While Americans like to think that they transcend tribal thinking, Amy Chua’s new book argues that this is far from the case

In the near entirety of recorded history, humans, animated by the will to survive, inclined toward family, tribe and clan. To establish a state, or something like it, was to ask subjects to transcend narrow loyalties for greater ones. The city-states of ancient Greece to the proto-state of prophet Muhammed and the first Muslims grappled with this tension.

As Plato records in The Republic, Socrates took such concerns to their logical extreme, advocating communal ownership of property, including women and children. In sharing women and children, says Socrates, the guardians “will not tear the city in pieces by differing about ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’.” If man naturally inclines toward family, then the solution was, in effect, to make the state into a kind of larger, all-encompassing family.

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