and qualify my interest. Even so, it's good to read about a tribalism that isn't bitter and vengeful, bad for society.
To read for yourself, go here:
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/neotribal-emergence/2016/09/05

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 12.]

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Readings about the tribalization of America — #10: Jalaja Bonheim, "Why We Love Trump” (2016)


Rummaging in my folder, I spotted another article that is too new-age for me, but nonetheless provides a good companion to the two prior posts, especially the rather Buddhist one by Deepak Chopra.
It is Jalaja Bonheim's "Why We Love Trump” (2016). In addition to discussing the causes and consequences of tribalism, she proposes a potential cure that is somewhat far-out: the rise of a new collective global consciousness that will eventually unite humanity in positive ways.
Her key concept is "tribal conditioning" — a reactive way of thinking in our post-modern age that replicates the often mean-spirited us–them thinking that took hold in ancient tribal ages long ago. Her concept is quite similar to the "tribal epistemology" concept featured as #2 on March 23 in this series.
She is so dismayed by people's reversions to tribalism that she concludes that "Trump is … an embodiment of tribal conditioning at its worst." Thus part of her solution is for people to learn not to react in tribally conditioned ways.
Beyond that, she expresses a spiritual, even religious hope that a collective global / planetary consciousness will finally emerge — one that will enable people to coalesce and get along together far better than they do now.
This may seem like a distant abstract stance to many analysts and strategists. yet thousands and thousands (maybe more) people harbor such hopes. Many may be found in new areas on the Left, living and working in spaces apart from established systems, without getting caught up in the malignant tribalism so prevalent in conventional society. Some new formations are known as "neo-tribes", as I will relate in a future post.
Moreover, a realistic strategic argument can be made that some kind of global consciousness is emerging as a result of new information technologies, and that it has implications for security and other kinds of strategy. Arquilla and I fielded such an argument (1999, 2007) around a concept we termed "noopolitik" (also "noospolitik"). We based the term on the idea, fielded by Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin, that the next phase of evolution would give be shaped by the emergence of a planetary "noosphere" of ethical knowledge and information. In John's and my view, this meant that realpolitik based mainly on hard power would be superseded, or at least balanced, by noospolitik based mainly on soft power. Other analysts / strategists have raised and reasoned about similar concepts.
In short, Bonheim's spiritual hope is a bit far-fetched but not so far-out (or maybe it's vice versa?).
In any case, I am struck so far that many readings about tribalism end up recommending ways to improve interpersonal relations, and/or ways to foster global consciousness. Yet there are intermediate levels that, so far, have been neglected by those who discuss malignant tribalisms.
Consider, for example, ideas about our needing a new social compact, or social contract, or national covenant. As I've often argued from a TIMN perspective, getting the tribal form right is essential for a healthy society. The obvious elements are families and communities. Yet the bright side of the tribal form is also found in social compacts, contracts, and covenants that political philosophers and historians like to discuss. I need to make that more clear for the sake of TIMN sometime…
Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from Bonheim:
"Today, I’d like to share a concept that may help you understand the Trump phenomenon. I call it tribal conditioning, and I discuss it at length in my recent book The Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World.
"Tribal conditioning encompasses a wide range of habits that evolved during the tribal era, yet continue to govern how we think and relate today. Some of these habits still serve us well, but many do not.
"The tribal era, we must consider, lasted not just millennia but millions of years. Therefore tribal conditioning is immensely powerful and compelling. It affects every one of us, and the things it tells us to do, no matter how insane they might be, tend to feel “right” in ways that have nothing to do with the rational mind. …
" … Quite simply, our collective consciousness has not yet caught up with the changes that have so fundamentally transformed our world.
That said, there’s no doubt that change is underway. We’ve become much more tolerant of differences and better able to feel a sense of solidarity with the greater planetary community. …
"A new consciousness is awakening that recognizes our oneness as a global community. More accurately, I should say an old consciousness is blossoming in a much larger way than ever before. Global consciousness is, after all, what Jesus was preaching two thousand years ago. Yet in his times, the unitive awareness he stood for was not a prerequisite for human survival. Today, it is.
"In response, the part of our collective psyche that is governed by tribal conditioning is contracting defensively, hardening and growing ever more fanatic, extreme, rigid and self-righteous. This is why the expressions of tribal conditioning we see today seem so outrageous, so over-the-top, so completely insane.
"It is this defensive, scared part of the collective psyche that has fastened upon Trump as the savior. He is the one who will defend the tribe against its enemies, who will restore America’s greatness and put an end to the relentless dissolution of the familiar. It is he who will uphold the boundaries that separate “us” from “them. …
"Tribal conditioning puts a straight-jacket on our hearts by telling us we must reserve our deepest love for the members of our own tribe. For eons, we obeyed. Yet today, the human heart is rising up in rebellion. More and more people are refusing to limit the circle of their concern to a small minority. “Why,” they are asking, “should I split humanity into ‘us’ and ‘them’? Are we not all brothers and sisters?” Even as they honor their own tribe, nation and religion, they identify first and foremost as citizens of planet Earth. Instead of heeding the fear-based warnings of tribal conditioning, they are embracing love as their guide, kindness as their foundational practice, and Mother Earth as their home. …
" … Trump is, in my view, an embodiment of tribal conditioning at its worst. Yet here I was, grappling with it within myself — not for the first and, I fear, not for the last time."

To read for yourself, go here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jalaja-bonheim/why-we-love-trump_b_9369840.html

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 9.]

Friday, June 9, 2017

Readings about the tribalization of America — #9: Deepak Chopra, “After Trump, What Will It Take To Heal?” (2016)

Here's a second reading reflecting what I said yesterday — "It'd help if those who bemoan America's tribalization would propose remedies." We need better analyses of not only the causes and consequences but also the cures for malignant tribalism. (Of course, that applies to me too, but we'll get to that some other time.)
This reading is Deepak Chopra’s “After Trump, What Will It Take To Heal?” (2016), published right after the election.
Deepak Chopra!? I never thought I'd be quoting him in a professional effort. Too new-age for me. Yet here he is, showing a good grasp of the tribal form and how it can turn sour. I include it because he proposes ways to improve interpersonal relations (but not society's structures and processes) in today's America.
Here's his opening theme:
"A kind of tribalism has grown up in our democratic society, and the new segregation along party lines means that many people don’t even have a friend who votes the other way. …
"If you can identify with any of these symptoms — and which of us cannot? — the way to healing is clear. Become part of the solution by consciously changing your tribal attitudes, words, and actions."
However, he points out, tribalism brings psychic benefits that make it difficult for people to change:
"The difficulty is that tribal thinking carries with it a package of benefits: you get to belong, to agree with others, to share a common foe, to feel self-righteous and angry at the same time. These are powerful incentives not to change. …
"Likewise, tribal thinking brings secondary benefits, but one shouldn’t overlook that “us versus them” thinking is toxic and unhealthy to begin with."
To urge people to change away from divisive tribalization and reconnect with each other compassionately, he turns to the Buddhist concepts of "Ahimsa" and the "shadow self":
"In the yogic tradition of India, a crucial quality related to peace consciousness is Ahimsa, usually translated as non-violence. Ahimsa is associated with Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent civil rights movement associated with Martin Luther King. But at heart Ahimsa is about the bond of loving compassion that is natural in each of us when we abandon the seductive allure of false consciousness, in particular the state of separation that engenders all divisions, either inside ourselves or in the outside world. We accept “us versus them” ultimately because there is a “them” inside ourselves. It consists of the shadow self we hide from and deny, which harbors hatred, fear, aggression, and the dread of death."
Trump, he figures, has brought out the tribalized worst in people by embodying and connecting with their shadow selves:
"When we can’t face our own shadow, it gets embodied in figures like Trump who gleefully let the dark side of human nature romp in public. As much as right-thinking people are appalled by him, Trumpism strikes a chord in everyone, because we all have a shadow."
In conclusion, Chopra recommends a process of healing — one that involves achieving an enlightened consciousness:
"It may seem as if I’ve drawn a tenuous thread connecting a flamboyant political sham to something deep in human nature. But the connection is real, and so is the possibility of healing. Bringing in the light, however you define that phrase, is the way to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. The wounds in consciousness can only be healed through consciousness."
As I indicated, that is a bit too new-age for me to think it could be very effective. But at least he is offering what amounts to a systematic viewpoint, based on a good understanding of what tribalism is like and what it does to people's thoughts and actions.

To read for yourself, go here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/after-trump-what-will-it-_b_12841976.html

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 7.]

Monday, June 5, 2017

Readings about the tribalization of America — #8: Jonathan Haidt & Ravi Iyer, "How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics” (2016)


It'd help if those who bemoan America's tribalization would propose remedies. Here are two readings in a row that start to do so, albeit barely and with a narrow focus on interpersonal relations, not society's structures and processes as a whole.
Up first is Jonathan Haidt & Ravi Iyer's “How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics” (2016), published just before the election.
In it they fret that, because of "cross-partisan animosity" and other facets of tribalism, "Nearly half the country will therefore wake up deeply disappointed on the morning of Nov. 9, and many members of the losing side will think that America is doomed. Those on the winning side will feel relieved, but many will be shocked and disgusted that nearly half of their fellow citizens voted for the moral equivalent of the devil."
The authors then offer practical steps, based on three classic maxims they quote, "to turn it down, free ourselves from hatred and make the next four years better for ourselves and the country."
The first maxim is drawn from an ancient Bedouin saying: “Me against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.” Haidt & Iyer choose this saying because it reflects that "Human nature is tribal", and because "The tribal mind is adept at changing alliances to face shifting threats". It makes sense to apply this maxim to today's hardened hate-filled America because "Something is broken in American tribalism. It is now “my brothers and me against my cousins” all the time, even when we are threatened by strangers and even when there is no threat at all."
Thus, the authors coax, "Democracy requires trust and cooperation as well as competition. A healthy democracy features flexible and shifting coalitions. We must find a way to see citizens on the other side as cousins who are sometimes opponents but who share most of our values and interests and are never our mortal enemies."
Their second maxim comes from the Bible, Matthew 7:3-5, quoting Jesus: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
Accordingly, the authors observe that "Our tribal minds are equipped with a powerful tool: shameless and clueless hypocrisy." The result today is an excess of what psychologists call “motivated reasoning.” Which helps explain "why partisans find it so easy to dismiss scandalous revelations about their own candidate while focusing so intently on scandalous revelations about the other candidate."
The new information technologies make matters worse, for "Motivated reasoning has interacted with tribalism and new media technologies since the 1990s in unfortunate ways."
Their third maxim is from Cicero's “On Friendship”, written in ancient Roman times: "Nature has so formed us that a certain tie unites us all, but … this tie becomes stronger from proximity.”
What makes proximity so important, say Haidt & Iyer, is that "Humans are tribal, but tribalism can be transcended. It exists in tension with our extraordinary ability to develop bonds with other human beings." However, what's happening in today's America is that "tragically, Americans are losing their proximity to those on the other side and are spending more time in politically purified settings."
With these three maxims as background, Haidt & Iyer counsel that "If you would like to let go of anger on Nov. 9 without letting go of your moral and political principles, here is some advice, adapted from ancient wisdom and modern research." Some of the practical points they make are as follows:
"First, separate your feelings about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from your feelings about their supporters. …
"Second, step back and think about your goals. …
"[D]o what you can to cultivate personal relationships with those on the other side." …
"Another powerful depolarizing move is praise, as we saw in the second Clinton-Trump debate." So say something positive to, and about, whomever you're talking to from the other side.
In conclusion, they write, "Starting next Wednesday, each of us must decide what kind of person we want to be and what kind of relationship we want to have with our politically estranged cousins."
Theirs is a sensible reasonable effort to make helpful practical suggestions about improving interpersonal relationships — though I do not see much effect yet.

To read for yourself, go here:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-get-beyond-our-tribal-politics-1478271810

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 6.]

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Readings about the tribalization of America — #7: Glenn Harlan Reynolds, "Politicians benefit from American tribal warfare" (2014)


Here is another sustained discussion of tribalism from 2014: conservative libertarian Glenn Harlan Reynolds, on how and why "Politicians benefit from American tribal warfare" (2014). It even references the 2014 discussion by Robert Reich that I posted a few days ago (#6).
As a TIMNista, I commend his identifying tribes as "the default state of humanity". His preferred modern alternative is a healthy civil society. But at the time he was writing, outbreaks of racial strife were serving to tribalize all sides, and demagogic politicians were coming to the fore (he is particularly critical of Al Sharpton). Their behaviors were causing further tribalization — creating a malignant spiral with no clear solution in sight.
Here's an excerpt:
"… Tribalism is the default state of humanity: The tendency to defend our own tribe even when we think it's wrong, and to attack other tribes even when they're right, just because they're other. Societies that give in to the temptations of tribalism — which are always present — wind up spending a lot of their energy on internal strife, and are prone to disintegrate into spectacular factionalism and infighting, often to the point of self-destruction.
"Societies that temper those tribal tendencies, replacing them with the mechanisms of civil society, do much better. But there is much opportunity for political empire-building in tribalism, and if the benefits of stoking tribal fires exceed the costs for political actors, then expect political actors to pour gasoline on even the smallest spark.
"That's pretty much what's happened in the last few months, and the results haven't been good. In America, we have both a police culture that is too quick to escalate force, and an aggressive victim culture, embodied by the loathsome Al Sharpton, that seeks to portray every police use of force, at least against members of the wrong racial and ethnic groups, as excessive.
"A healthy society would stigmatize, marginalize and shun the tribalizers. …
"In a healthy civil society, people can deal with others without worrying about tribalism, confident that disputes will be settled by neutral and reasonably fair procedures overseen by neutral and fair people. In a tribalized society, what matters is what tribe you belong to, and who is on top at the moment.
"Healthy civil societies are a lot better places to live. They're richer, safer and more peaceful. But healthy civil societies don't provide the opportunity for political power grabs, for payoffs and for extortion that tribalized societies do. It's no wonder that so many political figures favor tribalism. The question is, how long will the rest of us allow them to get away with it?"

To read for yourself, go here:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/12/28/tribalism-cops-killing-nyc-citizens-public-unions-al-sharpton-tribal-fires-column/20968237/

[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 5.]

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Readings about tribes, tribalism, tribalization — #6: Robert Reich, "The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State” (2014)


Since I just offered two readings from the right, here's one from the left. And whereas the earlier two were written in the heat of the 2016 campaign, this one is interesting partly because it offers one of the more sustained discussions of tribalism from a few years ago — sustained in that the writer is not just using the word as a synonym, but is deploying a systematic viewpoint.
It's Robert Reich's "The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State” (2014). In it he argues that we are "witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world". Nations become less relevant as everything becomes more interconnected; and many nation-states are now starting to come apart. People are turning to multiple other identities in all sorts of areas.
Of most interest here is his observation that America itself is in the throes of tribalization — a splitting into two tribes — for reasons that cut across politics, economics, and culture. This has gone on to such a degree that "the two tribes are pulling America apart, often putting tribal goals over the national interest". 
He wrote that in 2014. Matters are worse and his observations more applicable now. Also, note the similarities to what Daniel Shapiro said (post #3 in this series) about tribalism becoming a worldwide force that is now increasing in America, and what Sabrina Tavernise said (#1) about America fissuring into two tribes.
Here is an excerpt: 
“We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The same pattern can be seen even in America — especially in American politics. …
"But America’s new tribalism can be seen most distinctly in its politics. Nowadays the members of one tribe (calling themselves liberals, progressives, and Democrats) hold sharply different views and values than the members of the other (conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Republicans).
“Each tribe has contrasting ideas about rights and freedoms (for liberals, reproductive rights and equal marriage rights; for conservatives, the right to own a gun and do what you want with your property).
“Each has its own totems (social insurance versus smaller government) and taboos (cutting entitlements or raising taxes). Each, its own demons (the Tea Party and Ted Cruz; the Affordable Care Act and Barack Obama); its own version of truth (one believes in climate change and evolution; the other doesn’t); and its own media that confirm its beliefs. …
“Each tribe is headed by rival warlords whose fighting has almost brought the national government in Washington to a halt. Increasingly, the two tribes live separately in their own regions — blue or red state, coastal or mid-section, urban or rural — with state or local governments reflecting their contrasting values. …
“But the fact is, the two tribes are pulling America apart, often putting tribal goals over the national interest — which is not that different from what’s happening in the rest of the world.”
To read for yourself, go here:
http://robertreich.org/post/80522686347
 
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 33.]