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Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment Hardcover – October 8, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1582342641 ISBN-10: 1582342644 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (October 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582342644
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582342641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Watters parlays his 2001 New York Times Magazine think piece and subsequent Good Morning America appearance into a debut book, a sociological examination of the pleasures of a segment of his generation-the "yet to be marrieds" ages 25 to 39. They're the ones who live in bohemian garrets yet feel affluent because their baby boomer parents will probably leave them their money. They host great New Year's Eve parties and travel en masse to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. They're the "Burning Man" generation, drawn like lemmings to the annual desert art festival. Demographers call them "never-marrieds" and say they're one of the fastest-growing groups in America. Most tellingly, in Watters's view, the habit of establishing "urban tribes"-rotating networks of friends and acquaintances-covers all functions formerly served by the traditional family, thus eliminating the need for marriage and intimacy. It's often a white, upper-middle-class, post-college phenomenon (Watters attends a Philadelphia Cinco de Mayo celebration to which, he notes, no Hispanics have been invited), but, finds Watters, "groups that formed later, during the swirl of adult city life, could sometime[s] match the remarkable diversity of those communities." He refutes claims by sociologists that modern youth has lost the civic-mindedness of previous generations by describing urban tribes' "different style[s] of giving back." He also delves into the eternal conundrum of why men don't like to commit, consulting average Joes and psychologists alike, and questions the "stigma of single life." Sure, these issues have been raised before, but Watters's breezy writing and sunny optimism are refreshing, and his evocation of the good times of San Francisco's dot-com boom years has period charm to burn.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Playful without being ironic and meaningful without being sappy, Urban Tribes will be a seminal book. In a decade, we will look back and realize that this book changed how we look at the period during which young adults live between families."-Po Bronson, New York Times bestselling author of What Should I Do With My Life?

More About the Author

Ethan Watters is the author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. Before that he authored Urban Tribes, an examination of the mores of affluent "never marrieds" and coauthored Making Monsters, a groundbreaking indictment of the recovered memory movement. A frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Discover, Men's Journal, Details, Wired, and PRI's This American Life, he has appeared on such national media as Good Morning America, Talk of the Nation, and CNN. He is a co-founder of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, a cooperative writing workspace in San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Shannon B Davis VINE VOICE on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
By the time the reader realizes that Urban Tribes doesn't even merit the genre "pop-sociology", he/she is sucked into the narrative of Ethan Watters' personal quest for meaning. The first several chapters explore human social behaviour in a form that many young adults are familiar with. With self-congratulatory tones, we read about how our post-college lifestyles have been beneficial not just to ourselves, but to the world. I, for one, wasn't concerned about whether or not my lifestyle had meaning and had never sought to prove its worth. This author, however, was clearly very concerned about the merit of his choices and uses the first half of the book to demonstrate that the Urban Tribe lifestyle is both steeped in human sociology and a novel way to deal with the vagaries of singlehood in the early twenty-first century. Even this section, while peppered with statistics, consists mainly of anecdotal evidence.
The second half of the book descends into personal narrative. Although I did find it quite amusing, Ethan's exploration of male/female relationships as they pertained mostly to himself and his friends did not as I saw it further the message of the earlier part of the book. I laughed as Ethan attempted to navigate various pop-psychology theories about mating, particularly when he tried to convince his friends that evolutionary psychology should dictate the rules of the game. Then there is his analysis of the latest dating advice books, such as The Rules. I hadn't realized that anyone had taken them seriously, but there was an astonishing amount of articles pressuring women to marry. It is all very entertaining.
At the end, as Ethan describes his happy marriage and the transition from tribe-life to married-life, I felt dissatisfied.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on October 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ethan Watters has written a book about an interesting topic that has just recently begun to draw national attention: those of the current generation who are in their late twenties to late thirties and have not yet married and started families. According to the author, many of these "yet to be married" have formed cohesive social groups which he calls "urban tribes." These tribes, formed on the basis of friendship and sometimes intimate relationships, seem to have taken the place of the traditional family.
The first part of this book is generally introspective and autobiographical with Watters drawing on his own experiences in attempting to understand his own status as a "yet to be married" member of an urban tribe. The latter part of the book is more outer-directed and analytical, and Watters discusses some social theories and sociological data which may help to shed light on the development of this new type of community.
There are a few initial problems with which the author wrestles early in the book. One is the difficulty with defining exactly what an urban tribe is and what differences and similarities may exist that characterize various tribes in varying settings. A second is the question of why so little attention has been paid to this phenomenon and why it has had so little public recognition. Finally, a question that I think is at the core of the book: Why have so many of these "yet to be married" opted to settle into urban tribes instead of forming a conventional family as previous generations have done?
These are interesting questions and Watters approaches them in a number of ways at various stages of his very personal quest.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I felt duped. This book is not about "urban tribes" so much as the author, a newly married father writing about his playboy days and the friends he used for emotional support. As a character, he seems superficially charming and not enough flawed. His attempts at self-deprecation amuse but are too shallow to fully engage. As a memoir, the book lacks honesty and universality. As social science, it lacks science. Too bad - the subject deserves some depth.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that started out as a magazine piece and probably should have stayed there. It's sloppily edited, repetitive and presents a grab bag of anecdotes as if it were a serious analysis of social trends. It's an attempt at social science without the science.

While the title concept is appealing and has some promise--I can think of "urban tribes" that I know of--it's the execution of this concept that is disappointing. While the book is entertaining at times, it's not based on much. And, sadly, the author seems to buy in to the notion that singles in their 20's and 30's are just biding their time until the inevitable: marriage. He pays almost no attention to people who don't desire marriage, or to gays and lesbians who may want to get married but can't.

Although the phrase "urban tribe" conveys a certain cutting-edge hipness, Watters' underlying premises are about as square as they come. How sad to think that time with friends is just a means of marking time until one gets married, or that being single in one's late 20's or 30's should be a cause for desparation or angst. I'd like to think that marriages/serious partnerships and meaningful, lifelong friendships can co-exist more harmoniously than Watters implies.
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