Tribalism is the state of being organized in or an advocate for a
tribe or tribes. In terms of conformity, tribalism may also refer in
popular cultural terms to a way of thinking or behaving in which
people are loyal to their social group.
Tribalism has been defined[by whom?] as a "way of being" based upon
variable combinations of kinship-based organization, reciprocal
exchange, manual production, oral communication and analogical
enquiry. Ontologically, tribalism is oriented around the valences
of analogy, genealogy and mythology. That means that customary tribes
have their social foundations in some variation of these tribal
orientations, while often taking on traditional practices (e.g.
Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), and
modern practices, including monetary exchange, mobile communications,
and modern education.
The social structure of a tribe can vary greatly from case to case,
but the relatively small size of customary tribes makes social life in
such of tribes usually involve a relatively undifferentiated role
structure, with few significant political or economic distinctions
Tribalism implies the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic
identity that separates one member of a group from the members of
another group. Based on strong relations of proximity and kinship,
members of a tribe tend to possess a strong feeling of identity.
Objectively, for a customary tribal society to form their needs to be
ongoing customary organization, enquiry and exchange. However, intense
feelings of common identity can lead people to feel tribally
The distinction between these two definitions for tribalism, objective
and subjective, is an important one because while tribal societies
have been pushed to the edges of the Western world, tribalism, by the
second definition, is arguably undiminished. A few writers have
postulated that the human brain is hard-wired towards tribalism by its
evolutionary advantages, but that claim is usually linked to equating
original questions of sociality with tribalism.
A tribe often refers to itself using its own language's word for
"people", and refers to other, neighboring tribes with various
epithets. For example, the term "Inuit" translates to "people".
3 See also
5 External links
Anthropologists engage in ongoing debate on the phenomenon of warfare
among tribes. While fighting typically and certainly occurs among
horticultural tribes, an open question remains whether such warfare is
a typical feature of hunter-gatherer life or is an anomaly found only
in certain circumstances, such as scarce resources (as with the Inuit
or Arabs) or only among food-producing societies. There is also
ambiguous evidence whether the level of violence among tribal
societies is greater or lesser than the levels of violence among
Western and European societies.
Tribes use forms of subsistence such as horticulture and foraging that
cannot yield the same number of absolute calories as agriculture. That
limits tribal populations significantly, especially when compared to
agricultural populations. Lawrence Keeley writes in
Civilization that examples exist with low percentage rates of
casualties in tribal battle, and some tribal battles were much more
lethal as a percentage of population than, for example, the Battle of
Gettysburg. He concludes that no evidence consistently indicates that
primitive battles are proportionately less lethal than "civilized"
Tribalism has a very adaptive effect in human evolution. Humans are
social animals and ill-equipped to live on their own. Tribalism
and social bonding help to keep individuals committed to the group,
even when personal relations may fray. That keeps individuals from
wandering off or joining other groups. It also leads to bullying when
a tribal member is unwilling to conform to the politics of the
Socially, divisions between groups fosters specialized interactions
with others, based on association: altruism (positive interactions
with unrelated members), kin-selectivity (positive interactions with
related members) and violence (negative interactions). Thus, groups
with a strong sense of unity and identity can benefit from kin
selection behaviour such as common property and shared resources. The
tendencies of members to unite against an outside tribe and the
ability to act violently and prejudicially against that outside tribe
likely boosted the chances of survival in genocidal conflicts.
Modern examples of tribal genocide rarely reflect the defining
characteristics of tribes existing prior to the Neolithic Revolution;
for example, small population and close-relatedness.
According to a study by
Robin Dunbar at the University of Liverpool,
primate brain size is determined by social group size. Dunbar's
conclusion was that most human brains can really understand only an
average of 150 individuals as fully developed, complex people. That is
known as Dunbar's number. In contrast, anthropologist H. Russell
Peter Killworth have done a variety of field studies in
the United States that came up with an estimated mean number of ties,
290, roughly double Dunbar's estimate. The Bernard–Killworth median
of 231 is lower because of upward straggle in the distribution, but it
is still appreciably larger than Dunbar's estimate.
Malcolm Gladwell expanded on this conclusion sociologically in his
book, The Tipping Point, where members of one of his types,
Connectors, were successful by their larger-than-average number of
close friendships and capacity for maintaining them, which tie
together otherwise-unconnected social groups. According to such
studies, then, "tribalism" is in some sense an inescapable fact of
human neurology simply because many human brains are not adapted to
working with large populations. Once a person's limit for connection
is reached, the human brain must resort to some combination of
hierarchical schemes, stereotypes and other simplified models to
understand so many people.
Esprit de corps
Ingroups and outgroups
^ Definition of tribalism;
Definition of tribalism by Macmillan dictionary
^ James, Paul (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing
Theory Back In. London: Sage Publications.
^ James, Paul. et al., Sustainable Communities, Sustainable
Development: Other Paths for Papua New Guinea (2012) pdf download
^ Max Gluckman (2007). "Social beliefs and individual Thinking in
Tribal Society". In Robert A. Manners; David Kaplan. Anthropological
Theory. Transaction Publishers. pp. 453–464.
^ Kanakasena Dekā; Kanakasena Ḍekā (1993). Assam's Crisis: Myth
& Reality. Mittal Publications. pp. 90.
^ Erich Fromm; Michael MacCoby (1970). Social Character in a Mexican
Village. Transaction Publishers. pp. xi.
^ Karen Lowther; Evan-Moor Educational Publishers (2003). Native
Americans: Grades 1–3. Evan-Moor. pp. 14.
^ Douglas P. Fry (2007). Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace.
Oxford University Press. pp. 114–115.
^ Lawrence H. Keeley (1997).
War Before Civilization. Oxford
University Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-19-988070-6.
^ Kumar Suresh Singh (1982). Economies of the tribes and their
transformation. Concept. pp. 22.
^ Lawrence H. Keeley (1997).
War Before Civilization. Oxford
University Press. pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-0-19-988070-6.
^ Isaacs, Harold Robert (1975). Idols of the Tribe: Group Identity and
Political Change. Harvard University Press. p. 43.
^ Jenks, Chris (1998). Core Sociological Dichotomies. SAGE
Publications. p. 339. ISBN 978-1-4462-6463-8.
^ Dunbar, Robin I. M. (2010). How many friends does one person need?:
Dunbar's number and other evolutionary quirks. London: Faber and
Faber. ISBN 0-571-25342-3.
^ McCarty, C.; Killworth, P. D.; Bernard, H. R.; Johnsen, E.; Shelley,
G. (2000). "Comparing Two Methods for Estimating Network Size". Human
Organization. 60 (1): 28–39. Archived from the original on
^ Bernard, H. Russell; Shelley, Gene Ann; Killworth, Peter (1987).
"How Much of a Network does the GSS and RSW Dredge Up?". Social
Networks. 9 (1): 49–63. doi:10.1016/0378-8733(87)90017-7.
^ H. Russell Bernard. "Honoring Peter Killworth's contribution to
social network theory." Paper presented to the University of
Southampton, 28 September 2006. http://nersp.osg.ufl.edu/~ufruss/
James, Paul (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory
Back In. London: Sage Publications.
James, Paul. et al., Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Development:
Other Paths for Papua New Guinea (2012) pdf download
Sow, Adama: Ethnozentrismus als Katalysator bestehender Konflikte in
Afrika südlich der Sahara, am Beispiel der Unruhen in Côte d`Ivoire
European University Center for Peace Studies (EPU),Stadtschleining
2005 (in German)
"The New Tribalism" by
University of Oregon
University of Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer,
condemning a "new tribalism" in the traditional sense of "tribalism,"
not to be confused with "new tribalism".
Tribalism in Africa" by Stephen Isabirye
Tribalism on the terrace" An article in Greek about soccer tribalism
"KENYA: It’s the economy, stupid (not just “tribalism”)" An IRIN
article on post election violence in
Kenya - January 2008
Steven Pressfield, "It's the Tribes, Stupid" (five part video series)
Ingroups and outgroups
Ethnicity in census
Ethnic interest group
Ethnic theme park