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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Which World Are We Living In?

Tribal World

Group Identity Is All

Supporters wave signs during a Make America Great Again rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 10, 2018. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Humans, like other primates, are tribal animals. We need to belong to groups, which is why we love clubs and teams. Once people connect with a group, their identities can become powerfully bound to it. They will seek to benefit members of their group even when they gain nothing personally. They will penalize outsiders, seemingly gratuitously. They will sacrifice, and even kill and die, for their group.

This may seem like common sense. And yet the power of tribalism rarely factors into high-level discussions of politics and international affairs, especially in the United States. In seeking to explain global politics, U.S. analysts and policymakers usually focus on the role of ideology and economics and tend to see nation-states as the most important units of organization. In doing so, they underestimate the role that group identification plays in shaping human behavior. They also overlook the fact that, in many places,

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