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March 26, 2007 | by  | in Books |
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8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand

Pure pop sociology, 8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand is a study into what the authors call the hidden social groups in New Zealand.

They did extensive surveys and came up with a whole lot of social clichés that you might be able to recognise but haven’t been touched upon in New Zealand.

I managed to read this book on a busy train to and from the Trentham Saturday market, but unfortunately not once did I see a recognisable tribe member while in transit nor at the market.

But the social clichés mentioned in this book do exist as we will have all seen them, from the affluent blue rinse housewife brigade of Remuera, Kelburn and Fendalton to the Pacific Island office cleaning ladies we see in teams around Lambton Quay at 2am.

Some other tribal cliches are the Cuba Street tribe, the Papatoe tribe (think The Mad Butcher) and the Grey Lynn tribe (your lecturer may be one). Although this is an entertaining book, unfortunately it is not a serious piece of sociological work. Its weaknesses are that there is no real class analysis – it just informs us as to social clichés we may or may not be already familiar with. This is probably because it was written by two public relations experts. Its relevance for marketing companies is reflected in its handbook size (152 pages) and price of $43.95. The book does have some strengths in that it is fun to read and follows a summarised template. For instance, we get a look at each identified tribe’s attitudes to money, work, leisure and home. We might all be able to identify to bits of these so-called tribes, but unless we are seeking a form of social exclusivity we are unlikely to ascribe to a particular one.

JILL CALDWELL AND CHRISTOPHER BROWN

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