America 2.0: The Threat of Neotribalism

We've all noticed it - on television and the social web, an increase in politically partisan polemic and cultural isolationism. This "us vs. them" mentality doesn't reflect the best of America, past or present, says author and  essayist Marilynne Robinson.

 

What's the Big Idea? 


The gridlock in Washington last year that brought the nation to the brink of a credit default was only the latest symptom of a widespread – though not irreversible – cultural trend toward fragmentation and tribalism, and away from civil discourse.

We've all noticed it - on television and the social web, an increase in politically partisan polemic and cultural isolationism - a sense that lines are being drawn, and we're expected to choose sides. 

This "us vs. them" mentality doesn't reflect the best of America, past or present, says author and  essayist Marilynne Robinson, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer prize in Fiction for her novel Gilead. Robinson has traveled widely in the country, and is continually impressed with the resilience and dynamism of America - its ability to assimilate and engage with new ideas and unfamiliar ways of being. 

Marilynne Robinson: At the outset, we were fortunate to have a group of people write essential documents that gave us a good deal to think about.  And I think that a lot of the higher quality of American discourse, when it has been high, is out of respect for the fact that these are valuable things that impose respect for people of other views.

And, at this point, things have deteriorated to the point that it is as if morally wrong to have an attitude of presumptive respect toward someone you disagree with. That's just bizarre and it’s obviously not a formula for civilized society.

Video: Marilynne Robinson on tribalism and openness in American society

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