This shift is most prevalent in the social organisation of independent record labels and is specifically identifiable in a label’s graphic productions, such as in its identity, media and performance. In his book The Time of the Tribes, Maffesoli first articulates the notion of neo-tribalism as a direct reaction to what he terms “massification”, or what is now known as globalisation. Maffesoli states that “The rational era [of subculture] is built on the principle of individuation and of separation, whereas the empathetic period [the present] is marked by the lack of differentiation, the ‘loss’ in a collective subject” (Maffesoli, 1996, p.11). For Maffesoli, the masses are amalgamations lacking differentiation, they are not defined by the boundaries subculturalists relied upon, unless of course, these masses arrange themselves into smaller micro-societies. Participants of self-organising post-subcultural collectives are what Maffesoli defines as neo-tribalists.
According to Maffesoli, the most dynamic culture disseminates from these neo-tribes, as he claims that “cultural and individual dynamism” is based on the “tension between heterogeneous elements” (Maffesoli, 1996, p.105) as opposed to the previously asserted formal dichotomy between the “sub” and the “cultural”, which was emphasised through graphic practice such as fanzines, posters and tattoos. However, in the contemporary, graphic productions are increasingly problematising this supposed division between sub and culture. In this way, graphic productions can be used to develop a neo-tribal aesthetic out of a post-subcultural context, which the present study aims to explore by critically speculating on the possibilities of a more nuanced relationship with “the mainstream”.
In developing his notion of the neo-tribe, Maffesoli suggests that “There are many examples in our everyday life to symbolise the emotional ambience exuded by tribal development” (Maffesoli, 1996, p.105). It is important to note Maffesoli’s emphasis on “the everyday”; the neo-tribe is not a bizarre event but rather an almost banal happening. Maffesoli goes on to elaborate when he suggests that we observe a “rationalized social” being superseded by an “empathetic sociality” which Maffessoli believes is “expressed in a succession of ambiences, feelings and emotions” (Maffesoli, 1996, p.11). Evidently, for Maffesoli, the everyday happening of a neo-tribe is played out through varying strengths of “ambiences, feelings and emotions”, that is to say: there is an intensity to the “sociality”. Similar again to Maffesoli’s concept of the neo-tribe, Vaneigem implies that we must: “build a parallel society opposed to the dominant system and poised to replace it” (Vaneigem, 1967, p.246). However, Vaneigem is not simply encouraging a problematic binary relation of “one” and “other”, “sub” and “culture”, instead he celebrates a pluralism of “variation”, according to Vaneigem: “True radicalism permits every variation and guarantees every freedom” (Vaneigem, 1967, p.246). Together they propose the construction of parallel micro-societies, or neo-tribes, of every variation, and through these varying strengths of sociality, the everyday social might be replaced, either through The Revolution of Everyday Life (Vaneigem,1967) or through The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society (Maffesoli, 1996).