What Is The Difference Between A Tribe And A Clan?

(Michael Jacobs is close. I’ll play analytic philosopher for a few minutes:)


Kinship groups form in hierarchies under all human means of production:

|MEANS OF PRODUCTION|: hunting and gathering > pastoralism > agrarianism > urbanism(crafts) > industrialism > consumer-capitalism > (? automated production ?)

The reasons for hierarchies are (a) kin selection instinct (necessity) provides ‘insurance’. (b) lower risk and lower friction of trade across common norms traditions, status signals, and ‘laws’, (c) cheaper status signals in group than across group – except at the margins. (d) elites always evolve and ‘carry’ middle, working, and underclasses by providing group competitive advantage.

This is why people live in, develop friendships in, work in, mate and marry in, and politically organize in, and compete in, racial, national, tribal, and clan groups worldwide with crossovers fairly limited (currently < 15%).

|KINSHIP TAXONOMY|: Individual > Family(Various Forms) > Clan > Tribe > Nation > Race > Homo-sapiens-sapiens.

Family structure is generally dependent upon inheritance structures, and inheritance structures dependent on means of production, and dependent upon the assets (“property”) that are required for intergenerational persistence, and dependent upon the intergenerational transfer (subsidy of children, and elderly).

So families follow a progression:

|FAMILY TAXONOMY|: Consanguineous > Panaluan > Pairing (Serial Marriage) > Hetaeristic Monogamy (Marriage with ‘cheating’) > Traditional Family > STEM family (Authoritarian) > Nuclear > Absolute Nuclear > Post-Family, “Single Parent Family”, “Non-Family” or “State Family”.

(You will probably need to Google some of these terms.)

As far as I know humans have generally produced serial marriage whenever possible, and deviated from serial marriage only when necessary – just as humans will steal whenever possible, and deviated from stealing only when necessary. Hence why we produce norms (what to do), traditions(what to do), and laws (what not to do), and institutions (intergenerational persistence of these habits.)

Humans seek loss avoidance at all times, and seek advantage (gain) wherever loss avoidance can be overcome. This applies to status signals (opportunity), security (risk reduction), and property (assets).


We tend to use tribes for less advanced (hunter-gatherer and pastoralist) societies with less property, and clan in more advanced (agrarian and industrial) societies. The reason being that tribal differences are suppressed by the cooperation necessary under agrarian production, even if the value of clans diminishes.

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute


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