Sebastian Junger




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Many people living in modern society enjoy a comfortable and protected life, but the abundance of food, security, and knowledge comes at a price. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging explains that the biggest risk of all is that of losing our sense of community and social ties, because without them, we will be unable to solve the issues that will determine the future of the planet, such as the proper management of resources, especially water and energy.

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Analysis and key concepts


Tribal civilisations are based on loyalty and a sense of belonging, and offer human beings the opportunity to give meaning to their lives as active members of a social group. What’s more, tribes are managed according to a system based on merit, whereby authority is agreed upon, and those who disagree with the consensus are free to leave the group


Agriculture and industry have radically altered our way of living in society: the opportunity to accumulate personal wealth pushes us to make individualistic choices, which diminishes our motivation to work towards the common good. Material well-being, however, does not automatically translate into happiness


When people are actively engaged in a cause, or when a catastrophic event affects a certain group, life takes on greater meaning, and a sense of equality reinforces social behaviour


From an evolutionary perspective, post-traumatic stress disorder is a useful mechanism, because it forces us to remain alert and focused, and to avoid situations that we are unable to control. In other words, it helps us survive


The majority of people returning from war nowadays find it much more difficult to reintegrate into society than in the past. According to experts, this is largely due to the alienating, indifferent, and competitive society they belong to


Our natural human instinct is to stay close to people, but our society often makes this impossible: from an early age, we are separated from our parents and forced to sleep alone




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Identify the differences between western and tribal societies.
  • Discover the triggers of PTSD.
  • Learn about the relationship between social interdependence and happiness. 

Sebastian Junger is a writer and war correspondent, and has won numerous awards for his reporting. He writes for Vanity Fair and is a correspondent for ABC. He wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, together with Tim Hetherington.

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