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Monday, January 26, 2009

Entangled Narratives: Competing Visions of the Good Life

Below are some teaser snippets from William Grassie's essay on competing cultural visions, which are strongly tied to humans' natural tendency towards storytelling. Click here for the full essay. This article is from the Global Spiral, the eMagazine of the Metanexus Institute.

"...Narratives are not just a matter of individuals creating their inner and social Self; narratives are also what bind societies and cultures together...Much of cultural transmission was in the form of storytelling. Today, people are more likely to gather around the cool glow of the television, but we are no less storied creatures...we make moral judgments based on the analogical applications of powerful stories...The most important stories that humans tell, retell, and reframe are...referred to as “metanarratives”. These master stories are the stuff of ideologies, religions, and cultures.

"Christian Smith...offers a dozen examples of contemporary metanarratives, each presented in about two hundred words – the Christian narrative, the Militant Islamic Resurgence narrative, the American Experiment narrative, the Capitalist Prosperity narrative, the Progressive Socialism narrative, the Scientific Enlightenment narrative, the Expressive Romantic narrative, the Unity with Brahman narrative, the Liberal Progress narrative, the Ubiquitous Egoism narrative, and the Chance and Purposeless Narrative...There is no simple way to adjudicate between these competing worldviews and world doings.

"The question I want to explore in this essay, how does one intellectually adjudicate between competing metanarratives, understanding that these are then fundamental in structuring our thought and behavior in many profound ways, both political and personal....I turn to the field of hermeneutics to try to find a way out of the relativistic impasse...."

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