This groundbreaking and eloquently written book explains how and why people are wedded to the notion that they belong to differing human kindstribe-type categories like races, ethnic groups, nations, religions, castes, street gangs, sports fandom, and high school cliques. Why do we see these divisions? Why do we care about them so much? Why do we kill and die for them? This is the stuff of news headlines. How has a nation gone from peaceful coexistence to genocide? How does social status affect your health? Why are teenagers willing to kill themselves in hazing rituals in order to belong to a fraternity or social group? How do terrorists learn not to care about the lives of those they attack? US AND THEM gets at the heart of these profound questions by looking at their common root in human nature. Politics, culture, and economics play their parts, but its the human mind that makes them possible, and thats the focus of US AND THEM. Were not born with a map of human kinds; each person makes his own and learns to fight for it. This is a crucial subject that touches all of our lives in ways both large and small, obvious and subtle. Human-kind thinkingwhether beneficial or destructiveis part of human nature, as David Berrebys brilliant book reveals.
Berreby’s aim is to demonstrate how greatly what he calls our “tribal” nature—the tendency to judge others according to categories, such as Muslims, lawyers, whites—governs our lives. Drawing on such diverse disciplines as psychology, genetics, and social neuroscience, he demonstrates both the frequent instability of such categories—for instance, the idea of Type A and Type B personalities, once influential in psychology, has been discredited—and their power. Berreby’s thesis is often clouded by a superabundance of examples, but it is nonetheless a stimulating tour of a fascinating topic. He is particularly trenchant on the subject of race, a category more or less abandoned by geneticists but inexorable at a social level. He notes, “Racial and ethnic groups are real the way money is real—because people believe they are and act on their beliefs.”