Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Tribe and Discourse

On Tribe and Discourse

Earlier blog entries in this space (Culture is Geologic [gone - eaten by former blog host], Tribalization and the Global Economy and Relativism [below], Populism and Power [also eaten]) expressed the view that industrialism, by disrupting awareness of a direct relation to nature, dislodged the web of discourse that integrated tribe and ecosystem and replaced the integrating mythos with a place holder that Lacan refered to as the Name-of-the-Father.  This place holder can now be filled, the sentiments of "tribe" artificially but all the more zealously aroused, by any number of banners.  One's sense of personal identity is wrapped up in some kind of tribal membership.
I say all the more zealously because in a globalized economy, tribal connections, especially among urban or modern people, are likely to be reaction formations to some degree.  Believers of myths today believe them literally and historically, rather than heuristically or metaphorically; fans idolize teams and do battle over loyalties; patriots die for nations that never supported them; gangs fight over territories; people are relieved to be identified as belonging to a market segment.  Reaction formation is characterized by overly intense beliefs; overly intense to sustain the lie to oneself.  
A little reflection and anyone can see that intense tribal loyalties are artificial yet deadly in a global economy.  The organic integrity of pre-literate tribes has long decayed, as we can see directly in the aboriginal peoples of the world whose ways have been sideswiped by globalization.  Today, the tribe as a social-psychological form is decadent.  A true way of renewal needs to be found. 

Tribalization and the Global Economy
Historically, tribe is a set of economic relationships between people that direct their relation to local nature; i.e., a socio-economic system.  An attendant mythology embedded in linguistic structures models the world for members of the tribe. The mythology institutionalizes kinship relations, the rites and rules of reproduction and life events in patriarchal terms.  Tribe is circumscribed by a set of proprieties and shameful transgressions (especially reproductive) that literally define its membership and its members’ sense of identity.

What happens to tribe in the global economy? 

In a global economy, the tribe resides in an alienated nostalgia.  There is an empty place-holder for what should be a meaningful socially-integrating force (that makes us feel at home in the world and explains our connection to nature in mythological terms), but the place-holder embodies the same amount of energy and urgency as any locally based socio-economic system.  In an unrooted global economic system, any banner can galvanize a group in the time it takes to score a goal , shout “death to infidels” or prefer one popular music genre over another.  Why?

Psychologist Jacques Lacan had the brilliance to realize three things:  One, that the sense of personal identity one has is necessary for basic sanity; Two, that this sense of identity does not self-subsist in individuals but is a product of one’s linguistic place in the patriarchal-tribal system of meanings; and Three, it is necessary for there to be an integrating but intrinsically undefinable locus of navigation to this system of meanings, which he facetiously but accurately called “the name of the father.”  So the answer to the question as to why tribe can galvanize with such astounding force is that a linguistic community is deeply necessary for sanity.  There are obvious exceptions, but unfortunately until Lacan is wrong, and Carol Gilligan is right … 

2016-06-08 Note: Name of the father "as the delegate and spokesperson of a body of social Law and convention", not the phallus as per Freud. There are probably better sources out there. I was reading Malcolm Bowie 11 years ago in 2005 if anyone's interested.