By David Lamy Tribes promises a lot, gives something, but ultimately fails to convince. Its problem lies in the nature of its vision, not that it is wrong, misguided or anything less than plausible. In fact, this ultimate failure to explain stems from the overall vision’s inability to cope with the issues the author initially identifies.
David Lamy is a British politician who is currently a member of the Shadow Cabinet of Labour. In Tribes he attempts to evaluate the political landscape, beginning with a theoretical analysis of why classes and other larger identities have split into smaller, interest-based groups they call ‘tribes’. Many readers may expect this analysis to develop, but instead the author follows a personal reflection on some of the ideas raised. And, as the book progresses, the context becomes more personal, before the final section attempts its rational, believable and, as before, impossible conclusion. The approach makes the book very readable, but not satisfactory given its promise of theoretical discussion.
The author is a remarkable person. He was born in Tottenham, North London, to a Guyanese immigrant family, raised by a single mother, and then attended the Cathedral Choir School in Peterborough. The University of London was preceded by Harvard Law School, where he became the first black British graduate. He became a lawyer in Silicon Valley and was then elected as a Member of Parliament from the Labor Party. And then he was a government minister. These are some facts from the life of this talented man – so far! His wife is white and his children are mixed race, whatever that means, because we are all mixed race, if we are human.
But in search of the kind of identity that modern people seem to be obsessed with, David Lamy sought out DNA analysis. The results suggested a mixture of origins, one of which was associated with the Tuareg of the West African Sahel. The author spends a great deal of time and resources researching this episode and then, as far as possible, experiencing it firsthand. Although ultimately this association is revealed at best, perhaps even deceptive, the author’s willingness and enthusiasm to pursue it reflects a point he made early in the book, This identity is nowadays felt more strongly on an individual basis than on a group basis. Except, of course, where the group has the ability to reinforce and affirm the individual.
David Lamy introduces Mafesoli’s concept of neo-tribes, communities of sentiment, to identify a contemporary tendency to view their individual identity purely in the context of a group’s identity. Thus, rational approaches to some issues, which are universal in nature, become devalued as neo-tribes develop their own intrinsic values and explanations. It is the fact that these are identity-granting minority positions that provide the focus for neo-tribal identity. The fragmentation in our social, economic and religious life promotes the replacement of universality. This is an important point.
A few pages on David Lamy and practically identifies how this behavior, even the trend, has been exploited by the political right. He cites two successful election slogans – “Make America Great Again” and “Take Back Control”, to which “Get Brexit Done” can be added – as examples of labels that exploit group fear above rational arguments. By bringing success to campaigns, thus defeating rational analysis that recognizes, or at least attempts to identify, the true complexity of the issues discussed. The slogans negated this complexity and presented the illusion of simple solutions. David Lamy inspiringly demonstrates how these simple sentimental but misogynistic messages prevailed over complex, vague, yet precise counter-argument.
In a still introduction, he cites a poll that claims nearly two-thirds of UK voters still believe the false claim that the country sends £350m a week to the EU. David Lamy followed up by saying that there still exists a group of confused individuals who think Arsenal are the best football team in North London. As a balance, I will remind him that about thirty-five years ago the philosopher A.J. Eyre wrote that it should be impossible for a logical positivist to support Tottenham Hotspur. Joking aside, the author thus shows that once accepted by the neo-tribe, a lie can retain its internal delusions of truth.
But people support Arsenal and others Tottenham. They both can’t be right if they claim that they follow the ‘best’ team. From internally accepted values from within the group, however, they may both be correct. Even after raising the slogan of “kitna kashta” in their team, such a tribe will unite if the same sentiment is expressed by the opposition. Welcome to the Conservative Party, which is forever divided internally but externally united as Stalin’s allies, largely silent until purged. And who cares if the message is irrational, impossible, impossible, or even irrelevant? The tribe will support it to exclude others. And it works.
Tribes have much in common that it is rational, clearly expressed, believable and heartfelt. It is a splendid snapshot of where British politics and society now live, in precariously opposing camps, ideologically armed, but often not agreeing on a language that can be debated, where the answer to a sensible question is usually an irrelevant one. , is given by the unrelated positive sound.
However, the book’s overarching message is flawed, because by the end we have returned to the need to acknowledge and recognize the complexities of the real issues. We must rely on our rationality and indulge in the politics of discussion and debate. Global problems require global solutions. Working in isolation will lead to failure. Messy international cooperation and thus, effectively, globalization is the only way out of local problems. However, the difficulty with such a plausible, deliverable and sensible analysis is that it repeatedly fails in the face of unsuccessful slogans that seek and obtain ephemeral, but identifiable, non-solutions. . Remember Vote for Victory?