Monday, May 8, 2017

Trends in thinking about tribes and tribalism — my theme for the next series of posts (1st of maybe 4 parts)

Most every day now, Trump still does something that stirs up more tribalism here at home and abroad. Yet try using that word "tribalism" in talking to people around you. It usually doesn't register much. Nor do words like "tribal" and "tribalization". Americans are not used to thinking in terms of those words or the concepts behind them.

So let me start by putting it bluntly: Tribalism has become the strongest force shaping world order and disorder.

Stronger and more vital than globalism and capitalism — what many analysts have long thought was sweeping the world. Indeed, tribalism has grown as a reaction to globalism / capitalism, partly because their progress has left so many people outside and falling behind, while disrupting the ways they've long wanted and tried to live.

Stronger than populism or nationalism: Many analysts say those are now the strong forces. But boiled down to their essences, they are mostly modernized expressions of tribalism (nationalism more so than populism). Likewise the ethnocentric "Eurasianism" that Alexander Dugin and Vladimir Putin foster in order to advance Russian interests in far-right populist nationalist circles in Europe as well as in America.

Stronger also than terrorism, including Islamic terrorism: Many analysts say that is the world's worst problem, but a deep look reveals that it too is an expression of malignant tribalism. We should be fighting such terrorism and its narratives not by treating it as a function of religion but as a function of tribalism.
I suppose there are analysts on the Marxist Left who still think class struggle is a dominant force world-wide. But they have some conceptual catching-up to do. From a TIMN perspective, "class struggle" was an appropriate concept for past ages of institution- and market-building — and it still is a vital concept today, given the corrosive corruptive disparities and inequalities that have taken hold here at home. But by now, class struggle too is being largely tribalized. (Actually, TIMN implies that the nature of class structure and struggle will be radically altered during the emerging new age of networks — but that’s a topic for another time.)

In sum, we need to rethink, lest the tribalization of America keep spreading without our having a conceptual and strategic grasp, and thus turn into our unexpected undoing. TIMN is my way to propose accomplishing that.

Take another look at the isms mentioned above. They are all variations on TIMN. Tribalism obviously correlates to the T form. Beyond that, globalism is a function of the spread of +M and the rise of +N. Capitalism is obviously a manifestation of +M (though in many respects it has become more a distortion that a proper sound manifestation of +M).

Other forces I mentioned — nationalism and populism — are mostly T-related forces. However populism often contains a +I element, with expectations that government leaders will fix things. Russian-led Eurasianism is a kind of T+I ideology that is antithetical to +M, in that it combines aspects of communism and fascism.

To reiterate what I’ve said in prior posts, when matters go well, societies advance by adopting and using the TIMN forms properly. When matters do not go well — if leaders make a mess of the +I and +M forms, or if individuals cannot find places for themselves in the +I, +M, or emerging +N realms — then people revert to organizing and behaving in terms of the T form, often in dark ways.

In other words, I repeat, beware the tribalization of America.

[An earlier version of this write-up appeared on my Facebook page on Jan 31.]

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