Seth Godin talks about tribes and how the Internet has created an environment in which the idea of ‘tribe as a social structure’ can thrive.

Godin’s interpretation of the term ‘tribe’ is particularly generous in its scope and applicability as it does not seem to have clearly defined boundaries and can be applied to any group of people that share a set of characteristics, ideas or interests. The way it differs from the other definitions I came across is in the meaning it assigns to the idea of leadership. While the dictionary definition of the word ‘tribe’ explicitly emphasizes leadership as a central element, tribes in the modern sense tend to downplay the concept. The neo-tribe is seen as inherently self sufficient, lacking the organisation and clearly defined structure of a historical or ethnic tribe. In fact, when I attempted to propose that there may be value in a discussion about leadership in neo-tribal groups in class last month, I was shut down before I had the chance to finish the thought (Yes I am going to use this blog to air my grievances. Yes I am an entitled toddler).

Thankfully, Godin does see the value in this discussion, in fact he makes a point of emphasizing the importance of a leader persona to a tribe’s success. He sees the value of tribes in their ability to challenge the status quo and to push through and develop ideas. To this end, the leader is seen as a catalyst of sorts, a crucial component without whom a tribe cannot transform into an effective movement.

Now this arguments seems to take severe liberties with what a tribe actually is – a definition Godin had already stretched thin by that point. I am also not sure whether the sentiment is entirely realistic – in fact with the definitions being as loose as they are, the idea of a ‘leader’ becomes downright terrifying when applied in the current sociopolitical climate to schools of thought that the presentation was not originally intended for.

To be fair, Godin is not a sociologist, he is an entrepreneur and a motivational speaker and a a lot of his work is very focused on individualism, which runs contrary to the most basic principle of neo-tribalism.

Nevertheless, there is value in the idea. I may need to look for more discussions on the topic.