This article concerns the social philosophy known as Neo-Tribalism and not the reemergence of ethnic identities that followed the end of the Cold War. For that subject, see New tribalism


Neotribalism is the ideology that human beings have evolved to live in a tribal, as opposed to a modern, society, and thus cannot achieve genuine happiness until some semblance of tribal lifestyles has been re-created or re-embraced.

General ideologyEdit

Neotribalist ideology is rooted in the social philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and William Kingdon Clifford, who spoke of a "tribal self" thwarted by modern society. The Evolutionary Principle of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, which states that a species removed from the environment in which it evolved will become pathological, has been cited by Neotribalists as providing a scientific basis for their beliefs.

Certain aspects of industrial and post-industrial life, including the necessity of living in a society of strangers and interacting with organizations that have memberships far above Dunbar's number are cited as inherently detrimental to the human mind as it has evolved. In a 1985 paper, "Psychology, Ideology, Utopia, & the Commons," psychologist Dennis Fox proposed a number around 150 people. Recently some supporters of neo-Tribalism have put forth the argument that their ideas have been scientifically proven by the discipline of evolutionary psychology. This claim has been highly disputed, however.

Those that see Neotribalism as a political or quasi-political movement distinguish themselves from the reactionary Tribalism present in many parts of the world by emphasizing the necessity of establishing a global, or at least national, network of connected co-operating tribes, as opposed to the isolated, quarrelling groups of traditional tribal society. This anticipates the criticism by advocates of contemporary culture that tribal societies were almost invariably more violent and oppressive than modern ones.

Sociological theoryEdit

Work by researchers such as Robert Putnam and a 2006 study published in the American Sociological Review [1] seem to support at least the more moderate neo-Tribalist arguments. Data has pointed to a general breakdown in the social structure of modern civilization due to more frequent moves for economic reasons, longer commutes and a lack of emphasis in the media narrative on the desirability of strong friendships and community bonds.

The French Sociologist Michel Maffesoli was perhaps the first to use the term neo-Tribalism in a scholarly context. Maffesoli predicted that as the culture and institutions of modernism declined, societies would look to the organizational principles of the distant past for guidance, and that therefore the post-modern era would be the era of Neo-Tribalism. However, Maffesoli's anti-scientism is at odds with those in the movement that look to evolutionary psychology and anthropology for support.

Sociologist Robert J. Antonio has written on the social theories of tribalism and right-wing neopopulism in the American Journal of Sociology (2000; 106(1)-40-87).

Commentators such as Ethan Watters have credited, or blamed, growing neotribalist dynamics for contributing to the decline in marriage in the developed world, as 'modern tribes' form alternate means for satisfying social interaction.

Dr. Plinio Correa de Oliveira wrote in his book "Revolution & Counter-Revolution" that the Neo-Tribalist tendency would be the last stage of the Revolutionary process - although as a Catholic reactionary, Oliveira regarded this prospect with dread.

Moderate tendencyEdit

Moderate neotribalists believe that a tribal social structure can co-exist with a modern technological infrastructure. This is sometimes referred to as Urban Tribalism. For example, under this scenario, people might reside in a large house or other building with a communal group of 12-20 individuals all abiding by a defined set of rules, cultural rituals and intimate relationships, but otherwise leading modern lives, going to a job, driving a car, etc. In that it attempts to harmonize two seemingly contradictory cultures, namely modern existence and tribalism, the moderate tendency can be considered syncretic in a cultural or even political sense.

The Moderate orientation is associated with commentators such as Ethan Watters and a generally optimistic view on the possibility of a peaceful and non-disruptive transition to neo-Tribalism. Moderates interpret the 'environment' mentioned in the Evolutionary Principle to be mainly social.

Radical tendencyEdit

Radical neo-Tribalists such as John Zerzan believe that healthy tribal life can only thrive after technological civilization has either been destroyed or severely reduced in scope. Daniel Quinn, associated with the New tribalists, formulated the concept of "walking away": abandoning the owner/conqueror worldview of civilization--though not necessarily its geographical space--and making a living with others in tribal businesses. Others, such as Derrick Jensen, tend to call for more violent action, as they believe that it is appropriate and necessary to actively accelerate or cause a collapse of civilization. Still others, such as The Tribe of Anthropik take a survivalist bent and believe that a collapse is inevitable no matter what is done or said and concentrate their efforts on surviving and forming tribal cultures in the aftermath.

In general radical neotribalist groups tend to agree that the current population of humanity is unsustainable and thus a form of cultural change is fundamentally necessary, rather than simply desirable, and that the preferable, or perhaps inevitable form for society to take after this change is tribalism. The call for a revolution is intended to either accomplish or survive this change. Anarcho-Primitivism has been cited as an influence on or even a variant of radical neotribalism.

Radicals interpret the 'environment' of the Evolutionary Principle to be mainly physical and economic.


Critics have pointed out that membership in modern 'tribes' is voluntary and shallow, i.e. not based on deep cultural traditions and kinship ties. Therefore it is argued neotribalism is likely to be nothing more than a fad - if it even really exists outside the minds of certain pundits and weekend hobbyists.

The movement has also been accused of being Eurocentric, insulting traditional indigenous cultures through insincere and inaccurate imitation, thereby reviving the 19th-century myth of the Noble savage. The writer Malcolm Bull argues that neotribal or "autonomist" attacks on the capitalist system are in reality within the ideology of that system and serve ultimately to support itTemplate:Fact.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

es:Neotribalismo it:Neotribalismo

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