Bob Schutz / AP

Tribalism is wreaking havoc on American policy, both foreign and domestic, argues Amy Chua in her new book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Members have been reading and debating Chua’s argument for the Masthead Book Club. To wrap up the discussion, we brought in two scholars who have thought deeply about human tribes: Lawrence Rosen, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Princeton, and Miriam Juan Torres, the co-author of “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape.” (Chua was unable to join us.) Together, they explain why people are so drawn to the language of tribalism—and why it’s misleading.

The Problem With the Word Tribal

Lawrence Rosen and Miriam Juan-Torres answered member questions on our forum yesterday. The questions are paraphrased below. Rosen and Juan-Torres’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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