In this exciting book Michel Maffesoli argues that the conventional approaches to understanding solidarity and society are deeply flawed. He contends that mass culture has disintegrated and that today social existence is conducted through fragmented tribal groupings, organized around the catchwords, brand-names and sound-bites of consumer culture. The book provides a rich backcloth against which to consider the rise of `identity politics' and the `proliferation of lifestyle cultures'.
While modernity has been obsessed with politics, it may be equally true that postmodernity is possessed by the idea of the clan, a phenomenon which is not without its effect on the relationship to the Other and, more specifically, to the stranger. Indeed, from the political perspective, a mechanical solidarity tends to predominate between rational individuals and between them as a group and the state. On the other hand, with the clan we are faced with an organic solidarity that mainly accentuates the whole. To quote Simmel, in the individualist (and political) perspective, the general principle is ‘that in which we take an active role, rather than that which is common to all’.1 It is this ‘common to all’, while being shared by ...