[P2P-F] what to think of neo-tribes

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Thu Apr 13 10:34:32 CEST 2017

dear Stacco and Ann-Marie

I think David's comments deserve their place as a separate article in our


via David Ronfeldt:

Readings about the tribalization of America — #11:
While most readings in this series are about the malignant forms of
tribalism polarizing America, this one is about an attempt to foster a
positive transnational form called "neo-tribes". The reading is by a
collective named NeoTribes, writing "NeoTribal Emergence” (2016).
NeoTribes draws its inspiration from philosopher Daniel Quinn's writings
recommending "new tribalism" as a way for people to move beyond the ruinous
effects of modern civilization and chart a course to a better life.
NeoTribes is also associated with the pro-commons P2P (peer-to-peer)
movement. The neo-tribal orientation is thus on the Left — but an
innovative kind of Left that combines classic tribal and new
information-age network types of ideas. And while classic tribes were built
around ethnic identities and sought to maximize pride, these neo-tribes are
being built around work and lifestyle identities and seek to maximize
NeoTribes agree that tribes were our earliest form of organization, and
that "human beings have evolved to live in tribal society as opposed to
mass society." They also believe that, because modern civilization has
resulted in such untenable waste and destruction, "we’re in the throes of a
re-tribalizing moment." So their motto is "The future is tribal". As they
see it, "In many ways the “neo-tribal” moment is being ushered in by a deep
longing to escape cultures that belong to a bygone era." In a sense, this
means starting societies over by reverting back to the tribal form — but
NeoTribes is future-oriented, and it means to accomplish more than that.
At present, NeoTribes consists of five cutting-edge transnational
collectives: OuiShare, Wisdom Hackers, Agora, Sistema B, and Perestroika.
But they are just getting going, and will campaign to expand this year.
Here're a few passages about the above:
"We are a transnational collective of community builders, facilitators,
strategists, entrepreneurs, provocateurs, researchers, experience designers
and social architects from diverse tribes, serving an emerging paradigm. We
delve into different forms of community, networks and subcultures to reveal
best practices, tools and experiential knowledge; to "re-mix", share and
apply within modern ways of living and organizing. At our core is an effort
to create visibility, shared learning and relationship between emerging
pockets of insurgency."
"We as NeoTribes, an emerging collective of neo-tribal communities, have
come together to ask some timely questions and create a frame through which
we all may continue to develop common language, wisdom and practical
know-how. We are experimental communities searching for viable alternative
forms of living in an era of deep transition. We are digital natives
yearning for an analogue reality that is marked by the physicality of
existence. We strive to align our pace of life with natural rhythms that
make space for love, trust, belonging and solidarity – values too often
absent from mass society. Since September 2015, we’ve been gathering in
digital meeting rooms as well as face-to-face for learning journeys in
Brazil, Berlin and Costa Rica, forging bonds of trust between our
communities, and making space for reflecting on who we are, where we are
heading and why we feel the way we do about the present moment."
"Over the course of the next 6-months we will embark on a learning journey,
crafting and curating a cookbook of practical “how to” wisdom from over 50+
neo-tribes around key themes related to community design, group practices
and rituals, methods of self-organization and facilitation, and tools for
governance, financing, and mutualism."
One quality I like about NeoTribes is their insistence on combining
individualism and collectivism (or mutualism). This is consistent not only
with P2P theory's concept of "collective individualism", but also with TIMN
theory's view that all four of TIMN's cardinal forms of organization
(tribes, institutions, markets, networks) and thus societies as a whole
involve both individualism and collectivism — often different kinds and in
different ways at different times, but always a combination nonetheless.
Here are a few quotes showing this:
"[We] aren’t naïvely cocooning ourselves in “Cumbaya collectivism.” We
recognize the human need for a community where one can pursue belonging in
the context of a collective, while also remaining autonomous,
self-expressive and unique. We affirm that each individual should be
witnessed and understood, without being pressured to disappear into group
identity or camouflage her authenticity. We believe in the power of
individual autonomy, and also in the power of mutualism. Many of our tribes
are finding new ways to mutualize resources and build commons in the forms
of shared operational infrastructure, housing, work spaces, food, and so on
– without demanding that anyone martyr themselves for a higher cause."
"In constructing our communities, many of us think about how to create a
place of shared identity, while also maintaining inclusivity. Traditional
tribes are often very closed. You inherit an identity based on kinship and
the place you were born. But neo-tribes most often represent your “chosen
tribe.” You opt in, and can have multiple tribal allegiances or cycle
through different tribes in a lifetime."
This insistence by NeoTribes on being for both individualized and mutualist
approaches contrasts with the canard I've heard from tribalized
conservatives that they are for individualism while liberals /progressives
are for collectivism. This canard has awful problems: First, all the
liberals I know are for individualism too. Second, conservatives may oppose
the collectivism they see in big government and the welfare state, but they
like other kinds of collectivism — e.g., family, community, patriotism,
etc., not to mention that their tribalism is itself a kind of collectivism.
Third, as I noted above, all progress-oriented societies require mixtures
of individualism and collectivism, otherwise they cease progressing. This
is another area of doctrinal thinking where the tribalization of
conservatism has led to a defective defense of a false dichotomy (not to
mention that it provides further evidence that conservatives think mainly
in terms of boundaries, liberals mainly in terms of horizons).
But to get back to the NeoTribes' initiative, here's what else I
appreciate: They are for openness, in transnational networked ways, not
isolation and exclusivity. They recognize a need for "alternative forms of
governance", suited to a next phase of social evolution, "without delusions
of separateness to entirely “escape the system”." Indeed, they recognize
"the interdependence of personal well-being and structural forces".
Furthermore, they prefer to focus on local matters, yet feel part of a
global consciousness. In their words, "We long to root down in local
contexts, and often find more pride in the cities that we contribute to
than the stale rhetoric of participation offered at a national level. At
the same time, our digital infrastructure and social media has imparted to
us a global consciousness."
I see some overlap in all this with TIMN theory about past, present, and
future social evolution — but I shall note three points only lightly:
First, by combining tribal and network impulses, NeoTribes reflects the
TIMN dynamic that each new form starts its rise with a tribal impulse,
before it matures and professionalizes around its own distinctive
principles. Second, NeoTribes reflects a TIMN dynamic that says efforts
will be made to adapt prior forms to new needs — and the neo-tribes
movement surely is such an adaptation, suited to the Information age.
Third, TIMN is partly and ultimately about the rise of the +N network form
and the creation of a new sector based around it. This may be a commons
sector, but I think it's still too early to tell. NeoTribes has aspects
that fit this, but I don't see that it corresponds fully to +N.
Thus, I find the neo-tribes concept quite positive and appealing. Yet, as a
TIMN quadriformist, I should temper and qualify my interest. Even so, it's
good to read about a tribalism that isn't bitter and vengeful, bad for
I shall hope that Michel Bauwens and other P2P and NeoTribes proponents
eventually take a look at this post.


Check out the Commons Transition Plan here at: http://commonstransition.org

P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net  - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net

http://twitter.com/mbauwens; http://www.facebook.com/mbauwens

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