David Ronfeldt on tribalism- a man ahead of his time

Remember back in 2006, when the Bush administration was trying to extricate itself from its truly catastrophic decision to invade Iraq? Ideas of a world triumph for Liberal Democracy were coming apart, and all the talk of the smart set was Samuel Huntingon and clashes of civilisations. The ideas of Islam, it was said, clashed with those of the west, and here would be the showdown. We suppose they forgot to tell Russia and China, who were already nurturing ideas of their own.

It was then that a man called David Ronfeldt publised a truly perceptive essay on the problem of tribalism, which we link below* (confession- we only stumbled upon it yesterday). Slowly the knowledge dawned on the Bush people that their problems in Iraq were due to tribalism, not clashes of belief. And gradually the realisation grew on everyone else. We at LSS have often advertised how the theme was developed by authors like Amy Chua and Eric Kaufman. (LSS ad nauseam) But there, back in ’06 was Ronfeldt, the daddy of them all. Since when Tribalism has grown across the world like a cancer. Its symptoms are obvious. Short easy answers to every question-blame the outsiders. Ranting charlatans leading disatrous responses to pandemics and other problems which call for co-operative, global solutions. The threats of armed conflict where before there was just peaceful trade. And lots of different competing tax havens for the worlds’ billionaires.

The task for all intelligent people is to think of a way out of this mindset before it destroys us all. It will not be easy. But unless we try, it won’t be done at all

Today’s Wars Are Less About Ideas Than Extreme Tribalism | RAND

#tribalism #ideology #iraq #bushadministration #balkans

2 thoughts on “David Ronfeldt on tribalism- a man ahead of his time

  1. interesting, and probably right. I read a book by Desmond Morris about tribalism in football crowds in the 1970@s and 80’s and what motivates it. His conclusion was that it is a human trait- people want to belong to something, and want to keep others out of “the tribe”. I am not sure it offers any solutions leading to global co-operation, but clearly we have to live with it and use it for the greater good, rather than weaponise it to exploit or discriminate against other countries/religions/sects/sexes/football teams that don’t share are beliefs.


  2. steve. I think your answer is judicious and wise as ever. I had not known about Desmond Morris Book. I agree that it is deeply rooted in human nature. Any policy that goes against human nature directly is bound to fail. So yes you are right- the first recourse is to harness it, not oppose it. Howeever, History shows that structures, such as mercantile trade networks can arise which transcend the tribal level of organisation, it is in these periods that the greatest advances are made eg renaissance, Enlightenment


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