Peter Sloterdijk: “Tribalism is fundamental to being human“

Our reality has always taken place in the setting of a large family or a circle of friends. But this fact was covered by the myth of the nation. German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk explains why today's group of nationalists will fail. On 22 January, Sloterdijk will speak at the GDI.
9 January, 2018 by
Peter Sloterdijk: «Tribalismus ist grundlegend für das Menschsein»
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

This is an excerpt from an interview in "Migros-Magazine". Read the entire interview in German here.

Peter Sloterdijk, do you share the diagnosis that we are currently experiencing a return of pre-modern tribal thinking in the western world?

It is not a "return", but rather we become aware of a fact that has applied throughout human evolution. Tribal thinking was only overlaid temporarily and is now reappearing.

What was the cover-up?

The myth of the nation. Since the development of the nation-states in the 18th century, the people of a nation should see themselves as "children of the fatherland". The "Marseillaise" speaks plain language when it appeals to the "enfants de la patrie".

Has globalisation contributed to the revelation of tribal thinking?

Many feel overwhelmed by it and long for smaller, more manageable units. I believe that this interpretation goes beyond the point. The idea of a step backwards resonates in it, and this is not the case with tribalism as I understand it. Tribalism is fundamental to the very essence of being human. It's not like escaping into the lap of a tribe. Rather, the reality of life usually takes place within the framework of a large family or a circle of friends, in a group that comprises about as many people as a private address book. However, modern society has brought a threatening isolation to many people and driven them into artificial loneliness – from which they want to free themselves.

In the USA, tribalism seems to be particularly widespread: The Republican tribe and the Democratic tribe are hostile to each other and can hardly talk to each other. However, there is also controversy in Europe between the ones who close themselves off and the globalists.

And that has been the case ever since the discovery of America. At that time, a small minority had opened up to the world and the Atlantic Ocean, and its potential, while the rest of them stuck to their homeland. The industrial revolution and its consequences have further deepened the differences between these two groups . Today, they are exemplified by the friends and enemies of globalisation.

Politically, sometimes one side of the coin prevails, sometimes the other - which one will ultimately win?

I think there will inevitably be a prolonged back-and-forth. But the process of globalisation is irreversible, it cannot do anything other than continue, because we do not stop making, producing and consuming inventions. All signs are therefore in favour of opening up and networking, which is why I am sure that this side will ultimately prevail. Of course, there will always be local counter-movements such as the anti-globalisation movement in France, but they will fail because of their negativity.

This is an excerpt from an interview in "Migros-Magazine".


Share this post