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Narrative Theory

Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation

Narrativity, Learning and Flexibility: towards the narrative future

Bauman characterizes the loss of meta-narratives and public purposes, and indeed of private meaning and coherence, as a condition of ‘liquidity’. ‘In lasting commitments liquid modern reason spies out oppression in durable engagement, it sees incapacity in dependency’ (Bauman, The Guardian, 2008: 8). ‘As a result’, he says, ‘the era of liquid modernity may be catastrophic for romantic notions of love’ (ibid).

Bauman draws the following conclusion, but it needs to be analysed carefully:

Rational conduct in such a world demands that the options, as many as possible, are kept open and gaining an identity which fits too tightly, an identity that once and for all offers ‘sameness’ and ‘continuity’, results in the closing of options or forfeiting them in advance. (Bauman 2003: 148)

The key qualifier in this statement is ‘once and for all’ – continuity may be desirable for significant periods, but the important issue is openness to new challenges and the capacity to respond flexibly. The key insight is to understand the difference between a determined and constrained notion of individuality, isolated and devoid of wider collective purpose, and individuality as a springboard for self-assertion and connection to wider social purpose. As Bauman says, there is a growing gap between individuality as fate and individuality as a practical capacity for self-assertion. In the present situation of liquid social forms we are thrown back, whether we like it or not (and there is much not to like), to selfhood as a key site of struggle. This search for selfhood and for a sustainable life politics will be conducted as our communal and public sense is demeaned, deconstructed and demolished. Hence, the capacity to respond flexibly, delineate new courses of action and broadly pursue what we might call re-selfing becomes a key concern.

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  • Date of publication: 10/09/2012
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
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  • Appears in:
    Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation
  • Number of editions: 1
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  • Price of book: £22.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-60362-1
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  • E-book ISBN: 978-0-203-81770-4
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