Tribal Theory - Do We Belong

Often when I do talks on community and social capital I will sometimes liken them to the notion of tribes.  Most of us have some sense of what a "tribe" might mean so I thought this would be a good blog topic.

Merriam-Webster defines tribe as a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers; a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome. defines tribe as; any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc... The elders then impart to him the customs and traditions of the tribe. has it as: a unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.

If you "google" the word, tribe, you will find these definitions and others, but all these definitions look at tribes as a network of people who share a deep and common bond through some frame of regularity.  We often think of the Native American tribes, or the 7 tribes of Israel in a formal sense, but in reality we are all members of a number of different "tribes."

More recently 2 very popular books have come out with Tribes in the title, and have pushed us a bit to think about the realities of tribes.  One was released a couple years ago by the social commentator, Seth Godin.  He suggests that groups of people can be turned into a tribe by a shared interest, especially one that is passionate.

The newest book on Tribes is by the real-life novelist, Sebastian Junger, of "A Perfect Storm" fame.  His book, "Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging," looks at the realities of the returning veteran to civilian life.  He frames the military tribe and speaks to the struggles veterans have in rejoining civilian society.  His strong opinion swirls around the individuality of civilian life and the fact that tribes, similar to the military tribe, are far and few between. He suggests that modern society in the US has given us unimaginable autonomy and material bounty, but deprives us of a real sense of community and interdependence.

All of this is interesting and useful, but there is no questions that we humans need to be part of a tribe, and when we join, good things happen to us.  We feel a sense of purpose, and camaraderie, and can frame our self-image around that of the tribe.  We all need a sense of belonging and connections and tribes present this.

So, what tribes are you a member of, or more, what new tribes might you reach out to join?