“Excuse Me, Sir, Are You A Member?”

     We don’t have a science of sociodynamics. We have theories, models, and assorted conjectures, but at this time sociologists can’t claim the degree of predictive accuracy that would qualify sociodynamics as a science. Sociodynamics’ most important shortcoming, as is the case with economics and psychology, is the inability to say when the developments it predicts will occur.

     Even so, we have enough history to be reasonably sure that in certain socioeconomic contexts, a particular social or political development will bring about a predictable result — eventually. We’re seeing one such case now:

When the members of a society perceive that the dangers to them are increasing, they will contract their loyalties – i.e., they will move their allegiances from larger affinities to smaller ones – in response.

     I call this the tribalism dynamic. I’ve written about tribalism on other occasions, of course. The time has come to use this dynamic to look into the American near-term future.


     If I may cut to the chase, it’s not looking good. The widespread transfer of loyalties from the nation to ever smaller tribes has already had perceptible effects socially, economically, and politically. To make matters dramatically worse, the contraction toward ever smaller tribes tends to increase the prevalent degree of fear. The “us versus them” effect is like that: the fewer “uses” one perceives, the more “thems” there are to be distrusted.

     The contraction has no natural brakes. We might transfer our allegiances:

  • From Americans to white Americans;
  • Thence from white Americans to white conservative Americans;
  • Thence from white conservative Americans to white conservative Christian Americans;
  • Thence from white conservative Christian Americans to white conservative Catholic Americans;
  • Thence from white conservative Catholic Americans to white male conservative Catholic Americans;
  • Thence from white male conservative Catholic Americans to white male conservative Catholic Long Islanders;
  • And thence?

     Feel free to substitute the affinity groups of your preference for the ones above.

     Narrow loyalties, such as to one’s neighborhood or family, will withstand the dynamic more stoutly than larger ones. Yet as anyone who’s ever been caught in a family squabble will tell you, there remains room for further contraction, until the only person one chooses to trust is oneself…and do we look just a mite shifty in the mirror this morning?

     Humor in this context should not be taken as dismissal of the dangers. It’s not to be taken lightly, no matter how fliply I express it. Fear and hatred are natural cousins. Indeed, hatred, as C. S. Lewis has told us, is an analgesic for fear.

     The sole countermeasure to the tribalism dynamic is exhaustion.


     Americans are fortunate to have a history of national good feeling – a sort of super-political camaraderie that has transcended the differences among us more often than not. It’s expressed in abstract ways: the “shining city on a hill;” the “world’s policeman;” “the ship that sailed the Moon;” “we’re American,” not “American’t;” and so on. However, once intertribal fear and hatred have set in, they tend to eclipse all the unifying inclinations that make a people cohere. In the usual case, the fear and hatred must exhaust the energies of the tribes, often through actual bloodshed, before any re-coalescence into national unity can occur.

     We must get tired of hating and killing one another before we can see one another as friends and countrymen once more. How long will that take? No one can say; it’s part and parcel of the indeterminacy of sociodynamic predictions. There’s an awful lot of built-up resentment out there. Our political class has worked prodigies in that regard.

     We may have to wait until the ammo runs out.


     The tribalism dynamic tends to infect other loyalties. For example, the preparationist movement has much to recommend it. Yet it has a kinship with the tribalism dynamic. David Brin captured a bit of this in his novel The Postman. In that story, survivalists trusted only one another – and only from within the same group. All others were viewed as threats, prey, or both.

     The cautionary note is worth discussing, especially among persons who consider themselves “preppers.” George Alec Effinger didn’t claim to be a prophet, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t one.


     That’s all I have at the moment. Please consider discussing it with your like-minded friends. (You know who I mean: the ones you think you can trust.) It’s possible that acknowledging it to others and resolving consciously to work against it in one’s personal relations might defend us against its progression, though most social forces can’t be thwarted this way. But we call a force of this sort a dynamic because of the active power and continuous effect it embodies. It will take a great deal of power of other kinds to oppose it successfully, if it can be opposed at all.

     See also in this connection this aggregation of six essays from Liberty’s Torch V1.0, which I wrote in 2012. And do have a nice day.