Over at Spliced, Matt Johnson has a very interesting article on Jonathan Haidt, Robert Wright, and whether the nation-state is the largest political unit that can satisfy the tribal instinct.

He begins:

“During a conversation with Robert Wright on Bloggingheads.tv, Jonathan Haidt argued that there’s a clear limit to human solidarity: “A nation state [sic] is, actually, the largest unit we can do for which our tribal instincts still work.” Wright responded: “Wait, you’re talking about a number of people that is the max? Three hundred million is the max? Or geographic scope? Or are you just saying that there has to be some other group that we are opposed to?”

Haidt explained that we don’t necessarily need an enemy to arouse our tribal instincts, but we have to be “part of a group that has an identity and has a quasi-religious nature to it.” He cited the American sociologist Robert Bellah, pointing out that the “nation is the largest unit that does all the stuff that activates the tribal mind.”