Customer Review

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars don't believe the hype, February 18, 2004
This review is from: Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment (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. If this was to be a book about the Urban Tribe, it should not have become a book about marriage. If this was a book about marriage, why muddy it with the concept of Urban Tribes? In the beginning, he takes great care to describe how the "never-marrieds" of his generation are much more than single people, and how they are forging a new type of life for the coming century. However, his ending reveals that he too believes that marriage is the eventual goal for all people. I don't have a problem with marriage, but I think he lost his way on his own argument.
In summary, this book contains a great introduction to the Urban Tribes concept, followed by a very funny personal narrative about dating, and ends with an analysis of marriage in our times. I cannot say it was a good book, but if I had read each of its parts individually, I would have said I enjoyed them all.
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Initial post: Dec 20, 2012 12:46:46 PM PST
Nice review. I had the same issue with this book: "However, his ending reveals that he too believes that marriage is the eventual goal for all people. I don't have a problem with marriage, but I think he lost his way on his own argument."
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