[EconTalk] Sebastian Junger on Tribe

Sebastian Junger on Tribe

31/12/2018 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=61103594
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2018/Jungertribe.mp3

Journalist and author Sebastian Junger talks about his book Tribe with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Junger explores the human need to be needed and the challenges facing many individuals in modern society who struggle to connect with others. His studies of communal connection include soldiers in a small combat unit and American Indian society in the nineteenth century.

Start Date: 2018-02-25

Finish Date: 2019-03-05


  • Had a bad reaction to this even as it started
  • I am nowadays in a state of mind where I get extremely exasperated about prescriptions arising from evolutionary argument. Oh, evolution has driven adaptations and therefore we should do X. Bloody food, evolution has driven multiple adaptations which can drive us to do multiple things. Calm your tits.
  • On a more fundamental note, I increasingly get the feeling that evolutionary adaptations, like a hill climbing algorithm, have driven us up local maxima; and now we find ourselves stuck there and unable to deal with new circumstances. Scumbag evolution.
  • Coming specifically to that as it relates to Tribe, at least Junger acknowledges that tribalism has toxic or undesirable side effects as well. But he sort of throws his hands up and says ‘Well we’ve just got to think of other people as part of our tribe!’
  • And that led into this exasperating branch into modern day American politics.
  • Tangential thought while listening: if we’re adapted to a 20 member tribe, then even defending nationalism on the basis of evolutionary dynamics is dumbass.
  • Interesting learning: that crib sleeping started during the Gin Craze, because it was easier to separate babies from drunk parents who would roll over and suffocate them, than to get the parents to stop drinking
  • I was a little more sympathetic to Junger when I picked up the end of the episode a few days later; probably because his talking about our being evolutionarily wired to never being satisfied circles back to the episode with Robert Wright.
  • The line about “Al Qaeda cannot destroy our freedom, only words can destroy our freedom” ties back to McCloskey or Pratchett, depending on whether you want to go nonfiction or fiction.


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