An astounding and inspiring look at the science behind tribalism – and how we can learn to harness this powerful instinct to improve the world around us
What do you think of when you hear the word tribalism? For many, it conjures images of bigotry, xenophobia and sectarian violence. Others may envision their own tribe: family, friends and the bonds of loyalty that keep them together. Tribalism is one of the most complex and ancient evolutionary forces; it gave us the capacity for co-operation and competition, and allowed us to navigate increasingly complex social landscapes. It is so powerful that it is a better predictor of our behaviour than race, class, gender or religion. But in our vast modern world, has this blessing become a curse?
Our Tribal Future explores a central paradox of our species: how altruism, community, kindness and genocide are all driven by the same core adaptation. Evolutionary anthropologist David R. Samson engages with cutting-edge science and philosophy, as well as his own field research with small-scale societies and wild chimpanzees, to explain the science, ethics and history of tribalism in compelling and accessible terms.
This bold and brilliant book reveals provocative truths about our nature. Readers will discover that tribalism cannot, and should not, be eliminated entirely – to do so would be to destroy what makes us human. But is it possible to channel the best of this instinct to enrich our lives while containing the worst of its dangers?
“This is a marvelous tour de force of a book. There’s so much content here—with a creative, compelling narrative.”
—Peter Gray, professor of anthropology, University of Nevada
“Samson makes a compelling case that our species’ future depends on how well we understand and control our tribal future.”
―Herman Pontzer, professor of anthropology, Duke University
“A richly suggestive work that charts a path to a brighter future.”
―Andy Norman, author of Mental Immunity
“A riveting read. It’s captivating, enlightening, and thought provoking.”
―Steve Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape That Understood the Universe
“He has shown with convincing clarity, on the basis of deep research, why human community is so important.”
―Timothy Miller, coauthor of The Modern Utopian
“Samson does a masterful job.”
―Dan Pardi, MS, PhD, CEO of humanOS
DAVID R. SAMSON is an associate professor of Biological Anthropology at the University of Toronto. An interdisciplinary scholar investigating major behavioural and physiological transitions in human evolution, he has worked with a range of primate species and studied sleep in different types of human societies. Samson’s research has been internationally profiled in venues such as BBC, Time, the New York Times, CBC, NPR and National Geographic. He is the author of Our Tribal Future.