This article is adapted from Idols of the Tribe: Group Identity and Political Change, forthcoming from Harper & Row, New York, May 1975. Copyright Harold R. Isaacs, 1975.
We are experiencing on a massively universal scale a convulsive ingathering of men in their numberless groupings of kinds, a great clustering of separatenesses in which people feel they can find the physical and emotional security they find nowhere else. These are the basic group identities that all people possess by virtue of having been born into a particular family at a given time in a given place. They are tribal, racial, religious, national. These elements cluster in each person in endlessly varying ways. Their sources and their power are rooted in physical facts, in history, in language, in systems of belief and values that make up our cultures. For most of the people on earth in our own time, these elements of identity have come to be embraced in what we call our "nations." It has to be seen in its other shapes and guises, but basic group identity does come most largely into view dressed in its national colors, marching under its national flag, wearing its national tag. In its many definitions and usages, the "nation" or "nationality" appears as the ultimate, the most political, the most inclusive, even the "terminal" form of the basic group identity itself.
The nation, writes Rupert Emerson, is "the largest community which, when the chips are down, effectively commands men's loyalty . . . it is for present purposes the effective end of the road for man as a social animal, the end point of working solidarity between men." Other groupings have played this role-the family, the tribe, religious communities-but "all of these, without vanishing from the scene, have bit by bit, often after harsh struggle, yielded pride of place to the nation in the sense that for constantly growing numbers of men the claims of the nation have come to be accepted as taking priority over claims coming from any
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