Our New Tribes

Howard Fineman in this week’s Newsweek:

But such groupings -- what might be called “voluntary tribes” -- are assuming a new importance in America. As neighborhoods and schools become more diverse, marriages become more mixed and social hierarchies break down, old lines are getting blurry. Voluntary tribes are a way of recreating a sense of community.

More than “associations” -- the kind Tocqueville noticed were so numerous in America -- these are emotionally intense affinity groups based on shared aims, obsessions or political crusades, not on DNA. Fueled by the Internet, according to Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer, they’re “filling the gap of the neighborhood institutions of the 20th century.”

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