Ishmael New Tribalism

Ishmael is the sole recipient of the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award, created by Ted Turner in 1989 to encourage authors to write works of fiction offering creative and positive solutions to global problems. Though Quinn would later refine a more simple articulation of his ultimate solution, it is useful to understand this solution - which he calls "New Tribalism" - to best appreciate Ishmael.

In the novel, Daniel Quinn uses an idea that he eventually coins “Totalitarian Agriculture,” which he believes lies at the root of the world’s problems. Living with this type of agriculture, humans are encouraged to reproduce without the typical repercussions that would have occurred in earlier eras of history.

Though this idea has its merits, it has generated some backlash. Quinn's most controversial assertion is that starving populations should not simply be brought food, since it distorts the natural balance between population and food supply, simply causing starving populations to produce more starving people. Though Ishmael suggests that starving populations should be brought to the food - rather than vice versa - the argument has the potential to seem callous.

However, Quinn has later explained this ideas as a tenant of his philosophy "New Tribalism." Though the term does not appear in Ishmael, it resonates with that book's ideas. Quinn's philosophy encourages us to copy the lifestyles of indigenous peoples (called the Leavers in Ishmael), to cede the spread of the more prevalent and dangerous civilizations. This New Tribal Revolution supports a social, working revolution rather than a single, political or violent uprising. It preaches a change of mentality and lifestyle rather than simply a shift in political power. In other words, we need to not simply change our system of government, but moreover change the way we think about people and the Earth.

Quinn is even on record describing the recent “Occupy Wall Street” protests as an example of New Tribalism.