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From the Wikipedia:

"A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.

Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and kinship).

Some theorists hold that tribes represent a stage in social evolution intermediate between bands and states. Other theorists argue that tribes developed after, and must be understood in terms of their relationship to, states." (


1. Jordan Greenhall:

"As special forces teams and high tech startups attest, the “tribe-level” of organization can be very effective. There are several reasons for this:

  • Because everyone is more or less aware of the whole set of organizational activities and the capabilities and interests of all the other members of the group, it is relatively easy for informal networking to match the most important tasks with the resources most capable of attending to them.
  • Because the organization is small it is easy for each member to simultaneously see and feel how his or her contributions contribute to the success of the whole and at the same time it is easy for each member to see and feel how everyone else’s contributions contribute to the success of the whole.
  • Where there is a sense of shared mission, our evolved set of social signals and emotional intelligences structure group behaviour to generate tacit (non-formal) leadership and quick group consensus.

The result is an organization that does a good job getting everyone to pull in the same direction and using collective intelligence to identify and solve problems. When someone is not being a “team player,” this is both relatively easily discovered and policed. When someone is overmatched by their challenges or when some emergency situation has arrived on the horizon again, this information is relatively easily sensed by “the whole” and responded to with the best wisdom that the group can muster.

But as the number of participants expands, the “tribe-level” of organization begins to fail. There is too much information for everyone to keep track of all at once and this gives rise to the whole suite of collective action and “tragedy of the commons” problems studied in academics. Consensus decison-making becomes increasingly burdensome and tribal instincts begin to break the organization into several often-competing sub-tribes rather than a smoothly unified whole." (

2. John Robb:

"What is a Tribe?

When modern humans exploded out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago, they did so with one of the most potent innovations we’ve ever developed: the tribe.

Tribal organizations are characterized by:

● Compelling narratives. Historical narratives that describe overcoming adversity and prospering together. Stories that explain why the tribe is special and worth defending.

● Rituals of initiation and obligation. Rites of passage and the expectations of conduct that demonstrate commitment and loyalty to the tribe. The requirements for earning the protection of the tribe.

● Fictive kinship. Tribes combine these narratives and rituals to create fictive kinship. A kinship that isn’t limited by DNA/blood. This is key.

We still rely upon tribalism. While tribalism could at times be a threat to our survival (unnecessary war), it has also been essential to our development and success.

Tribalism provides us with:

● Organizational Scalability. The fictive kinship of tribalism has allowed us to build organizations far beyond the limitations of the family -- from the abstract tribalism of world spanning religions/cultures to the binding agent used to build powerful nation-states.

● A Storehouse of Knowledge. Tribal narratives provide us with lessons on how to survive and prosper as a cohesive entity. In early tribes, these stories were used to preserve technical knowledge across generations (how to make weapons and plant crops) and insight on dealing with adversity. In the modern context, these narratives provide us with everything from why our national institutions are valuable to where we are headed as a nation.

● Trust and Legitimacy. Tribalism generates cohesion through fictive kinship. It creates a sense of us. Grand tribal narratives fuel the legitimacy and strength of the nation-state and they animate economies with expectations of mutual trust and benefit." (John Robb's newsletter, April 2017)