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Narrative Theory

Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation

Narrativity, Learning and Flexibility: towards the narrative future

Sennett argues that having studied new social and workplace patterns:

One of the unintended consequences of modern capitalism is that it has strengthened the value of place, arousing a longing for community. All the emotional conditions we have explored in the workplace animate that desire; the uncertainties of flexibility; the absence of deeply rooted trust and commitment; the superficiality of teamwork; but most of all, the spectre of failing to make something of oneself in the world, ‘to get a life’ through one’s work. All these conditions impel people to look for some other scene of attachment and depth. (ibid.: 138)

What we may be seeing, then, is the beginning of a substantial ‘turning away’ from one of the major sites of collective purpose and social engagement – the workplace, and especially the public service workplace. The other side of this movement is a ‘turning towards’ the individual, the personal, the consumable, the special interest, the private purpose. It is not quite as stark as ‘there is no such thing as society’ or that ‘greed is good’, but it represents a growing focus on the private world of the individual self.

In a general sense, it is a turning away from common pursuits and public purpose towards personal missions and private consumption. This kind of ‘turning away’ from the public and common purpose is often seen in societies that lack a legitimate moral mission. For instance, in South Africa during the period of apartheid:

Many white bystanders who intellectually opposed apartheid adopted a passive opposition. They retreated into private life, cut themselves off from the news media, refused to talk politics with friends, and adopted an intense immersion in private diversions such as sport, holidays and families. (Marshall 2001: 9).

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  • Date of publication: 10/09/2012
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Co-author: NAN
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
    English
  • Appears in:
    Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £22.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-60362-1
  • E-book
  • Price of e-book: £22.99
  • E-book ISBN: 978-0-203-81770-4
  • Purchase this book:
    Routledge
  • Buy used and new from: Routledge