Monday, November 29, 2021

In Defense of Tribalism

The reputation of a tribal society is abysmally low in our time, primarily because tribalism is believed to be incompatible with the modern capitalist or communist state, where social order is maintained by a big government (the leviathan, in the words of Thomas Hobbes). The large bureaucratic institutions, the crony-capitalist companies, the military and police apparatus, and intellectual institutions (academia and the mainstream media) are part of this big government. Since both capitalism and communism aspire for total power, they have vilified tribalism by spreading false propaganda.

In tribalism, social order and adherence to egalitarian principles is achieved through a very small government. Instead of police and law courts, the tribal elders use moral and religious teachings, and the notion of loyalty to traditions, to persuade their people to behave in an orderly manner. Those who break the tribal norms are punished by a committee of tribal elders. In good tribal societies, justice is swift and exemplary. People in tribal societies (at least, the men) are mostly armed, both men and women understand the tribal way of life, and they are capable of acting to defend themselves and their tribe. The tribal societies can be individualistic without devolving into anarchism and nihilism. When a society discards the tribal way of life, then the alternative is some form of capitalism or communism (ruled by a tyrannical leviathan). 

A good society should have elements of both—tribalism and a constitutional system of governance. In large democracies, every aspect of life does not have to be under the control of a centralized government. When some areas of society are under tribal control, it will ensure that the bureaucratic and intellectual establishments do not become too large, insular, and ossified. Even in matters of foreign policy, the government can be guided by tribal aspirations. There are several areas of social life, in which people can find much better resolution for their problems by coordinating with each other at a tribal level.

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