Sebastian Junger’s latest book “Tribe” explores a vast array of topics ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reintegrating veterans, and societal cohesion-at-large. Individually, these topics could be explored in vast tomes, but Junger synthesizes them into an outstanding book that captures readers’ attention and encourages us to ponder some of modern society’s larger challenges.
This was a short, easy to read book that masterfully weaves anecdotes and bits of history, sociology, and evolutionary and anthropological science. Junger introduces, and post-scribes, his book with a personal story that ends with a powerful thought,
“Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”
Following his introduction, Junger develops what I consider his thesis — we are stronger when we come together as a tribe, but modern society has created an environment that challenges the necessity and ability to do so. The first half of this thesis is quite non-controversial; but the second half is a little more contested, especially when discussing what to do about it. Throughout the book, Junger supports this thesis by highlighting anecdotes about what we value, what we’re willing to sacrifice for, how different demographics come together (or divide themselves), and how adversity affects these situations.
#Tribebook reflects on what society seems to value… encourages us all to engage in a cause… and discusses its effects on mental health.
Junger’s thoughts on PTSD, supported by similar evidence collected within the Peace Corps… and how shared adversity helps establish tribal groups, which we subconsciously yearn for.
#Tribebook reflects on the status of societal division and some discussions; especially the tendencies of some political campaigns.
#Tribebook develops a contemporary definition for what it means to act tribally.
This is certainly not the first review of “Tribe,” and many others have helped shape my thoughts about this book and the topics therein. To gain some other perspectives, here are some of the other reviews.
1. The first review I read was Mark Jones, Jr’s “#Reviewing Tribe” on the Strategy Bridge. Jones’ review replicates one of Junger’s own techniques by intertwining his own experiences in Iraq with a review of Tribe. [June 1, 2016]
2. Kori Schake wrote a review titled “Veterans and the Alienated Society” on War on the Rocks. Schake criticized the fact that “Tribe” seems to yearn for a nationwide tribal society, which she doesn’t think ever existed. Instead, she argues that Junger should have highlighted some of the contemporary organizations that might be able to fulfill the tribal role: Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues, Spirit of America, and faith-based organizations. Additionally, she believes that Junger uses flawed analogies about Native Americans and corporate CEOs. However, she agrees with the challenges of reintegrating veterans into society and praises Junger for continuing the dialogue about finding ways to get veterans engaged within their community. [June 10, 2016]
3. Matthew Gault wrote a short review titled “Sebastian Junger Knows Why Soldiers Have a Hard Time Coming Back Home” on War is Boring. The review itself is short, highlighting a description of a tribe; a tight knit group that includes a high-level of trust, loyalty, camaraderie, and shared purpose. Gault reiterates the challenge of how to reintegrate service members into a society that doesn’t automatically present those same group dynamics. The review ends with a link to a weekly War College podcast titled “Why is it so hard to come home from modern war?” [June 11, 2016]
4. Team Red White and Blue (Team RWB) has another podcast titled “Sebastian Junger on Veterans, Modern Society, and Finding a Tribe.” The hosts of this podcast interview Junger about this book and his experiences leading up to it. [June 9, 2016]
5. Finally, Eric Chandler wrote another review “E Pluribus Unum: A Review of “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger” on his own blog. Much like Jones, Chandler masterfully weaves his own tribal experiences with Tribe’s central themes: returning to society, PTSD, what people and society value, and the divisiveness of modern society. [July 8, 2016]
Tribe was an engaging book that has sparked discussions on-line and in-person. Sebastian Junger may not offer all the solutions to the challenges of PTSD and societal division, but this book encourages us to discuss these topics within our communities. How can we create better communities? What are the effects of marginalizing or ostracizing certain people from the community, even if done inadvertently? I believe we cannot leave these problems to the “experts.” We all have a part within our society and hopefully this book will help kick start its readers towards action.