Light Through McLuhan

In a tribal culture, McLuhan says, 'There is no individualism'.1

Several critics have problematized McLuhan's use of the term 'tribal', which belongs to a cultural imperialism since deconstructed in the name of post-colonial studies.

McLuhan, for his part, invokes a number of anthropological studies to illustrate what he means by 'tribal'.2

He insists that a person's activity in a tribal society is governed by 'the fundamentally influential sphere of kin relationships', so that '[one] comes to regard [one]self as a rather insignificant part of a much larger organism - the family and the clan - and not as an independent, self-reliant unit'.3

This is in contrast to Western peoples, who through 'mimesis of the alphabet' have 'acquired ... the power to act without reacting', performing social obligations 'with complete detachment'.4