Welcome to the new year, by the way. I hope it’s off to a good start.
And now the prediction, which is that in 2015 “tribalism” will become an increasingly prominent buzzword used in analyzing American society and the behaviors and attitudes of its people.
The issue of separating out of groups in American society is not particularly new; I’ve been observing it since the early 90’s on campus in western New York, where students seemed to self-segregate along increasingly specific ethnic lines, even in what one might have expected to be an open, integrating setting.
Neither is the observation surprising in our post-modern moment, where incredulity towards meta-narratives has opened the door to a widespread sense of prioritizing personal experience as a member of a sub-group as the defining lens through which to interpret and assess information, and as the basis for dismissing contrary assessments.
Professor Glenn Reynolds seems to have a knack for highlighting prominent trends and issues, and in his recent editorial in USA Today focusing attention on the dynamic of using group distinction for political purposes, “tribalism” is the term he uses in the headline and throughout to capture the dynamic.
It’s not that he has coined the term’s use in this way, but he deploys it well, and I’ve begun to notice it cropping up in columns and comments. As the ideological strains in economics, politics, education, race, etc., become more pronounced in this year leading up to nominations for the 2016 election, I think it will become a widely used shorthand to describe the source of those strains, and to explain our inability to make practical progress in resolving them.