The Narrative Constitution of Identity: A Relational and Network Approach Author(s): Margaret R.
Somers Source: Theory and Society, Vol. 23, No. 5 (Oct., 1994), pp. 605-649 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/658090 Accessed: 15/10/2009 08:17
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=springer. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
Springer is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Theory and Society.
The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach
MARGARET R. SOMERS
University of Michigan
This article argues for reconfiguringthe study of identity formation through the concept of narrative.It is motivated by two recent but seeminglyunrelateddevelopmentsin social theory and society.One is the emergenceof a wide-spread"identitypolitics"and a concomitant The scholarlyfocus on the "socialconstructionof identity." other is the of narrativethat researchers reconfiguredapproach to the concept in from many disciplineshave been formulating recent years.Both are importantdevelopmentsnot to be overlookedby social scientistsand social theorists;both, however,have problems and limitationsas they now stand.I arguein this articlethat the limitationsof each potentially can be overcomeby bringingthe two thematicstogether.The key conis identity. cept I proposeto achievethis reconfiguration thatof narrative Studies of identity formation have made major contributionsto our understandingof social agency. A recurringproblem, however, has been a perhaps inadvertenttendency to conflate identities with what can often slide into fixed"essentialist" (pre-political) singularcategories, such as those of race, sex, or gender- a directionthathas characterized a numberof feministtheories in their efforts to restorethe previously marginalizedfemale other.1Anthropologicalstudies of different cultures have been been used to avoid this danger.2But, law professor PatriciaWilliamsremindsus that we do not have to resort to cultural others to recognize the false certainties imposed by categorical approachesto identity:
While being black has been the powerful social attribution in my life, it is only one of a number of governing narratives or presiding fictions by which I am constantly reconfiguring myself in the world. Gender is another, along with ecology, pacifism, my peculiar brand of colloquial English, and Roxbury, Massachusetts. The complexity of role identification, the politics of sexuality, the inflections of professionalized discourse - all describe and impose Theory and Society 23: 605-649, 1994. ? 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
boundaryin my life, even as they confoundone anotherin unfoldingspirals of confrontation, deflection,and dream....3
One way to avoid the hazardsof rigidifyingaspects of identity into a misleadingcategoricalentityis to incorporateinto the core conception of identity the categoricallydestabilizingdimensions of time, space, and relationality. can do this by bringingto the studyof identityforWe mationthe epistemologicaland ontologicalchallengesof relationaland network analysis.It is this effort to historicize our understandingof identitythatmotivatesmy attemptto combine studiesof identitywith a
The studyof narrative, the face of it, has its own seriouslimitations. on Most prominently, narrative analysisis not somethingeasily assimilated into the social-scienceresearchagenda.With its long associationwith the humanitiesand the "story-telling" methods of historians,the conof narrative, after all, has long fulfilledthe role of social science's cept
"epistemological other" - a mode of representation that was, apparent-
ly, discursive, rather than quantitative; non-explanatory,rather than ratherthan one of the and conditionallypropositional; non-theoretical, social sciences.4In the 1960s and 1970s, however, theoretically-driven social science historyhad emergedas a serious contenderto the traditional historians'narrativeapproachand these decades were notable for the degreeto whichhistoriansdebatedand increasingly scornedthe form.5At the same time, howvalue of narrative a representational as ever, disciplines other than history (political philosophers,psychologists, legal theorists,feminist theorists, social workers,organizational theorists, anthropologists, and medical sociologists) were quietly the narrative concept.6 In so appropriatingand reconceptualizing in radicalways the narrativeconcept. doing, they were reconfiguring While the older interpretationof narrativewas limited to that of a and narraform, the new approachesdefine narrative representational
tivity as concepts of social epistemology and social ontology. These con-
that we come to know,undercepts posit that it is throughnarrativity and make sense of the social world, and it is throughnarratives stand, that and narrativity we constituteour social identities.They arguethat it mattersnot whetherwe are social scientistsor subjectsof historical but research, that all of us come to be who we are (howeverephemeral, multiple,and changing)by being located or locatingourselves(usually unconsciously)in social narrativesrarelyof our own making.7Social theoristsand sociologists need to become cognizantof these new formulationsof narrative analysis.
607 The attractionof linking the study of identity formation to narrative analysisshould now be clearer.Engagingwith this aspect of narrative studies clearly should be on the agenda for sociological studies of action and agency.After all, if researchresultsare correct,then everythingwe know,from makingfamilies,to coping with illness,to carrying out strikesand revolutionsis at least in part a resultof numerouscrosscuttingrelationalstory-linesin which social actorsfind or locate themselves.8 By focusing attention on the new ontological dimension of as studiesratherthanon the traditional narrative renderingof narrative we limitedto a method or form of representation, have the opportunity to engage with historicallyand empiricallybased researchinto social action and social agency that is at once temporal,relational,and culAn tural,as well as institutional, material,and macro-structural. energetic engagement with this new ontological narrativityprovides an opportunityto infuse the study of identityformationwith a relational and historicalapproachthat avoids categoricalrigiditiesby emphasizing the embeddednessof identityin overlappingnetworksof relations that shift over time and space. My largerhope is that bringingtogether and narrative identitycan bringa new perspectiveto some of the seemintractable problemscontainedin social theoriesof action.In the ingly next section, I explore the new sociology and politics of identity;in the succeeding section, I discuss in more detail the reframedconcept of idenin narrative; the thirdsection, I position the concepts of narrative tity and relationalsetting as conceptual links between the reframed approachto narrativeand some of the enduring conundrumsin the sociology of action; and I end by considering some of the research implicationsof a conceptualnarrativity.
The politics of identity: From universality to category
ordinary challenges - ones that have arisen in part from external political and social transformations and in part from theoretical attempts to make sense of those social developments. The political and social elements are best represented by such factors as the "failure"of western working classes to carry out their "proper" revolutionary (class) interests, the collapse of communist regimes, the radical increase of
In recent years, social theory has been confrontedwith a set of extra-
women in the work force, and the conflicts of ethnic solidaritiesand
cultural nationalisms throughout the world. Among the responses to these changes are the vast array of "new social movements" that have risen to prominence in the last twenty years (Green parties, gay and
608 lesbian liberationmovements,and so on), the explosion of a feminist consciousness that valorizes difference as much as equality,and the politics of multiculturalism.9 Although they take no universalform, the various expressionsof this new "politicsof identity" sharethe common featureof being constiall from dominantpolititutedby people who previouslyfelt marginalized cal channels and more mainstreamsocial movements.10 Significantly, these are also groups and individualswho have been marginalized by prevailingsocial theoreticalaccounts for why people act the way they do. Thus,for example,classicaltheoreticalaccountsof social movement factorfor actionor focus on classinterestsas a motivating organizations "instrumental" calculito achievespecificallypower-oriented goals. But ratherthan emphasizetraditionalissues of labor and production,the new politicsand movementsof identitystress"expressive" goals of "selfwhile they attempt positively to restore previously derealization"11 and valueddifferences(e.g.,femalecare-taking "being-in-relations").12 To make sense of these strikingdevelopments,new theories of action and agency have emerged. These new theories of "identity-politics" and "norms"to have shifted explanationsfor action from "interests" from the notion of the universalsocial agent identitiesand solidarities, to particularistic categoriesof concretepersons.Based on the assumption that persons in similar social categories and similar life-experiences (based on gender, color, generation,sexual orientation,and so on) will act on the groundsof common attributes,theories of identitypolitics posit that"Iact because of who I am,"not because of a rational interestor set of learnedvalues. new on the agendaof social The studyof identityformationis relatively theory. When viewed in the context of the enduring conundrumof explainingsocial action,these new theoriesof identityare easily recogwith the intractableproblemsof agency that nizable as confrontations have long characterizedthe social sciences: How can we formulate viable sociologicalaccountsof moral actionthat do not resortto exterexternalconstraint)to explain action nal constraint(or "internalized" theories? from the universalist that "deviates" premisesof mainstream The solutionthat characterizes manyof the new approachesto identity formation has been to challenge the putative universalism of the modernistontologyitself,for it is only whenjudged againstthis alleged norm that women and other othershave been found wanting.The new theoreticalperspectiveshave thus argued that the putative universal
609 social actor is in fact extremelyparticularistic namely,white, male, and western.Most important,they claim thatit is only in the context of for this theoreticalsleightof hand, one that claimsuniversality the particularisticand androcentric,that the experiences of others are suppressed, denied, and devalued in the first place. Thus the theoretical responsehas been not only to revealthe genderedor racially-or classmodernsocial actor.It has also been specific characterof the "general" that transformsthose to propose and envision a theoreticalalternative very devalued traits of (female or racial) otherness into a newly esteemedideal of selfhood and normatizedsocial action. Leading examples of such changes in feminist theory are the wellknownworksof Nancy Chodorowand CarolGilligan.13 Gilliganbegan by confrontingthe fact that for years scholars of moral development had ponderedthe seeminglyunanswerable questionof why women did not achieve the highest stages of development allegedly achieved by men. Social scientists and psychologists alike kept asking: Why are women anomalous to the norm? More specifically,they wanted to know why women putativelywere getting"stuck" a "lowerstage"of at moral development, while men developed a sense of agency and judgmentaccordingto the theoreticalsocial norm - that is, they become increasinglyautonomous,individuated,and oriented to rules of abstractjustice. Women, by contrast,were believed to be at a lower stage because they were found to have a sense of agency still tied primarily to their social relationshipsand to make political and moral decisions based on context-specificprinciplesbased on these relationships ratherthanon the groundsof theirown autonomousjudgments. Studentsof genderstudiesknowwelljust how busy social scientistshave been keptby theireffortsto come up withevermoresociological"alibis" for the questionof why women did not act like men. Gilligan's response was to refusethe termsof the debatealtogether. thusdid not develop She Instead, she yet another explanationfor why women are "deviant." turnedthe questionon its headby askingwhatwas wrongwiththe theory - a theory whose central premises defines 50% of social beings as "abnormal." this Gilligantranslated questioninto researchby subjecting the abstraction universal discreteagencyto comparative of and research into female behaviorevaluatedon its own termsThe new researchrevealedwomento be more "concrete" theirthinkingand more attuned in to "fairness" while men acted on "abstract and reasoning" "rulesof justice."These researchfindingstransformed female othernessinto variation and difference- but differencenow freed from the normativede-
610 not accordedto it. In so doing,Gilligancontributed valuationpreviously of and but to a new recognition to a theoretical politicalcelebration only theorieshad denigrated.14 the veryfemaleidentitythatprevailing Strugglesover identity are thus being framed by the recognitionthat gettingheardrequiresnew theories.Otherscholarsengagedin identitypolitics are also insistingthat there are ways of knowingand defining experiencedifferentfrombut equallyvaluableas those renderedby the dominanttheoreticaldiscourses.Law professorCatherineMacKinnon, for instance,observesthatit is difficultfor women to stage a revolution Here she using the tools of the oppressor - especially his "words."15 sounds like culturalanalystMolefi Kete Asante, when he asks in a similar vein:How can the oppressed use the same theories as the oppressors?16In "The Searchfor an AfrocentricMethod,"Asante not only of challengesassumptionsabout the universality Eurocentricconcepts; to the very qualitiesof otherhe also simultaneouslyrestores dignity ness by whichsuch theorieshad previouslydefined and devaluedthese samenon-westernidentities.17 These theoreticalchallengeshave been pathbreaking. They move away and the definitionof the self from from derivingthe meaningof action falsely imputeduniversalitiesand towardgeneratingconcrete notions of social being that begin from difference.This can only improvethe prospects for theories of agency.At the same time, however,the virdirected towards these tually simultaneousoutcries of "essentialism" to a whole new set of stubbornconceptual new identity-politics testify difficultiesthat they contain.Among the many questionswe must ask, for example, is whether the new theories of identity-politicsare not fictions"in whicha singlecategoryof creatingtheirown new "totalizing will over-determineany number of crossexperience, say gender, cuttingsimultaneousdifferencessuch as race and class. Does this not over run"roughshod" women who mightbe "ill-served" replacingall by other forms of differenceby the singularone of gender?18 Feministsof color charge that feminist identity-theoriesfocusing exclusively on gender oversimplifytheir situation,because gender is just one of a facets of identityand difference,such as numberof other fundamental sexualidentity,and age.19 race, poverty,class,ethnicity, Another question we must ask is how is it possible to claim these approachesto identity are truly arguingfor a social constructionof agency, given that they theorize identity from essential (that is, prepolitical) or fixed categories constructedfrom given attributes- e.g.,
If woman,African-American. identitiesare fixed there can be no room
to accommodate changing power relations - or history itself - as they
over time. One of the most influential are constitutedand reconstituted of these criticisms has been that directed by Joan Scott against Scott pointed out that even the work of Chodorow and Gilligan.20 with a well-deserved refutation of abstract universalism,Chodorow and Gilliganhave only substitutedtheirown ahistoricaland essentialist notion of "woman."21 Why, Scott continues to ask, should we assume will that "women" all act the same under all conditionssimplybecause of their biological sex or even their socialized gender-identities?22 Does that not open up the possibilityfor a female version of abstract universal agency against which any number of historically different formsof femaleagencywill be held newly "deviant?" There are also importantquestions about the allegedlystable content of the new categories of identity.To assume that simply because in some places and in some times women appearto be more morallyrelational than men in their sense of agency does not in any way support the more generalconclusionthat all women are more morallyrelational than men. To be sure, there is abundantevidence that under certain conditions such a generalizationcould be supported.However,do we really want to accept that these dichotomous concepts of gender distinction really reflectthe social world? Is it not just as likely that the
theoretical categories of exclusion helped constitute those gender dif-
ferencesin the firstplace? And if it is indeed the case thatfemale identities are the consequenceof categoriesbased on false universality and
exclusions, should we not criticize and contest these categorical identi-
ties? In short, even assumingthe empiricalcase to be true, is it not a serious mistaketo leap from the empiricalpresence of relationalidentities to their normative valorization? There is too much evidence of
the potentiallysuffocatingand negativeeffects of "being-in-relations" to acceptthis move uncritically. The underlying argument here is that a gender-centered identitypolitics does not take on the real challenge of criticizing,contesting, transforming,indeed escaping from the theoreticaldichotomies that buttress and hierarchizeforms of difference in the first place. Instead, the new identity-theories reify anew what is in fact a multiplicity of historicallyvaryingform of what are less often unified and singular and more often "fractured identities."23 Thus althoughsome scholars claim that establishingan identity or expressingself-realization one is of the goals of new social movements,24 there are others who consider
612 the newly celebrated but fixed categories of identity and self-realization to be newly problematic, regardless of their being informed by the traits of the previously excluded.25 Finally, and perhaps most worrisome, we must question the slide from the gendered distinction between a moral and a normative notion of relationality (women are "relational," men are "autonomous") to a gendered distinction in the degree of analytic relationality between men and women. The latter is an impossible conclusion. To be sure, there is evidence to show that many men in some times and places are less morally oriented to relationships than are women; but this is a result of the social, historical, and relational constitution of male identities in these times and places. That is, both men and women must be conceived analytically as being embedded within and constituted by relationships and relationality. Masculine individualism is itself the product of social relationality. Whether the analytic relationality characteristic of both men and women devolves into a universally gendered distinction in empirical or normative relationality must not be presumed a priori but can only be explored empirically and historically. These are some of the theoretical ambushes contained in the new theories of agency we call identity-politics. In the absence of clearly positive theoretical and epistemological alternatives to the problem of identity, however, such criticisms can have the effect of only tossing theories of social action and identity back and forth between the abstract (white male) universality of the modern individuating agent who starves in a vacuum of abstraction, and the essential "woman"(or black, or Serbian, or gay man) who drowns in a sea of relationality, "experience,"and identity. A number of studies from different approaches have therefore begun the task of developing positive theoretical and epistemological alternatives to these two mutually reinforcing opposites.26 Fraser and Nicholson articulate the challenge at hand in their suggestion that alternative theories of agency - in this case feminist agency - must
be inflicted by temporality, the historically-specific institutional categories like the modern, restricted, male-headed, nuclear family taking precedence over ahistorical functionalist categories like reproduction and mothering. Where categories of the latter sort were eschewed altogether, they would be genealogized, that is, framed by historical narrative and rendered temporally and culturally specific.27
Joining the many others who are struggling to give substance to this directive, I propose linking the concepts of narrative and identity to
constitutedapproachto theoriesof social action, generatea historically and identity. agency,
I argue above that recent challenges to the long-dominantpresuppositions of universalagency have the potentialto reify their own culturally and gender-specificidentity stories in that they may create a that contains its own inevitableexclusions. new shade of universalism a In the task of rethinking more flexibletheoryof identity,let us turnto in narrative it has been reframed currentscholarship. as
To consolidate a cohesive self-identity and collective project every For other."28 the social knowledgedisciplineneeds an "epistemological sciences, the concept of narrative with its long associationwith the humanities profession- holds pride of place in fillingthatrole.Variousin versusnomothetic,particuly formulated binarytermsas idiographic laristicversus generalizable,or descriptionversus theory,the contrast between the "merenarrative" approachof the historiansand the more rigorousmethodologiesof the social sciences has effectivelycordoned from legitimatesocial-scienceepistemology.29 a small off narrative But revolutionwith potentiallylarge consequencesis occurringin our conOver the last few decades many histotemporaryknowledgeculture.30 rians have lost, abandoned,and even scorned narrativeexplanation.31 At the same time, moreover,a protean reframing the narrative conof into the epistemologicalframecept is seeping or being appropriated works of a spectrumof other disciplines- includingmedicine, social psychology, genderstudies,law,biology,and physics. anthropology, The expressionsof this narrative are reframing broadand diverse.One aspect of many of the new works in narrativestudies, however,is especiallyrelevantto the increasingsociologicalattentionto identityformation.This is the shift from a focus on representational ontological to Before this shift, philosophers of history had argued that narrativity. narrativemodes of representingknowledge (telling historical stories) were representational forms imposed by historians on the chaos of lived experience.32 Recently,however,scholars are postulatingsomemuch more substantiveabout narrative: thing namely,that social life is
614 itself storiedand that narrative an ontologicalconditionof social life. is Their researchis showingus that storiesguide action;that people construct identities (however multiple and changing)by locating themselves or being located within a repertoireof emplotted stories; that is that "experience" constitutedthroughnarratives; people make sense of what has happened and is happening to them by attemptingto assemble or in some way to integratethese happeningswithin one or more narratives; that people are guided to act in certainways, and and not others,on the basis of the projections,expectations,and memories derivedfroma multiplicity ultimatelylimitedrepertoireof available but social,public,and culturalnarratives.33 But there is a paradox.On the one hand, social scientistshave by and largekept theirdistancefrom these approachesto narrativity.34 on Yet, the other hand, sociology has long shown an interest in theorizing about the very themes addressedin studies of identityformation- the study of meaning,social action, social agency,and most recently,collective identity.Indeed, the last two decades have been notable for the numberof heroic efforts by sociologiststo recast social analysisalong
the central axes of the interaction between agency and structure, that
is, to develop a social theory that allowsfor humanaction that is nonethelessboundedand constrained structural restraints.35 by There are two reasonsfor this paradoxical fromthe new nardistancing rative studies on the part of social scientists.The first is that social scientistsoverwhelmingly limit theirconceptionof the term "narrative" to that of a representational form/methodof presentingsocial and historical knowledge.And it is throughthis methodologicaldebate over what counts as valid explanationthat social scientistshave most forcefully separatedthemselvesfrom the humanities.As long as this representationaldefinition prevails,then, social scientists- in order to be social scientists- must continue to view narrative the epistemologias cal otherand in symboliccontrastto causalexplanation. Indeed to the extent sociologists have engaged with narrativestudies, the dialogue often recreates the familiar Manichean dichotomy between socialscience explanationand the narrativeother. Whether in favor or disparagement,the encountersbetween sociology and narrativeanalysis seem inevitablyto resultin counterposingnarrative causality. to Steven obsessionSeidman,for example,recentlycriticizedthe "foundational alism"of mainstream his sociologicaltheory while demonstrating supof for an understanding social theory as "narrative with a moral port intent."36 Seidmanis a sociologist who stronglyendorses the turn to
615 narrative. Nonetheless, in his association of narrative with "story-telling particularism,"he straps it into an unnecessary opposition to, and ultimately distancing from, the social sciences.37 Linking identity and action research to narrative analysis directs our attention to the new ontological dimension of narrative studies and away from the traditional rendering of narrative as a method or form of representation. The second reason for the neglect of the recently reframed narrativism follows directly from the self-identity project of the social sciences. The study of identity formation touches on the area of ontology - a theory of being - and this is altogether different from general social science approaches to agency and action. From their inception, the social sciences have been concerned with what one political scientist calls the "primacy of epistemology,"38or the eclipsing of discovery and ontology by the context of justification.39 The latter comprises the standards we use to know about the world, the grounds we rely upon to legitimate these foundations of knowledge, the validity of competing methodologies, and the criteria for viable explanations. Discovery and ontology, on the other hand, refer to problem-formation and social being respectively. Both are seen as better left to speculative philosophers or psychologists. The consequences of this division of labor for a sociology of action are significant: 1) issues of social being, identity, and ontology are excluded from the legitimate mainstream of sociological investigation, and 2) the social sciences focus their research on action and agency by studying primarily observable social behavior - measured variously by social interests, rational preferences, or social norms and values - rather than by exploring expressions of social being and identity. Therefore, precisely to the extent that sociologists are aware that the recent focus of narrative studies is toward issues of identity and ontology, these same studies are defined as beyond and outside the boundaries of appropriate social-science concern.4" I argue in this article that the association of identity and ontology with philosophy or theoretical psychology on the one side, and action with interests, norms, or behavior on the other, is a limited model and deprives social scientists of the deeper analysis that it is possible to achieve by linking the concepts of action and identity. To get these benefits, however, we must reject the decoupling of action from ontology, and instead accept that some notion of social being and social identity is, willy-nilly, incorporated into each and every knowledgestatement about action, agency, and behavior. Just as sociologists are not likely to make sense of action without focusing attention on struc-
616 ture and order,it is unlikelywe can interpretsocial action if we fail to We also emphasizeontology,social being, and identity.41 thus enlarge focus when we studysocial actionthrougha lens that also our analytical allows a focus on social ontology and the social constitutionof idenallowsus to makethatenlargement. of The tity.42 reframing narrative From diverse sources it is possible to identify four features of a rerelevantfor the social sciences: 1) relaframednarrativity particularly and tionalityof parts,2) causalemplotment,3) selectiveappropriation, and place.43 Together,these dimensionssug4) temporality, sequence, gest narrativesare constellations of relationships(connected parts) Unlike embeddedin timeand space,constitutedby causalemplotment. an eventin a specifiedcatethe attemptto producemeaningby placing of isolatedphenomprecludessense-making a singular gory,narrativity enon. Narrativitydemands that we discern the meaningof any single to event only in temporaland spatialrelationship other events.Indeed, is of the chief characteristic narrative thatit rendersunderstanding only by connecting(howeverunstably)parts to a constructedconfiguration or a social networkof relationships(howeverincoherentor unrealizand able)composed of symbolic,institutional, materialpractices.44 into turns"events" The connectivityof partsis preciselywhy narrativity of episodes is presentedor experienced episodes,whetherthe sequence in anything resembling chronological order. This is done through It "emplotment." is emplotmentthat gives significanceto independent not their chronological or categorical order. And it is instances, emplotmentthattranslateseventsinto episodes.As a mode of explanation, causalemplotmentis an accounting(howeverfantasticor implicit) of why a narrativehas the story line it does.45 Causal emplotment allows us to test a series of "plot hypotheses"against actual events,
and then to examine how - and under what conditions - the events
intersectwith the hypothesizedplot.46Withoutemplotment,events or experiences could be categorizedonly according to a taxonomical scheme. Yet, we do not act on the basis of categories or attributes. Polkinghorneimplicitlyaddressesthe differencebetween emplotment and categorizationwhen he notes that social actions should not be viewed as a resultof categorizingoneself ("Iam 40 years old; I should but buy life insurance") should be seen to emerge in the context of a with episodes ("Ifelt out of breathlast week, I really should life-story it startthinkingabout life insurance").47 Similarly, is also apparentthat serious mental confusion or political emotion rarely stems from the Ratherwe inabilityto place an event or instancein the propercategory.
617 tend to become confused when it is impossibleor illogicalto integrate an event into an intelligibleplot.48To make somethingunderstandable This is in the contextof a narrative to give it historicityand relationality. works for us because when events are located in a temporal(however fleeting) and sequentialplot we can then explain their relationshipto other events.Plot can thusbe seen as the logic or syntaxof narrative.49 is The significanceof emplotmentfor narrative understanding often the most misunderstoodaspect of narrativity. Withoutattentionto emplotcan ment, narrativity be misperceivedas a non-theoreticalrepresentation of events. Yet it is emplotment that permits us to distinguish between narrativeon the one hand, and chronicle or annales, on the In other.50 fact, it is emplotmentthatallowsus to constructa significant of networkor configuration relationships. Another crucial element of narrativityis its evaluative criteria.51 Evaluation enables us to make qualitative and lexical distinctions among the infinite variety of events, experiences, characters,institutional promises, and social factors that impinge on our lives. Charles Taylor,for example,arguesthat the capacityto act depends to a great extent on having an evaluative frameworkshaped by what he calls The same (a "hypergoods" set of fundamental principlesand values).52 is true of narrative: the face of a potentially in discriminatory principle limitless arrayof social experiences derivingfrom social contact with events, institutions,and people, the evaluativecapacityof emplotment demands and enables selective appropriation constructingnarrain A tives.53 plot must be thematic.54 primacyof this narrative The theme or competingthemes determineshow events are processed and what criteriawill be used to prioritizeevents and render meaningto them. Themes such as "husbandsas breadwinners," "union solidarity," or "womenmust be independent above all" will selectively appropriate the happeningsof the social world, arrangethem in some order, and evaluatethese arrangements.55 normatively
Four dimensions of narrativity
These relativelyabstractformulationsof narrativitycan now be expressed as four differentdimensionsof narrative ontological,public, and metanarrativities. conceptual,
618 Ontological narratives. These are the stories that social actors use to make sense of - indeed, to act in - their lives. Ontological narratives are used to define who we are; this in turn can be a precondition for knowing what to do.56 This "doing"will in turn produce new narratives and hence, new actions; the relationship between narrative and ontology is processual and mutually constitutive. Both are conditions of the other; neither are a priori. Narrative location endows social actors with identities - however multiple, ambiguous, ephemeral, or conflicting they may be (hence the term narrativeidentity).To have some sense of social being in the world requires that lives be more than different series of isolated events or combined variables and attributes. Ontological narratives process events into episodes. People act, or do not act, in part according to how they understand their place in any number of given narratives - however fragmented, contradictory, or partial. Charles Taylor puts it this way: "because we cannot but orient ourselves to the good, and thus determine our place relative to it..., we must inescapably understand our lives in narrative form...."57 But ontological narrativity, like the self, is neither a priori nor fixed. Ontological narratives make identity and the self something that one becomes.5S Thus narrative embeds identities in time and spatial relationships. Ontological narratives affect activities, consciousness, and beliefs and are, in turn, affected by them.59Like all narratives, ontological narratives are structured by emplotment, relationality, connectivity, and selective appropriation. So basic to agency is ontological narrativity that if we want to explain - that is, to know, to make sense of, to account for, perhaps even to predict, anything about the practices of social and historical actors, their collective actions, their modes and meanings of institution-building and group-formations, and their apparent incoherencies - we must first recognize the place of ontological narratives in social life. But where do ontological narratives come from? How are people's stories constructed? Ontological narratives are, above all, social and interpersonal. Although psychologists are typically biased toward the individual sources of narrative, even they recognize the degree to which ontological narratives can only exist interpersonally in the course of social and structural interactions over time.6"To be sure, agents adjust stories to fit their own identities, and, conversely, they will tailor "reality" to fit their stories. The intersubjective webs of relationality sustain and transform narratives over time. Charles Taylor calls these "webs of interlocution," others call them "traditions,"I call them "public narratives."61
619 Publicnarratives those narratives are attachedto culPublicNarratives. tural and institutionalformationslargerthan the single individual,to networksor institutions, howeverlocal or grand,microintersubjective or macro-stories about American social mobility, the "freeborn Englishman,"the working-classhero, and so on. Public narratives range from the narrativesof one's family,to those of the workplace Like all narand nation.62 myths),church,government, (organizational ratives,these stories have drama,plot, explanation,and selective criteria.Families,for example,selectivelyappropriate events to construct The mainstream storiesabout theirdescent into poverty. mediaarrange and connect events to create a "mainstream about the origin of plot" social disorders.The seventeenth-century churchexplainsthe theological reasonsfor a nationalfamine.Governmentagenciestell us "expert" stories about unemployment. Taylor emphasizes the centrality of when he states: publicto ontologicalnarrative
We may sharplyshift the balancein our definitionof identity,dethronethe given,historicalcommunityas a pole of identity,and relateonly to the communitydefinedby adherenceto the good (or the saved,or the truebelievers, or the wise).But this doesn'tsever our dependenceon webs of interlocution. It only changesthe webs,and the natureof our dependence.63
This third dimension of narrativityrefers to the Metanarrativity. in "masternarratives" which we are embedded as contemporaryactors in historyand as social scientists.64 Our sociologicaltheories and concepts are encoded with aspects of these masternarratives- Progress, Decadence, Industrialization, Enlightenment,etc. - even though they at a presuppositional level of social-scienceepistemolusuallyoperate or beyond our awareness.These narratives be the epic dramas can ogy of our time:Capitalism Communism, Individual Society,Barvs. the vs. barism/Naturevs. Civility.They may also be progressivenarrativesof teleological unfolding:Marxism and the triumph of Class Struggle, Liberalismand the triumphof Liberty,the Emergenceof WesternCitizenship, the Rise of Nationalismor of Islam.The masternarrativeof Industrialization/Modernization of Feudalism/Traditional out Society is one of the most outstandingexamples of how a metanarrative becomes lodged in the theoreticalcore of social theory. is Perhapsthe most paradoxicalaspect of metanarratives their quality of denarrativization. is, they are builton concepts and explanatory That schemes ("socialsystems,""socialentities,""socialforces")that are in themselves abstractions.Although metanarratives have all the necessary components of narrativity transformation, majorplot lines and
620 causal emplotment,charactersand action - they nonetheless miss the crucialelementof a conceptualnarrativity.65 These are the concepts and explanations thatwe Conceptual narrativity. Because neithersocial action nor insticonstructas social researchers. is tution-building solely producedthroughontologicaland public narour concepts and explanationsmust includethe factorswe call ratives, social forces - marketpatterns,institutionalpractices,organizational is constraints.The challengeof conceptualnarrativity to devise a vothat we can use to reconstructand plot over time and space cabulary the ontological narrativesand relationshipsof historical actors, the public and culturalnarrativesthat inform their lives, and the crucial with the other relevantsocial forces.66 intersectionof these narratives To date,few if any of our analyticcategoriesarein themselvestemporal and spatial.67 Rather, our modern sociological use of terms such as the "actor," "culture" for social-sciencepurposesintenand is "society," The conabstractedfrom their historicity and relationality. tionally poses is to develop a social analytic ceptual challengethat narrativity vocabularythat can accommodatethe contentionthat social life, social that social action,and social identitiesare narratively, is, organizations, constructedthroughboth ontological and and relationally, temporally publicnarratives.68 The conceptualimplicationsof the new narrative So far, I have elaboratedsome of the dimensionsof narrativeanalysis and have identifiedthe majortypes of narrativity. What, then, are the for of this conception of narrative identityformationand implications social theory? How can narrativity help us understandsocial life and are social practices?Although all four kinds of narrativity relevantto it is the fourth that is the most importantif theories are social theory, adequatelyto account for social action and collective projects.This is and is because conceptualnarrativity definedby temporality, spatiality, a constitutivefeature of social life, the first analytic challenge is to through develop concepts that will allow us to capturethe narrativity whichagencyis negotiated,identitiesare constructed,and social action In mediated.69 the next section I suggest two central components of
conceptual narrativity:narrativeidentity and relational setting. emplotment, as well as relationality and historicity.If narrative is indeed
621 Narrative identity The concept of a narrative identitydovetailswith the move of identityto reintroducepreviously excluded subjects and suppressed politics subjectivitiesinto theories of action. At the same time, however,the narrativeidentity approach firmly rejects the tendencies of identity theories to normatizenew categoriesthat are themselvesas fixed and removed from history as their classical predecessors. The approach buildsfrom the premisethatnarrativity relationality conditions and are of social being, social consciousness, social action, institutions,structures, even society itself; the self and the purposes of self are conin structedand reconstructed the context of internaland externalrelations of time and place and power that are constantly in flux. That social identities are constituted through narrativity, social action is and social processes and interactions- both guided by narrativity, institutionaland interpersonal- are narrativelymediated provides a way of understandingthe recursivepresence of particularidentities thatare,nonetheless,not universal. The importanceof conceptualnarrativity thereforethat it allows us is to build upon the advancesand simultaneously transcendthe fixity to of the identity concept as it is often used in current approaches to social agency.Joining narrativeto identity reintroducestime, space, and analyticalrelationality each of which is excludedfrom the cateor essentialistapproachto identity.While a social identity or gorical categorical approach presumes internally stable concepts, such that undernormalconditionsentitieswithinthatcategorywill act uniformly and predictably,the narrativeidentity approach embeds the actor within relationshipsand stories that shift over time and space. It thus precludescategoricalstabilityin action.These temporallyand spatially shiftingconfigurationsform the relationalcoordinatesof ontological, public, and cultural narratives.Within these temporal and multiidentitiesare formed;hence narrative layerednarratives identityis processual and relational.In this sense, the narrativeidentity approach shares much with the relationalepistemologies most associated with HarrisonWhite.70 The analytic relationalityof the narrativeidentity concept is also at Feministidentity-politics, example,see relationality a normative for as and concrete ontology.First it is arguedthat women are socialized to be more relationalthan men. Then a normativeleap is made to argue
odds with the normative relationality of theories of identity-politics.
622 that this quality of "being-in-relations" turn makes women more in and more humane. In the narrativeidentity perspective,by "caring" contrast,relationalityis used only analytically that is, all identities and female)mustbe analyzedin the contextof relationaland cul(male turalmatricesbecausethey do not "exist" outsideof those complexes.71 afterall, is itself sociallyand relationally constructed.At Individualism, the same time, this analytic relationalitytells us nothing in advance about the value or qualityof those relationshipsand relationalidentities. The meaningful implicationsof a narrative concept of identitycan be determinedby empiricalinquiry,not by a priori assumptions. only In other words, to say that identitiesare forged only in the context of ongoing relationshipsthat exist in time, space, and emplotment,is not to say that "being-in-relationship"somehow"better" "worse" is or than the individuating notions of agency.It is, rather,to divest conceptual of narrativity any particularnormativeimplications.The interdependence and connectivity of parts characteristicof narrative analysis makes relationalityan analytic variable instead of an ideal type or normativestand-infor an unchangingsense of "community." Relationbe more or less bonded, the experienceof themmaybe more shipsmay or less constrictingor enabling- but again,this is a questionof narrative contingency, utopianideals.72 not A compellingillustration the narrative of identityconcept can be found in Steedman'swidely-readsociological autobiographyof her English working-classchildhood in the 1950s.73According to the dominant scholarly accounts, the extreme poverty of mid-century English life pride, working-class was compensatedby a robust"independence, have long assumed that and sense of community."74 Sociologists working-classexperience did in fact conform to this depiction of shattersall of our assumpnarrative working-class identity.Steedman's of identity and agency that should normally tions about the attributes life. of fit with this form of social categorization working-class She preand sents us, instead,with an achingpictureof the "classlongings," narrativesof envy and desire (that life mightbe different),that characterexclusion from the dominantculture. ized her life of underprivileged of Steedman'srepresentations identitiesconstructedof emotional and materialpovertyunfold sociologicallyin the context of the relational complexityin which her life was embedded, and in the narrativesshe inheritedfromher mother'slife - ones in whichgenderintersectedwith class and so transformedthe usual traits attributedto both of those categoricalidentities.75
623 The narrativecontingencyof identity is similarlyvividly suggestedin Davis's historicalsociology of the notorious "one-droprule"in racial Davis'sstudydemonstratesthe numerousconflictsthat classification.76 thatfailed to take accompaniedthe rule of a type of racialclassification of into accountthe historicalintermingling differentraces.By declaring that anyonewith even a drop of Africanblood was a "Negro," burthe den of provingone's identity- for blacksand whites- makesit obvious that such a binaryclassificationis too rigidto accountfor those whose lives failed to conformto the dominantpublic accountsof racialpurity and segregation.The irony was that the very people or groups who deliberatelycreated racial classificationsin the first place often could not even identify correctly those individualsthey wanted to classify; obviously skin color was now a poor indicatorof race. The impact of America'simaginativeone drop rule went beyond public and private strugglesover personal identity.By compelling all children of mixed blood to live in the black community,"therule made possible the incrediblemyth amongwhites that miscegenationhad not occurred,that the races had been kept pure in the south."77 problemof who gets The to define a person continueseven today.One of the key decisionsmany make about researchprojectsconcerningrace is principalinvestigators whether their interviewersshould identify the race of respondentsor whetherthe persons being interviewedshould get to choose their race froma preselectedcategory. Class-formationtheory provides another example of the concept of narrativeidentity for theoreticalrethinking.78 Class-formationtheory has traditionally action with the concept of interestor with explained universalrationalpreferences.Since interestis determinedby the logic and stages of socioeconomic development,the social analystimputesa set of predefined interests or values to people as members of social
categories (e.g., traditional artisan, modern-factory worker, peasant).
Historianscommonlyargue,for instance,thatthe decline of traditional domestic modes of production and its concomitantthreat to custom createdan "artisanal interest" fromwhichexplanations social movefor ments can at least in partbe derived.Althoughsocial science historians almost alwaysdemonstratewith subtletyhow these interestsare mediated throughinterveningfactors (culture,gender, religion, residential patterns, etc.), the interests remain the foundationalexplanationfor working-classpractices and protests. Making sense of social action thus becomes an exercise in placing people into the right social categories by identifyingtheirputativeinterests,and then doing the empirical workof lookingat variationsamongthose interests.
624 T. H. Marshall,for example, in his classic study of citizenship,correlated the stages of citizenship'sdevelopmentwith epochs of class formation; each state representedthe expression of the interests of an his is emerginghistoricclass.79 Underpinning argument the assumption that actors withinthe same category("theworking-class" "thegentry," "statebureaucrats") have sharedattributes will "capitalist employers," hence sharedinterestsdirectingthem to have similarcitizenshippractices. Naturally, assumptionleads us to expect intra-classuniformthis All ity throughouteach period of citizenship-formation: the members of a single category of actors - the eighteenth-centuryEnglish "workingclass,"for example - should behave similarlyand have the same interestswith respect to citizenshipregardlessof differencesof residence,family,or gender. But why do we premise or limit our understanding people to their of workcategory?Why should we assume that an individualor a collecset tivityhas a particular of interestssimplybecause one aspectof their identityfits into one social category- in this case theirplace in the production process? To let "class"stand as a proxy for experience is to presume what has not been empiricallydemonstrated- namely that identities are foundationallyconstitutedby their categorizationin the divisionof labor. Substitutingthe concept of narrativeidentity for that of interest circumvents this problem. A narrativeidentity approach assumes that social action can only be intelligibleif we recognize that people are in and guided to act by the structural culturalrelationships which they are embedded and by the stories throughwhich they constitute their identities- and less because of the interestswe imputeto them.Whereas interestderivesfrom how we as analystscategorize people's role in a division of labor, the narrative-identity approachemphasizeshow we or characterize locate people withina processualand sequentialmovement of relationshipsand life-episodes.Whereasan interestapproach assumespeople act on the basis of rationalmeans-endspreferencesor a by internalizing set of values, a narrativeidentityapproachassumes act in particularways because not to do so would fundapeople time and place.80 mentallyviolate their sense of beingat that particular In anothertime or place, or in the context of a differentset of prevailthat sense of being could be entirelydifferentbecause ing narratives, narrativeidentitiesare constitutedand reconstitutedin time and over time. Calhoun demonstratesthis in his narrativeabout how Chinese students, who had initially displayed no interest in politics, formed
625 cohesive politicalidentitiesduringthe one month they were thrustinto dramaof TienanmenSquare.81 the overpowering dimension of identity there and elsewhere, thus preThe "narrative" sumes that action can only be intelligibleif we recognize the various in ontologicaland publicnarratives whichactorsare emplotted.Narrative identities are constituted by a person's temporallyand spatially variable place in culturallyconstructed stories composed of (breakable) rules, (variable)practices, binding (and unbinding)institutions, and the multipleplots of family,nation, or economic life. Most imporare tant,however,narratives not incorporatedinto the self in any direct way;ratherthey are mediatedthroughthe enormousspectrumof social and politicalinstitutionsand practicesthat constituteour social world. People's experiences as workers,for example, are inextricablyinterconnected with the largermatrixof relationsthat shaped their lives their regionallocation,the practicalworkingsof the legal system,family patterns- as well as the particularstories (of honor, of ethnicity,of gender, of local community,of greed, etc.) used to account for the eventshappeningto them.82 Relationalsetting Another challengeof conceptualnarrativity to develop a vocaculary is in thatwill allowus to locateactors'social narratives temporaland spatial configurationsof relationshipsand culturalpractices (institutions and discourses).We need concepts that will enable us to plot over time and space the ontologicalnarratives historicalactors,the public and of culturalnarratives that informtheir lives, as well as the relevantrange of other social forces - from politics to demographics- that configure togetherto shape historyand social action.We thus need a conceptual vocabularythat can relatenarrative identityto that rangeof factorswe call social forces - market patterns,institutionalpractices, organizationalconstraints, so on. and Societyis the term that usuallyperformsthis work of contextualization in social analysis.When we speak of understanding social action, we context. simultaneouslyspeak of locating the actors in their "societal" But society as a concept is rooted in a falsely totalizingand naturalistic way of thinking about the world. For most practicingsocial-science As research,a society is a social entity. an entity,it has a core essence an essential set of social springs at the heart of the mechanism.This
626 essentialcore is in turnreflectedin broaderco-varyingsocietal institutions that the system comprises. Thus, when sociologists speak of feudalism,for example,we mean at once "feudalsociety"as a whole, a particularset of "feudalclass relations"at the core of this society, a "feudalmanorialeconomy,"and a concomitantset of "feudalinstitutions" such as feudal political units and feudal peasant communities. Most significantly historicalresearch,institutionswithin a society for must co-varywith each other.Thus in "feudalsocieties,"the state by definitionmust be a feudal state whose feudal characterco-varieswith all other feudal institutions;feudal workers must all be unfree and society,"a extra-economically exploited peasants. And in "industrial "modern state industrial/capitalist" mustbe detachedfrom civil society and the industrialeconomy,and industrialworkersmust be individual and legally free. To be sure, the synchronyis not always perfect. In periods of transitionfrom one society to another,there occurs a "lag effect"and remnantsof the old order persist againstthe pressuresof the new. But despite these qualifications,the systemic metaphor assumes that the parts of society co-vary along with the whole as a corporateentity. To make social action intelligibleand coherent,these systemictypoloand reassemgies must be broken apartand their parts disaggregated bled on the basis of relationalclusters.For a social order is neither a naturalistic systemnor a pluralityof individuals,but rathera complex If of contingentculturaland institutionalrelationships. we want to be of the narrativity social life we need a way of thinking able to capture that can substitutea relationalimageryfor a totalizingone. I thus agree with Tilly and White who both concur in their own way with Michael Mann who writes:"It may seem an odd position for a sociologist to adopt; but if I could, I would abolish the concept of "society"altothe Substituting metaphorof a relationalsettingfor "society" gether."83 A makes this possible.84 relationalsettingis a patternof relationships and public narratives, social practices.As such it is amonginstitutions, takes shape a relationalmatrix,a social network.85 Identity-formation within these relational settings of contested but patterned relations people, and institutions. amongnarratives, of One of the most importantcharacteristics a relationalsettingis that and thus must be explored over time and space.86A it has a history, relationalsetting is traced over time not by looking for indicatorsof social development,but by empirically examiningif and when relational interactionsamong narrativesand institutionsappear to have pro-
627 duced a decisively different outcome from previous ones. Social change,from this perspective,is viewed not as the evolutionor revolution of one societal type to another,but by shiftingrelationships among the institutional and arrangements culturalpracticesthatconstituteone or more social settings. a Spatially, relationalsettingmustbe conceivedwith a geometricrather than a mechanisticmetaphor,because it is composed of a matrix of institutionslinked to each other in variablepatternscontingenton the interaction of all points in the matrix. A setting crosses "levels"of analysisand bringstogether in one setting the effect of, say, the internationalmarket,the state'swar-making policies, the local politicalconflicts among elites, and the community'sdemographicpractices of a community- each of which takes social, geographical,and symbolic narrative expression.This cross-cuttingcharacterof a relationalsetting assumesthat the effect of any one level (for example,the labor-market sector)can only be discernedby assessinghow it is affectedinteractively by the other relevantdimensions, such as gender and race. To do so requiresthat we first disaggregate partsof a settingfrom any prethe sumed covaryingwhole and then reconfigurethem in their temporal and geographicrelationality. this way,for example,differentregions In of a single nation-stateare no longer cast as variantsof a single society, but as differentrelationalsettingsthatcan be compared.87 and Conceptualnarrativity theories of action and agency
Narrative identity and social meaning
One majoradvantageof the concept of narrative identityis in the challenge it poses to the false dichotomy too often posed between ideal versusinstrumental Some sociologistsclaim that meaningsof action.88 action is only authenticwhen it is expressiveratherthan instrumental. while ideal activitiesare usuallyassociated typicallycalled instrumental with qualitative concernsin dailylife. Weber,for instance,arguedthatif wages were of secondary importancefor German workers, that was evidence of the superiorityof ideal action.89 From the same assumptions, neo-classicaleconomists go to equal lengths to provide support for the primacyof self-interestamong workersin order to supportthe it concept of rationalaction.And most currently, is theoristsof the new who distinguishthe new social movements (from the identity-politics old) by theirputatively exclusivelyideal - hence, identity- focus.90
To enforce the point, material goals - such as bread and wages - are
628 Yet from a narrativeidentity perspectivethere is nothing self-evident about the instrumental natureof wage demandsany more than that of the ideal natureusuallyattributedto culturalactivities.When we look at wage-struggles, instance,as partof an a priorisystemof categorifor zation,we inevitablyclassifythem as expressionsof instrumental goals. But when we view these same wage-struggles throughthe lens of a narrativeidentityanalysis,we are immediatelyimpressedby the difficulty of classifyingthem as solely eitherinstrumental ideal. Wagesserved or social honor,to preserving families,to everypurposefrom maintaining in the face of newly imposed factory regimes. assertingindependence Historicalstudiesdemonstratethe vast rangeof variationin the use of bread and wages.Indeed, if there is any common narrative theme that emergesfrom these studies,it is that wage-struggles appearto be most
commonly viewed as a form of provisioning - a characteristic social
in classification its focus activitythatdefies eitherideal or instrumental on maintaining relationalcontinuitiesover time andwithinspace.91 Many examplesdefy attemptsto periodize or categorizeinstrumental versusideal (identity)ends. Joyce,for example,has collected (material) the an arrayof studies illustrating remarkable variationin "thehistorical meaningsof work."92 is not just thatwork signifiedhonor as much It as livelihood;equallyimportant, even when money wageswere at stake, value from that of the "digit was impossibleto separatetheirnarrative Manyyears ago Smelserdemonstratedthat collecnity of the trade."93 tive movements aimed at factory reform (surely the quintessential "instrumental" object) were motivated by workingfamilies'efforts to hold the familytogetheragainstthe destabilizing impactof women and children's factory labor.94 And when nineteenth-centuryworking in people demandedthe vote on the groundsof their "property labor," ideal of Locke on which they it was not the autonomousworkmanship founded these claims,but on the relationalpropertyof apprenticeship - a form of judicialcitizenshipand communitysolidarity.95 of The meaningimputedto the appropriation materiallife should not, therefore,be presumeduntil historicallyexplored.Just as an adequate materiallife is an essentialmeans of preservingnormativerelations,so culturaland symbolic relations provide materialresources for livelihood.96Similarly, so-called instrumental strategiesand identitypolitics to be increasinglylinked in researchfindings about the new appear social movements.97
629 The narrative identityconcept allows us to make this shift in the interpretationof action from an a priori categorizationto a focus on contingent narrativesof meaning. The example of the conceptual shift from ideal versus instrumental agency to the concept of provisioning, for example,strikingly supportsthe switchfrom fixed notions of agento relationalanalyses of identity formation.If persons are socially cy then othersare constitutedover time, space, and throughrelationality, constitutive rather than external to identity. From this perspective authentic social action can readily encompass institutionalpractices that organize social inclusions and institutionalexclusions - such as Historicaland contemporatradeunions or communityassociations.98 studies indeed suggest that structural,and sometimes normative, ry autonomywas more often than not contingentupon the grids of social relationality(everythingfrom collective memories, to political power and policies from above, to competing social claims, to pasts and futures of intractablesocial connections, and public narratives)that variablyadhere to the intersticesof an individuallife.99These institutional and symbolic relationshipsare no mere externalset of norms to be "strippedaway by the sociologist" to discover the "real analytic sets self"; they are not "internalized" of societal rules residingwithin Rather they are constitutiveto self, identity,and the human being.100 English agency.Considerthe commentsof one late eighteenth-century artisan on some of the progressive French notions of liberty that threatenedto dismantleregulative welfarepolicies:
It cannot be said to be the libertyof a citizen, or of one who lives under the it protectionof any community; is ratherthe libertyof a savage;thereforehe who availshimselfthereof,deservesnot thatprotection,the powerof society
For this individual,others were not part of the external problem of constraintbut constitutive- for good or for bad - of his narrative identity. Race, gender,and power Although social action may be only intelligiblethroughthe construction, enactment,and appropriationof narratives,this does not mean that social actors are free to fabricatenarratives will. Rather,there is at a limited repertoire of available representationsand stories. only Whichkinds of narratives sociallypredominateis contested politiwill cally and will depend in largepart on the distributionof power.This is
630 people use to make sense of theirsituations why the kinds of narratives will alwaysbe an empiricalratherthana presuppositional question.It is in other words,that we explicate,ratherthan assume or take essential, for granted, the narrativesof groups and persons. The extent and availablefor appropriation natureof any given repertoireof narratives is always historicallyand culturallyspecific; the particularplots that cannotbe determinedin advance. give meaningsto those narratives Since social actors do not freely constructtheir own privateor public narratives,we can also expect to find that confusion, powerlessness, despair,victimization,and even madness are some of the outcomes of an inabilityto accommodatecertainhappeningswithina rangeof availnarratives. able cultural,public,and institutional Thus, in everydaytalk we often characterizeincoherent experiences - and especially those wherewe feel controlledby a greaterpower thanour own - as "KafkaFor esque."102 this reason,genderstudiesand criticalrace theorieshave arguedfor the importanceof constructingnew public narraeagerly that tives and symbolicrepresentations do not continuethe long tradiof tion of exclusionso characteristic dominantones. PatriziaVioli, for example, reminds us how critical the presence or have been to the construction kinds of narratives absence of particular "universal" The of both male and female subjectivities.103 archetypical narrativeallows men to objectivizethemselves and their own experiences in these everymanstories - stories that not only representmaleof ness, but in effect replicatethe metanarratives classicalsocial theory. In pointingout thatwomen do not haveavailableto them the same normativelyvalued forms of symbolic representation especially stories of solidarityand autonomyamongwomen - Violi notes the difficulties for women in constructing social identities. These representational to silences are thereforetantamount keepinginvisiblenot only the differences between men and women but also the very subjectivitiesof as and women themselves.Seeingrepresentation, narrative, subjectivity is of the same process, Violi arguesthat unless female subjectivity part made visible through narrative"it will remain confined within the closed space of individual experience."104 Choosing narratives to express multiple subjectivitiesis a deliberate way of rejecting the neutralityand appearanceof objectivitytypicallyembedded in master narratives. of Steedman'sanalyticautobiography her English working-classroots is amongthe most powerfulexamplesof the significanceof alternative
631 public narrativesin counteringthe potential damage to identity forThe mation caused by singulardominant narratives.105 public narratives of working-classcommunityshe had availableas a child omitted women, just as many of the currentfeministaccounts of identityomit In class and poverty.'06 this context of narrative silence towardher own Steedman presents a picture of a self's (her mother's) experiences, absolute longing and absence. Challengingthe silence, Steedman articulates a counter-narrative one that joins gender and class, with many other relationalcomplexitiesof English life - and thus lays the groundwork for a newly reconstructed kind of narrative identityformation. Strugglesover narrationsare thus strugglesover identity.In an examination of their legal training, for instance, Patricia Williams and CharlesLawrenceexplicitlyreject silencingthe human voice in order to produce "abstract, mechanistic,professional,and rationalist" legal Williams discourse.'07 Embracingthe notion of multiple subjectivity, tells us that she does not use the "traditionallylegal black-letter because she is "intentionally double-voiced and relationvocabulary," al."'08 Lawrencecalls this kind of multiple consciousness by another name - "dualsubjectivity."'09 Either way,these scholarsof color contend that writing counter-narratives a crucial strategywhen one's is identity is not expressed in the dominant public ones. It is not surprising then that the narrativesof excluded voices reveal "alternative values" since narratives"articulatesocial realities not seen by those who live at ease in a worldof privilege." The centralityof ontological "O narrativein the constructionof social identities is also revealed in a story Williamstells about startinglaw school at HarvardUniversity. With "secretivereassurance," Williams recalls, her mother explained she knew the youngblackstudentwould succeed at the prestigious why "TheMillerswere lawyers,so you have it in your blood."" university. Encoded in that story about the white slave holder (Attorney Austin Miller) who had purchased and impregnatedWilliams'great-greatgrandmotherwas the proof that a category is neither fixed nor nonrelational. "onedrop"of blood could be constructedinto a narrative If to dominateone sector of the population,could the story not also be invertedso thatnow encoded in that single drop of blood is a narrative of empowerment?
Narrative identity and social class
also aboutthe relaConceptualnarrativity allowsus to thinkdifferently tionship between social classes and political action. Recall the earlier example from T. H. Marshall in which he assumed a correlation between class attributesand political action towardcitizenshipformation.12 Relationaland narrative approachescan be broughtto bear on the same evidence to show otherwise.Even thougheighteenth-century English working people certainlyshared importantattributes- they were propertylessin most respects, exploited by their employers,and working for wages - their conditions and degrees of empowerment with respect to citizenshipwere not uniform but varied dramatically across the social and geographicallandscape. The "same"working class differed radicallyas to whether they even perceived the laws of citizenshipto be rightsin the first place. Neither class nor status divisions can account for these differences since those in similar class differentdegreesof poweracrossregions. situationsmaintained From the narrativeidentity perspective,these same working classes would be seen as membersof political cultures whose symbolic and relationalplaces in a matrixof narrativesand relationshipsare better indicators of action than their categorical classifications.From this identitiescannotbe derivedfrom attriangleof relationalmembership, butes imputedfroma stageof societaldevelopment(be it pre-industrial or modern),or by "experience" imputedfrom a social category(such as traditional artisan, factory laborer, or working-class wife), but by actors'places in the multiple(often competing)symbolicand material narrativesin which they were embedded or with which they identiWe fied.113 would thus no longer assume that a group of people have relationshipto citizenshipsimplybecause one aspect of any particular class." their identityfits into a single categoryknown as the "working Social action thus loses its categoricalstability,and group embeddedbecome more importantthan class ness and culturalrepresentations attributes- thus directing us to investigate citizenship-identities by looking at actors'places in their relationalsettings,or what Bourdieu As would call a "habitus."114 a generalproposition,this would directus to expect greatercontingenciesof agency.We would be considerably and less concernedwith "deviation" more fascinatedby variation. This shift would in turn allow us to make sense of a situationin which even though a large group of English people could be similarlycategorized as "working-class" in that they shared working-classattri-
633 butes (lack of ownershipof means of production,landlessness,and so on) - their politicalactivitiesand identitiesvaried radicallydepending In England the upon their settings.115 the case of eighteenth-century effects usually attributed to proletarianizationwere in fact overdeterminedin manyinstancesby particular narrative and relationships institutional nationalapprenticeship laws, the parpractices(including ticipatoryrules and expectationsof enforcement,the durabilityof particle inheritance,the local control and symbolic meaning attachedto skilled work, and the skilled practicesof affiliation). a context conIn figuredby these relationships,certainworkingcommunitieswere able to offset manyof the "normal" with a consequencesof propertylessness more powerfulform of "property" associationand membership.116 in Conclusion Modernsocial theoriesof universalagencyhavemade manyof the data of humanactivityinexplicable.Until recently,women, non-westerners, and minoritiesfrequentlywere defined in social anlaysis(often inadvertently) as irrational,anomalous, or deviant from modern social action. Consider,for example,the "problem" those nineteenth-cenof movementsthat deviated from Marxistpredictions tury working-class of revolutionary class consciousness when they demandedstate intervention to protect their rights. All too frequently,these movements have been labeled by historiansand sociologists as "reformist" as or victims of "socialcontrol"and "falseconsciousness." This barelyconceals a hidden contempt for those putativelyduped objects of history who acted differentlyfrom the way the universalmodern class actor would.Yet as long as we continueto conceptualizeothersas sources of externalconstraint,we are forced to label such relationaland instituor tionally-oriented goals as "backwards-looking," "reactionary," as evidence of social control.17Action and agencythatfail to conformto the postulatesof the universalnorms of agency are often explainedby the externalpower of order,or internalizedinstitutionalconstraint- be it norms or social laws, bureaucraticpower, or economic forces. Why? Because the dispossessed ghost-like individualself is "less liberated than disempowered."'18 Indeed, one could go further;such a person cannot - even heuristically exist. If an aim of the social sciences is to for action that are indeed intelligible,the capacgenerateexplanations ity of social-science logic to lay the basis for achievingthat end will depend on its epistemologicalprinciplesand categoriesbeing informed by time, space, and narrativity.119
634 to Bringingthe richdimensionsof ontologicalnarrativity the new identity approachesin social action theory is one way of doing this. The concepts of narrative identity and relationalsettingallow us to reconthe subject-objectdualism of modern social theory. They ceptualize transformthe dichotomy into numerous matrices of patterned relationships, social practices, and institutionsmediated not by abstractions but by linkagesof politicalpower,social practices,and publicnarratives.This simultaneously reconceptualizessocial agency awayfrom its unitary status of individuation,and toward an understandingof agency constituted within institutions, structuresof power, cultural networks,and, more generally,those otherswho are a centralanalytic dimension (again, not necessarily normative)of that identity.These are conceptualizations themselvespremisedon the extensiveresearch, across time and space, which alreadysuggeststhat social identitiesare social constitutedby the intricateinterweavingof history,narrativity, as and relationality, well as institutionaland culturalpracknowledge, tices. The narrativeapproachto identity thus addresses the incoherencies of theories of action that leave vast numbers of social actors and social practicesthoroughlyunaccountedfor - redefinedas "marginal," It or "deviant," "anomalous." also builds upon the strengths of the recentshift in sociologies of actionfrom universalnotions of agencyto more particularistic identities- a shift that endows the previouslymarIn with a powerfulnew sense of subjectivity. recognizingthe ginalized of these new sociologies of identity,however,I have also importance tried to call attentionto their potentialweaknesses- foremost among which are the tendenciesto conflate analyticor structural relationality into normativevalues about "being-in-relations" (e.g., Chodorow and Gilligan),as well as the inadvertentahistoricismthat resultsfrom conThere is, to be sure, an important structingcategoriesof identity.120 theoreticaldistinctionto be made between two kinds of categories from those based on (1) taxonomicalcategoriesof identityaggregated variables (age, sex, education, etc.) or "fixed"entities (woman, man, black) and, (2) categoriesthat coincide with a narrativethematic.For instance, it is not hard to classify certain narrativesas falling in the or categoryof the "heroicWesterner," "thevirtuesof AmericandemocThis is a classification,however, of the narrativeitself. It can racy." still be abstracted from context and its ontological relationality kept intact. By contrast, the classificationof an actor divorced from analyticrelationalityis neither ontologicallyintelligiblenor meaningful. In her studyof audienceresponsesto westernmovies,for instance,
635 must classify by theme the western movies she Shively appropriately shows her audiences.121 while these thematicclassificationsof the Yet narrativesremainstable throughoutthe study,her findingsrevealthat audience identificationwith and response to those themes depends less on the racial category of the respondent (native American or white) and more on the actors' changing social and historical embeddedness. I am not suggestingthat there is no place for the use of categoriesof Brint, for example, rightlysays identity in everydaysocial practice.'22 that the sociological use of categories reflects the "beliefthat the experience of common conditions of life ... makes people with shared
23 attributesa meaningfulfeatureof the social structure." But it is prebecause this belief is acceptedinto social analysistoo uncritically cisely that new theories of action centered aroundidentityare often empirically confounded. There is no reason to assume a priori that people with similarattributeswill sharecommon experiencesof social life, let alone be moved to common forms and meanings of social action, unless they share similar narrativeidentities and relational settings. Bringing narrativityto identity thus provides the conceptual sinews that produces a tighter,more historicallysensitive coupling between social identityand agency.
Acknowledgments Renee Anspach's,Rogers Brubaker's, Arthur Stinchcombe's and generosity of pen, insight,and spirit contributedmightilyto my revisions on this article.Earlierversions were presentedat the 1992 American the SociologicalAssociation Meetings,Pittsburgh; BrennerCenterfor and Social Theory,UCLA; and the Comparative Comparative History Social Analysis Workshop, Department of Sociology, UCLA. I am gratefulto the audiencesin those settingsfor theirspiritedfeedback,as well as to CraigCalhoun,Gloria Gibson, ElizabethLong, Marc Steinberg, Mayer Zald, and the Editors of Theoryand Society; to Jane Rafferty,for researchassistance;and to Pat Preston,for heroic word processing.A differentversion of this article,co-authoredwith Gloria Gibson, will appear in Craig Calhoun, editor, Social Theoryand the
Constitution of Identity (Basil Blackwell, 1994).
1. For some examples of the reinterpretation female differenceinto a form of of genderidentity,see Nancy Chodorow, TheReproduction Mothering of (Berkeley: Press, 1978); JeanElshtain,PublicMan,PrivateWoman: Universityof California Womenin Social and Political Thought(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1981); Carol Gilligan,In a DifferentVoice:PsychologicalTheoryand Women's Development (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1982); Catharine MacKinnon, Towarda Feminist Theoryof State (Cambridge:Harvard University as A Press, 1989); Dorothy E. Smith, TheEverydayWorld Problematic: Feminist Sociology(Boston:Northeastern UniversityPress, 1987); Texts,Facts,and Femininity:Exploringthe Relations of Ruling (London and New York: Routledge, A Practices Power: Feminist 1990); and TheConceptual of Sociologyof Knowledge (Boston:NortheasternUniversityPress, 1990); and Mary F. Belenky, Blythe M Clinchy,Nancy R. Goldberger,and Jill M. Tarule, Women'sWaysof Knowing: TheDevelopment Self, Voice,and Mind (New York:Basic Books, 1986). The of criticismof categoricalfixity is the animatingimpulse behind much of feminist, criticalrace theory,and the "newhistoricism." contributions For post-modernist, that have recentlyshownthat racialand sexualcategoriescannotbe conceived as pre-politicalor outside the bounds of social constitution,see KathleenCanning, the "Contesting power of categories:Discourse, experience,and feminist resistBetween Pracance,"Signs19 (1994): 368-404; RogerChartier,Cultural History: trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Princeton:PrincetonUnitices and Representations, Knowledge, versity Press, 1988); PatriciaHill Collins, Black FeministThought: and Consciousness, the Politicsof Empowerment (Boston:Unwin Hyman, 1990); the and "Transforming inner circle: Dorothy Smith's challenge to sociological theory,"SociologicalTheory10 (1992): 73-80; F. James Davis, Whois Black?: The State University,1991); One Nation'sDefinition(Philadelphia: Pennsylvania and gender relations in feminist theory,"in Linda Jane Flax, "Postmodernism Nicholson,editor, Feminism/Postmodernism York and London:Routledge: (New Feminism, and PostPsychoanalysis, 1990), 39-62; and ThinkingFragments: West(Berkeleyand Los Angeles:Universityof modernismin the Contemporary CaliforniaPress, 1990); Nancy Fraser, UnrulyPractices: Power, Discourse,and Social Theory(Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Genderin Contemporary The and of Press, 1989); Donna Haraway,Simians,Cyborgs, Women: Reinvention Sex: Nature(New York and London:Routledge,1991); ThomasLaqueur,Making Harvard University Body and Genderfrom the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Press, 1990); CharlesR. Lawrence,III, "Theword and the river:Pedagogyand scholarshipas struggle,"SouthernCaliforniaLaw Review 65/5 (1992): 2231(New 2298, LindaNicholson,editor, Feminism/Postmodernism York:Routledge, 1990);JoanWallachScott, Genderand the Politicsof History(New York:Columin bia UniversityPress, 1988); "Onlanguage,gender,and working-class history," Genderand the Politicsof History(New York:ColumbiaUniversityPress, 1988), Critical Inquiry17/3 (1991): 773-797; 53-67; and "Theevidenceof experience," and as World Problematic; Texts,Facts,and Femininity; The Smith, TheEveryday of ConceptualPracticesof Power;Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure Woman(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992); PatriciaJ. Williams,"On being the object of property,"Signs 14/5 (1988): 5-24, and TheAlchemy of Race and Rights:The Harvard UniversityPress, 1991). (Cambridge: Diaryof a LawProfessor StevenCollins,and StevenLukes,editors, TheCategory the 2. MichaelCarrithers, of
Person:Anthropology, CamPhilosophy,History,trans.W. D. Halls (Cambridge: UniversityPress, 1985); MarcellMauss, "A categoryof the humanmind: bridge et The notion of person;the notion of self,"in Carrithers, al., editors, TheCategory University (Chicago: of the Person,1-25; Louis Dumont,Essayson Individualism of ChicagoPress, 1982). 3. Williams,TheAlchemyofRace and Rights,256-257 (italicsmine). 4. This view of narrativeas a representational methodologywas importantlysubstantiatedby the philosophersand historiographers. Whiteand Minkboth argued that despite the representational value of narrative,it had to be seen as a superto placed over the chaos of "reality" organimposedform that analysts/historians ize it into coherency.See HaydenWhite,"Thevalueof narrativity the represenin in tationof reality," W. J. T. Mitchell,editor, On Narrative Universityof (Chicago: historiChicagoPress, 1981), 1-23; "Thequestionof narrativein contemporary cal theory,"Historyand Theory23 (1984): 1-33; and The Contentof the Form (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); and Louis O. Mink, "The in autonomyof historicalunderstanding," WilliamH. Dray, editor, Philosophical Analysisand History(New York:Harper& Row, 1966), 160-192; and "Narrative form as a cognitiveinstrument," RalphCohen, editor,New Directionsin Literain The Johns HopkinsUniversityPress, 1978), 107-124. See ryHistory(Baltimore: also Arthur C. Danto, Narrationand Knowledge: Includingthe IntegralTextof AnalyticalPhilosophyof History(New York: ColumbiaUniversityPress, 1985) for a complexphilosophicaldiscussionof the analyticplace of narrative historiin cal analysis.The majorexception to this position, and a majorinfluence on the new narrative approach,is PaulRicoeur,"Thehumanexperienceof time and narrative,"Researchin Phenomenology9/25 (1979): 17-34; "Narrative time," in W. J. T. Mitchell, editor, On Narrative(Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1981), 165-186; and Time and Narrative,2 vols., trans. KathleenMcLaughlin and David Pellauer(Chicago: Universityof ChicagoPress, 1984-1986). 5. The journalSocialScienceHistoryis representative this trend. of 6. See especiallyRicoeur,"Thehumanexperienceof time and narrative," Time and and Narrative. law and criticalrace theory,see Williams,TheAlchemyof Race In and Rights;Lawrence,"Theword and the river"; CliffordGeertz, "Localknowledge: Fact and law in comparative perspective,"in Clifford Geertz, editor, Local Knowledge(New York: Basic Books, 1983); James Boyd White, When Words Lose TheirMeaning:Constitutions Reconstitutions Language,Charand of acter, and Community(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984); Ronald Dworkin, The Politics of Interpretation (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1982); in psychology, see Susan Hales, "The inadvertentrediscoveryof self in social psychology," Journalforthe Theory Social Behavior15 (October 1985): of skills:Explanationsand 237-282; SusanKemper,"Thedevelopmentof narrative in in entertainments," StanA. Kuczaj,II, editor, DiscourseDevelopment: Progress CognitiveDevelopmentResearch(New York: Springer-Verlag, 1984), 99-124; Jerome Bruner,Actual Minds,Possible Worlds HarvardUniversity (Cambridge: Social Research54/1 (1987): 11-32; TheoPress, 1986); and "Lifeas narrative," dore R. Sarbin,editor, Narrative The Psychology: StoriedNatureof Human Conduct (New York:Praeger,1986); KennethJ. Gergenand MaryM. Gergen,"Narrativeformand the constructionof psychologicalscience,"in TheodoreR. Sarbin, The editor, Narrative Psychology: StoriedNatureof Human Conduct(New York: Praeger,1986), 22-44; in medicine,see GarethWilliams,"Thegenesis of chronic illness:Narrativereconstruction," Sociologyof Healthand Illness 6 (1984): 175-
200; Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives(New York: Basic, 1988); in psychoanalytictheory, see Donald P. Spence, NarrativeTruthand Historical Truth: in Meaningand Interpretation Psychoanalysis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Roy Schafer, "Narrationin the psychoanalyticaldialogue,"in W. J. T. Mitchell,editor, On Narrative (Chicago:Universityof ChicagoPress, 1981), 2549; and TheAnalyticAttitude(New York:Basic Books, 1983); in education,see CarolWhitherell Nel Noddings,editors,StoriesLives Tell:Narrative Diaand and loguein Education(New York:TeachersCollege Press, 1991); in philosophy,see A AlasdairMacIntyre, (Notre Dame:UniverAfter Virtue: Studyin MoralTheory sity of Notre Dame Press, 1981); CharlesTaylor,Sourcesof the Self (Cambridge: HarvardUniversityPress, 1989); in gender studies, see PatriziaVioli, "Gender, subjectivityand language,"in Gisela Bock and Susan James, editors, Beyond Equalityand Difference:Citizenship,FeministPolitics and Female Subjectivity (New York and London: Routledge, 1992), 164-176; Linda M. G. Zerilli, or "Rememoration war? Frenchfeministnarrativeand the politics of self-repre3/1 Differences (1991): 1-19; SusanGroag Bell and MarilynYalom, sentation," editors, RevealingLives:Autobiography, Biography,and Gender(Albany:State Feminist Personal: of New York Press, 1990); Nancy K. Miller, Getting University Acts (New York:Routledge, 1991); PerOccasionsand OtherAutobiographical Women's Lives:FeministTheoryand sonal NarrativesGroup, editor, Interpreting PersonalNarratives (Bloomington:Universityof IndianaPress, 1989); Mary Jo autoform in Frenchand Germanworking-class Maynes,"Genderand narrative Lives: Women's in biographies," PersonalNarrativesGroup, editor, Interpreting Feminist Theoryand Personal Narratives(Bloomington:University of Indiana Press, 1989), 103-117; Linda Gordon, "What'snew in women's history,"in Indiana Studies(Bloomington: Studies/Critical Teresade Lauretis,editor, Feminist UniversityPress, 1986), 20-38; Elspeth Graham,Hilary Hinds, Elaine Hobby, and Helen Wilcox, editors, Her Own Life: Autobiographical Writings Sevenby Englishwomen(London:Routledge, 1989); in anthropology,see teenth-Century UniverE. ValentineDaniel, FluidSigns:Beinga Personthe TamilWay (Berkeley: Press, 1984); Victor W. Turnerand EdwardM. Bruner,editors, sity of California The Anthropologyof Experience(Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 1986); in SherryOrtner,"Narrativity history,culture,and lives,"CSST WorkingPaper #66 (Ann Arbor:Universityof Michigan,1991); in physics, Nancy Cartwright, How the Laws of Physics Lie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983); Stephen Jay Gould, "MightyManchester,"New YorkReview of Books (27 October 1988);
and Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York and
London:W. W. Norton & Co., 1989). 7. Cf. especially the "life stories" scholarshipof Daniel Bertaux, Biographyand Society(Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981); Daniel Bertauxand MartinKohli, "Thelife A view,"Annual Reviewof Sociology10 (1984): 215storyapproach: continental 237; Mark Freeman, "History,narrative,and life-span developmentalknowlstoriesin 27 edge,"HumanDevelopment (1984): 1-19; CharlotteLinde,"Private public discourse:Narrativeanalysis in the social sciences," Poetics 15 (1986): 183-202; and Livia Polanyi, Tellingthe AmericanStory(Norwood, N.J.:Ablex 1985). Publishing, narrative R. 8. Margaret Somers,"Narrativity, identity,and social action:Rethinking SocialScienceHistory16/4 (1992): 591-630. formation," Englishworking-class is 9. Attentionto identity-formation slowly gaininggroundin sociology.Significantly, the two majorsources for these developmentsare both groups of "outsiders"
from the disciplinewho have been until recentlymarginalto the theorizedsocial actor:1) women,people of color, ethnicminorities,and more recently,those who feel nationallyexcluded,see, e.g., JudithButlerand Joan Scott, editors, Feminists
Theorize the Political (New York: Routledge, 1992); Collins, Black Feminist
about the subject,"Newsletter the ComBarbaraLaslett, "Thinking of Thought;
parative and Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association 5 (1992); Smith, The Everyday World as Problematic; Texts, Facts, and Femininity, and The Conceptual Practices of Power; and Anna Yeatman, "A feminist theory of
in social differentiation," Linda J. Nicholson, editor, Feminism/Postmodernism (New York and London: Routledge, 1990), 281-299; and 2) the "new social have movements"in Europe and America whose goals of "identity-expression" been used to distinguishthem from more "instrumental" movements,e.g., Stanley
Aronowitz, The Politics of Identity: Class, Culture, Social Movements (New York:
comRoutledge, Chapmanand Hall, Inc., 1992); Craig J. Calhoun, "Imagined munitiesand indirectrelationships: Large-scalesocial integrationand the transformationof everydaylife," in Pierre Bourdieu and James S. Coleman, editors,
Social Theory for a Changing Society (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press and New
York:RussellSageFoundation,1991), 95-120; "Morality, identity,and historical CharlesTaylor on the sources of the self," SociologicalTheory9/2 explanation: (1991) 232-263; and "The problem of identity in collective action,"in MacroMicro Linkages in Sociology (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1991), 51-75; Jean L.
social Cohen, Strategyor identity:New theoreticalparadigmsand contemporary movements,"Social Research52 (1985): 663-716; Jean L. Cohen and Andrew
Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992); Alberto Melucci, Nomads of the Present: Social Movements and Individual Needs
in Contemporary Society (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); AlessandroPizzorno,"Onthe rationality democraticchoice," Telos63 (1985): 41of 69; and Alain Touraine, "An introductionto the study of social movements,"
Social Research 52/4 (1985): 749-787. 10. Aronowitz, The Politics of Identity, 12.
11. AlessandroPizzorno,"Political conexchangeand collectiveidentityin industrial
flict," in C. Crouch and A. Pizzorno, editors, The Resurgence of Class Conflict in
Western EuropeSince 1968 (London:Macmillan,1978), 277-298; and "On the of rationality democraticchoice."
12. Chodorow, Woman. The Reproduction of Mothering; Elshtain, Public Man, Private
13. Chodorow,ibid.;and Gilligan,In a DifferentVoice.
14. See also Elshtain, Public Man, Private Woman, MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of State, and Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace
versionsof feminist (New York:BallantineBooks, 1989) for extremelyinfluential identitypolitics.For an extremelyimportantdiscussionof these issues, see Seyla conBenhabib,"Thegeneralizedand the concrete other:The Kohlberg-Gilligan troversyand feminist theory,"in Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell, editors, Feminismas Critique (Minneapolis: Universityof MinnesotaPress, 1987), 77-95.
15. MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of State.
16. Molefi Kete Asante, TheAfrocentric Idea (Philadelphia: Temple UniversityPress, 1987), 165. 17. Ibid. 18. ChristineDi Stefano, "Dilemmasof difference:Feminism,modernity,and postin modernism," LindaJ. Nicholson, editor, Feminism/Postmodernism (New York and London:Routledge,1990), 63-82.
19. Collins, Black Feminist Thought;bell hooks, From Marginto Center(Boston: SouthEnd Press, 1984); JuneJordan,Civil Wars (Boston:Beacon, 1981); Audre N.Y.:The CrossingPress, 1984). Lorde, SisterOutsider (Trumansberg, 20. Scott, Gender the Politicsof History. and 21. Ibid.; see also Denise Riley, Am I That Name? Feminismand the Categoryof "Women" History(Minneapolis: in Universityof MinnesotaPress, 1988). in 22. Joan W. Scott, "Experience," JudithButler and Joan Scott, editors, Feminists the Theorize Political(New York:Routledge,1992), 22-40. and 23. Haraway, Simians,Cyborgs, Women. 24. Melucci,Nomadsof thePresent. 25. These criticismsof identity-theoriesare articulatedin many differentways and places. Some of the most importantinclude Butler and Scott, FeministsTheorize the Political; Canning, "Contesting the power of categories"; Flax, "Postmodernismand gender relations,"and ThinkingFragments; Nancy Fraser and LindaJ. Nicholson, "Socialcriticismwithoutphilosophy:An encounterbetween in feminism and postmodernism," Linda J. Nicholson, editor, Feminism/Postmodernism(New York and London:Routledge, 1990), 19-38; Haraway,Similimit: The unsolved ans, Cyborgs,and Women;Charles Lemert, "Subjectivity's riddle of the standpoint," SociologicalTheory(1992) 63-72; Denise Riley, Am I and ThatName?;Scott, Genderand thePoliticsof History, "Experience." and 26. See especiallySeyla Benhabib,Situatingthe Self: Gender,Community, Postmodernism(Cambridge: Polity, 1992), and Scott, Genderand the Politicsof Histhe Canning,"Contesting tory,"Theevidence of experience,"and "Experience"; UnevenDevelopments of categories"; University (Chicago: Mary Poovey, power Inclusion, of Chicago Press, 1988); Martha Minow, MakingAll the Difference: Exclusion,and AmericanLaw (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress, 1990); Regenia in A Gagnier, Subjectivities: History of Self-Representation Britain, 1832-1920 York:OxfordUniversityPress, 1991); and Cohen and Arato, CivilSociety (New are and PoliticalTheory but a few. 34. 27. FraserandNicholson,"Socialcriticismwithoutphilosophy," 28. Discussion of collective projects in the establishmentof professional identity A includeMagaliSarfatti AnalyLarson, TheRise of Professionalism: Sociological of California sis (Berkeley: Press, 1977), and AndrewAbbott, TheSysUniversity An tem of Professions: Essayon the Divisionof ExpertLabor(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). For the social sciences in particular,see Mayer Zald, The "Sociologyas a discipline:Quasi-scienceand quasi-humanities,". American Sociologist 22/3,4 (1991): 165-187; Stefan Collini, Donald Winch, and J. W. Burrow,editors, ThatNoble Science of Politics:A Studyin NineteenthCentury Intellectual UniversityPress, 1983); IanHacking, Cambridge History(Cambridge: The Tamingof Chance (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1990); and Dorothy Ross, The Originof American Social Science (New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1991). 29. Abell and Abbott have been in the vanguardof challengingthis exclusionin the Journalfor narratives," domain of methodology.See Peter Abell, "Comparative the Theory Social Behavior14 (1984): 309-331; and TheSyntaxof Social Life of (Oxford:Oxford UniversityPress, 1987); Andrew Abbott, "Sequencesof social events," HistoricalMethods 16 (1983): 129-147; "Event sequence and event HistoricalMethods17 (1984): 192-204; "Transcending generallinear duration," of 6 (1988) 169-186; "Conceptions time and events SociologicalTheory reality," HistoricalMethods in social science methods:Causaland narrativeapproaches,"
23 (1990): 140-150; and "Fromcauses to events:Notes on narrative positivism," Sociological Methods & Research 20/4 (1992): 428-455. ChristopherLloyd, Explanationin Social History(New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), provides an excellent analysis of the developmentof these binary oppositions in the social sciences. A recent example of defining sociology by its opposition to writing "mere" history can be found in Edgar Kiser and Michael Hechter, "The role of sociology,"AmericanJournalof Sociolgeneraltheory in comparative-historical ogy 97 (1991): 1-30. 30. The term comes from and is elaboratedin Margaret Somers,"Where sociolR. is in ogy afterthe historicturn?Knowledgeculturesand historicalepistemologies," TerrenceJ. McDonald, editor, The HistoricTurn in the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor:Universityof MichiganPress,forthcoming). 31. On historians abandoning traditional notions of narrative or even standard notionsof historyper se, see e.g.,Alan Megill,"Recounting past:'Description' the AmericanHistoricalReview 94/3 explanation,and narrativein historiography," Ameriand (1989): 627-653; and "Fragmentation the futureof historiography," can Historical Review 96 (June 1991): 693-698; Peter Novick, That Noble Dream:The 'Objectivity Question'and the AmericanHistoricalProfession(Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1988); and "My correct views on everything,"AmericanHistoricalReview96 (1991): 699-703; John E. Toews, "Intellectualhistoryafterthe linguisticturn:The autonomyof meaningand the irreduciAmericanHistoricalReview92/4 (1987): 879-907; Geoff bility of experience," "Isall the world a text? From sociologicalhistoryto the history of society Eley, two decades later,"in Terrence J. McDonald, editor, The Historic Turnin the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor: University of MichiganPress, forthcoming); and LawrenceStone, "The revivalof narrative: Reflections on an old new history," Pastand Present85 (1979): 3-25. 32. Louis 0. Mink,"Theautonomyof historicalunderstanding," WilliamH. Dray, in editor, PhilosophicalAnalysis and History(New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 160-192; White,"Thequestionof narrative." 33. See note 6 above. 34. This is beginningto change, e.g., Jeffrey C. Alexander, Structure and Meaning: RethinkingClassicalSociology (New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 1989); JanetHart, "Cracking code: Allegory and politicalmobilizationin the Greek the Social ScienceHistory16/4 (1992): 631-668; WilliamH. Sewell,Jr., resistance," "Introduction: Narratives and social identities," Social Science History '16/3 narrativeidentity, and social action"; (1992): 479-488; Somers, "Narrativity, in George Steinmetz,"Reflectionson the role of social narratives working-class formation:Narrativetheory in the social sciences,"Social Science History 16/3 and Control: Structural A (1992): 489-516; HarrisonC. White,Identity of Theory Social Action (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992). Harrison White's Identityand Controlhas broken criticalground by bringingnarrativity (stories)into the heartof his structural theory of social action;and see also Peter Bearman,"The social structureof suicide," SociologicalForum 5 (September of 1991): 501-524. JeffreyAlexanderhas also theorizedthe importance narrative to theoriesof social actionin J. C. Alexanderand P. Smith,"Thediscourseof civil and society:A new proposalfor culturalstudies,"Theory Society22 (1993): 151207, and JeffreyC. Alexander,"Modern, anti,post, neo:How social theorieshave triedto understand 'newworld'of 'ourtime,"'unpublished the 1993. manuscript, For additionaldiscussion,see PhilipAbrams,Historical Cornell Sociology(Ithaca: UniversityPress, 1982).
35. See, for example, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Positivism, Presuppositions, and Current Controversies, Vol. 1 of Theoretical Logic in Sociology (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), Action and Its Environment: Towardsa New Synthesis(New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), and
Structure and Meaning; Pierre Bourdieu, An Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans.
UniversityPress, 1977); and TheLogic by RichardNice (New York:Cambridge StanfordUniversityPress, 1990); JamesColeman,Foundaof Practice(Stanford: HarvardUniversity Press, 1990); Anthony tions of Social Theory(Cambridge: in in Giddens, "The 'individual' writingsof Emile Durkheim," Studiesin Social
and Political Theory (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1977); and The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Cambridge: Polity Press, Berkeley:
and Press, 1985); JurgenHabermas,Communication the Universityof California
Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979); and Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. I: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas Mc-
and Carthy(Boston:Beacon Press, 1984); Geoffrey Hawthorne,Enlightenment Despair (London: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1976); William H. Sewell, Jr., AmericanJourof "Theory action,dialecticsand history:Commenton Coleman,"
nal of Sociology 43 (1986): 166-172; Smith, The Everyday World as Problematic; Texts, Facts, and Femininity; and The Conceptual Practices of Power; White, Identity and Control. logical Theory 9/2 (1991): 131-146.
36. Steven Seidman,"Theend of sociologicaltheory:The postmodernhope,"Socio37. And despite their radicallydivergentevaluationof what counts as theory, the same conceptual polarities between narrativeand causality are posited in the of work of Abbott, "Conceptions time and events in social science methods"and "fromcauses to events,"on the one hand, and Kiser and Hechter, "Therole of on generaltheory," the other. in 38. WilliamE. Connolly,"Theironyof interpretation," D. Conwayand John Seery, Press),119-150. editors, ThePoliticsof Irony(New York:St. Martin's 39. This and the context of discoverywere first formalizedby Hans Reichenbachin Elementsof SymbolicLogic (New York: Macmillan,1947). For discussion, see is Somers,"Where sociologyafterthe historicturn?" to 40. In his "Introduction" the special section on "Narrative Analysis in Social Sci[of ence,"Sewellstressesthis point in observingthe highlyunusual"departure the topic] from the usualfare of Social ScienceHistoryand from the vision of socialscientificallyinformed historical study that has dominated the SSHA since its foundinga decadeand a half ago"(479). 41. See especiallyMauss,"A categoryof the humanmind,"and, more generally,the et of essayscollectedin Carrithers, al.,editors, TheCategory the Person. in 42. For discussion of the new identity-politics theories of social movements,see note 9. drawsfrom Somers,"Narin 43. This discussionof narrative the next few paragraphs and social action."For a rangeof discussionsof narranarrative identity, rativity, (Lontive theory,see RobertScholesandRobertKellogg, TheNatureof Narrative Discourse:An don: Oxford UniversityPress, 1966); Gerard Genette, Narrative Essay in Method,trans.Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca:Cornell UniversityPress, 1980); W. J. T. Mitchell, editor, On Narrative(Chicago:University of Chicago Press,
Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984);
for bolic Act (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress, 1981); Peter Brooks, Reading the
1981); Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious. Narrative as a Socially Sym-
Roland Barthes, "Introduction to the structural analysis of the narrative," trans. Richard Miller, Occasional Paper, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, published in Image-Music-Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974 (1966)). I am happy with Friedland and Alford's definition of an institution as: "simultaneously material and ideal, systems of signs and symbols, rational and transrational ... supraorganizational patterns of human activity by which individuals and organizations produce and reproduce their material subsistence and organize time and space ... [tlhey are also symbolic systems, ways of ordering reality, and thereby rendering experience of time and space meaningful." Roger Freidland and Robert R. Alford, "Bringing society back in: Symbols, practices, and institutional contradictions," in Walter W. Powell and Paul J. DiMaggio, editors, The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 243. Paul Veyne, Writing History: Essay of Epistemology, trans. Mina Moore-Rinvolucri (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1984 (1971)); Ricoeur, "Narrative time," and Time and Narrative. This is indeed a different approach to the concept of explanation that the strictest of analytic philosophers of science would accept - causality as a deductive instance of a generalization. Indeed the very strength and utility of the latter is its valid "denarrativization" or abstraction of instances, elements, or events from time and space into categories. See Somers, "Where is sociology after the historic turn?" Donald Polkinghorne, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988), 21. MacIntyre's discussion in After Virtue of narrative, practices, and the self was the first and most significant influence on my historical conceptualization of narrative identity. See Margaret R. Somers, The People and the Law: Narrative Identity and the Place of the Public Sphere in the Formation of English Working Class Politics 1300-1850, a Comparative Analysis (Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1986). Ricoeur, "The human experience of time and narrative"; Veyne, WritingHistory; Polkinghorne, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. White, The Content of the Form. Linde, "Private stories in public discourse"; Polanyi, Telling the American Story. Taylor, Sources of the Self. Also see Calhoun, "Morality, identity, and historical explanation." Somers, The People and the Law. Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds; Frank Kermode, "Secrets and narrative sequence," in W. J. T. Mitchell, editor, On Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981). For an especially useful empirical application, see Alexander, Structure and Meaning, for the impressive array of narratives that were deployed to explain action on both sides during the Watergate hearings. This is not to endorse the hermeneutic claim that the actor's intentions or selfunderstanding is a sufficient condition for a sociological understanding of action. Taylor, Sources of the Self, 51-5122. Samples of different approaches to ontological narratives can be found in Sarbin, Narrative Psychology; MacIntyre, After Virtue; Taylor, Sources of the Self, Bruner, "Life as narrative"; Bell and Yalom, Revealing Lives; Bertaux and Kohli, "The life story approach"; Stephen Crites, "Storytime: Recollecting the past and projecting the future," in Theodore R.
49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.
Sarbin, editor, Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct (New
York:Praeger,1986), 152-173; John Ferccero,"Autobiography narrative," and in ThomasC. Heller,MortonSosna,and David E. Wellbery,editors,Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought (Stan-
ford, Calif.:StanfordUniversityPress, 1986), 16-29; Freeman,"History,narrative";KennethJ. Gergen, "Socialpsychology as history,"Journalof Personality and Social Psychology26 (1973): 309-320; "Stability,change, and chance in in humandevelopment," Nancy Datan and WayneW. Reese, ediunderstanding
tors, Life-Span Development Psychology: Dialectical Perspectives in Experimental
Research(New York: Academic Press, 1977), 135-158; and "The social con40 AmericanPsychologist (1985): structionist movementin modernpsychology," form";Joan Didion, AfterHenry(New 266-275; Gergenand Gergen,"Narrative York:Simon & Schuster,1992); GrahamSwift, Waterland (New York:Washington SquarePress, 1983).
58. Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature (Cambridge: Harvard Universi-
ty Press, 1985). and 59. David Carr,"Lifeand the narrator's art,"in HughJ. Silverman Don Idhe, editors, Hermeneutics and Deconstruction (Albany: State University of New York
and Press, 1985), 108-121; and "Narrative the real world,"Historyand Theory 25 (1986): 117-131.
60. Sarbin, Narrative Psychology; Personal Narratives Group, Interpreting Women's Lives. 61. Taylor, Sources of the Self, MacIntyre, After Virtue.
62. Organizational theoryis one areaof the social sciences thathas used the narrative and creativeways. Cf. Paul DiMaggio,"Interest agencyin concept in particularly
institutional theory," in Lynn G. Zucker, editor, Institutional Patterns and Organization: Culture and Environment (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1988), 3-22;
JoanneMartin,MarthaS. Feldman,MaryJo Hatch,and SimB. Sim,"Theuniqueness paradox in organizational stories," Administrative Science Quarterly 38
organiza(1983): 438-453; John W. Meyer and BrianRowan,"Institutionalized AmericanJournalof Sociology83 as tions:Formalstructure mythand ceremony," Environ(1977): 340-363; John W. Meyerand W. RichardScott, Organizational ments:Ritualand Rationality (BeverlyHills, Calif.:Sage, 1983); Ian Mitroffand R. H. Killman, "Stories managers tell: A new tool for organizationproblem Review64 (1975): 18-28; Linda Smircich,"Conceptsof solving,"Management
culture and organizational analysis," Administrative Science Quarterly 28 (1983):
in 339-358; Lynn G. Zucker, "The role of institutionalization culturalpersisin WalterW. Powell and PaulJ. DiMaggio,editors, TheNew Institutionaltence," ism in Organizational Analysis(Chicago:Universityof ChicagoPress, 1991), 83107.
63. Taylor, Sources of the Self, 39. 64. Jameson, The Political Unconscious; J. F. Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition: A
Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1984); trans.Alan Sheridan(New York: MichelFoucault,An Archaeology Knowledge, of
Pantheon, 1972); and The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sci-
ences(New York:Vintage,1973 (1970)). 65. See especiallyAlexander,"Modern, anti,post, neo." 66. On narrativemethodologyin historicalsociology, see note 3; cf. Abell, "Comof and parativenarratives," TheSyntaxof Social Life;Abbott, "Conceptions time and events,"and "Fromcauses to events";RichardHarvey Brown, "Positivism,
relativism,and narrativein the logic of the historicalsciences,"AmericanHistorical Review 92/4 (1987): 908-920; and "Rhetoric,textuality,and the postmodern turn in sociological theory,"Sociological Theory8/2 (1990): 188-197; in LarryW. Isaac and LarryJ. Griffin,"Ahistoricism time-seriesanalysesof historical processes,"AmericanSociologicalReview 54 (1989): 873-890; LarryJ. event structure in Griffin,"Narrative, analysis,and causalinterpretation historical sociology,"AmericanJournalof Sociology 98/5 (1993): 1094-1133; Jill Quadagno and Stan J. Knapp, "Have historical sociologists forsaken theory?: SociologicalMethodsand Research Thoughtson the history/theoryrelationship," 20/4 (1992): 481-507; John Shelton Reed, "Onnarrativeand sociology,"Social Towarda Forces68/I (1989): 1-14, WilliamH. Sewell,Jr.,"Threetemporalities: sociology of the event,"in TerrenceJ. McDonald,editor, TheHistoricTurnin the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, forthcoming); Somers, "Whereis sociology after the historic turn?"Although they do not use Methodsin the term "narrative" explicitly, Arthur Stinchcombe,in Theoretical Social History (New York: Academic Press, 1978), and Charles Tilly, in "To explainpolitical processes,"Centerfor Studiesof Social ChangeWorkingPaper #168 (New York:New School for Social Research, 1993), both develop importantsequentialand temporally-sensitive historicalmethodologies. 67. The majorhistoricalsociologicalexceptionsoutsideof genderstudiesare Charles LargeProcesses,HugeComparisons Tilly, BigStructures, (New York:Russell Sage Foundation, 1984); Immanuel Wallerstein, UnthinkingSocial Science (Camand bridge:PolityPress, 1991); and White,Identity Control. 68. We are faced with an even greaterproblemin thinkingabout explanatorysocioIndeed in light of their statusas the epistemologicalother, conlogical narrative. as structingnarratives explanationswould seem to be preciselywhat we as social scientistsdo not want to do. Of course, this raises the questionof what counts as an explanation; there are, afterall, competingpositionson the validitycapacityof different modes of justification.Rather than argue the nature of and case for explanatorynarrativitythat has been done elsewhere and at some length, e.g., and Abell, "Comparative narratives," TheSyntaxof SocialLife;Abbott, "Conceptions of time and events,"and "Fromcauses to events";Ron Aminzade,"Historical sociology and time,"SociologicalMethodsand Research20/4 (1992): 456and 480; Quadagnoand Knapp,"Havehistoricalsociologistsforsakentheory?"; Somers, "Whereis sociology after the historic turn?",I simply argue that to say that sociologicalexplanationsentailanalyticnarrativity not the same as arguing is that social science,theory is solely narrative. Alexander recentlyargued,it is As also a code. See JeffreyC. Alexander,"Sociological theory and the claim to reason: Why the end is not in sight,"SociologicalTheory9/2 (1991): 147-153, 149; Basil Bernstein, Class, Codes, and Control(New York: Schocken, 1971). Even more important,to arguethe case for explanatorynarrativity not to arguethat is there is no qualitative differencebetweenat least the normsof analyticnarrativity on the one hand, and those of culturaland ontologicalnarrativity, the other. on The latter gain meaning throughinternalintegrityalone, that is, they are only partiallysubjected to external truth criteria.Alexander ("Sociologicaltheory," 149) also remindsus "sciencediffers from other narrativesbecause it commits the success of its story to the criterionof truth.For every scientificnarrativewe are compelled to ask, 'Do we know whetherit is true?"The strengthof explanaversionof however,is that it steps out of the typically"either/or" tory narrativity, "truth" versus "relativism" uses criteriafor validitythat are outside the exand
tremes of "localism" versus foundational truth. Narrative explanatory analysis, from this perspective, guides us to construct and to believe in "the best possible account" at the same time that we know full well that (1) what counts as "best" is itself historical and (2) that these criteria will change and change again. See Helen Longino, Science as Social Knowledge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Alasdair Maclntyre, "The essential contestability of some social concepts," Ethics 1 (1973): 1-9; and "Epistemological crises, dramatic narrative, and the philosophy of science," in Gary Gutting, editor, Paradigms and Revolutions (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980), 54-74; Nehamas, Nietzsche; and Charles Taylor, "Overcoming epistemology," in Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman, and Thomas McCarthy, editors, After Philosophy: End or Transformation? (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1991), 464-488. 69. E.g., White, Identity and Control; Taylor, Sources of the Self, Cohen, "Strategy or identity." 70. Harrison C. White, Scott A. Boorman, and Ronald L. Breiger, "Social structure from multiple networks I: Blockmodels of roles and positions," American Journal of Sociology 81/4 (1976): 730-780; White, Identity and Control. Thus, it is not at all surprising that White has made stories and identity central aspects of his theory of social action. An excellent presentation of the structural approach is offered by B. Wellman and S. D. Berkowitz, "Introduction: Studying social structures," in Wellman and Berkowitz, editors, Social Structures: A Network Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 15: "...mainstream sociologists have tended to think in terms of categories of social actors who share similar characteristics: "women," "the elderly," "blue-collar workers," "emerging nations," and so on ... this kind of approach has its uses, but it has misled many sociologists into studying the attributes of aggregated sets of individuals rather than the structural nature of social systems." See also B. Wellman, "Structural analysis: From method and metaphor to theory and substance," in Wellman and Berkowitz, Social Structures, 19-61. 71. Even an isolated "hermit" is a social actor and must thus be made intelligible through a relational and narrative approach. 72. See Craig J. Calhoun, "Community: Toward a variable conceptualization for comparative research," Social History 5 (1980): 105-129, for a similar argument about the use of "community" as a variable rather than an ideal type. 73. Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987). 74. Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959); Jeremy Seabrook, Working Class Childhood (London: Gollancz, 1982). 75. All of Steedman's writings could be seen as implicit elaborations on the theme of narrative identity. See Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman; The Radical Soldier's Tale: John Pearman, 1819-1908 (London and New York: Routledge, 1988); Childhood, Culture, and Class in Britain: Margaret McMillan, 18601931 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990); Past Tenses: Essays on Writing,Autobiography and History (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1992). 76. Davis, Who is Black? 77. Ibid., 174. 78. Somers, "Narrativity, narrative identity, and social action." 79. T. H. Marshall, "Citizenship and social class," in Class, Citizenship and Social Development: Essays by T. H. Marshall (New York: Doubleday, 1964 (1949)), 65-123.
80. Calhoun, in "The problem of identity," gives an example of how identity-politics moved Chinese students in Tienanmen Square to take risks with their lives that cannot be accounted for in rational or value terms. 81. Ibid. 82. Fantasia's study of varying cultures of solidarity is one of the best examples of the empirical power of the narrative identity approach over the interest-based one. See Rick Fantasia, Cultures of Solidarity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988). 83. Michael Mann, "The origins of social power," A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). Tilly says "society is a thing apart" is the first of his famous "eight pernicious postulates"; see Tilly, Big Structures;White, Identity and Control. 84. See also Pierre Bourdieu, "Social space and the genesis of groups," Theory and Society 14 (1985): 723-744. 85. On the epistemological significance of networks and relational analysis over categories in understanding social structures see Tilly, Big Structures; White, Boorman, and Breiger, "Social structure from multiple networks"; and White, Identity and Control; for applications in historical sociology, see Roger V. Gould, "Multiple networks and mobilization in the Paris Commune, 1871," American Sociological Review 56/6 (1991): 716-728; Mann, "The origins of social power"; and Peter Bearman, Relations into Rhetorics (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1993). 86. Maclntyre, After Virtue. 87. Important views of the value of theoretically disaggregating social reality can be found in Daniel Bell, "The disjuncture of realms," in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1976); and Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (New York: Basic Books, 1982). 88. See e.g. Pizzorno, "Political exchange and collective identity," and "On the rationality of democratic choice"; Melucci, Nomads of the Present. 89. This is elaborated in Jeffrey C. Alexander, The Classical Attempt at Theoretical Synthesis: Max Weber, Vol. 3 of Theoretical Logic in Sociology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983). 90. Cohen and Arato challenge this point effectively in Civil Society and Political Theory. 91. On the concept of provisioning, see Marshall Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976). And for the importance of provisioning for gender analysis, see Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon, "Contrast versus charity, participation and provision: A reconsideration of social citizenship," unpublished paper (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan, 1992). 92. Patrick Joyce, editor, The Historical Meanings of Work (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). For the most empirically-based sociological demonstration of the culturally-laden nature of the economy, see Viviana Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (New York: Basic Books, 1985); and "Beyond the polemics of the market: Establishing a theoretical and empirical agenda," Sociological Forum 3 (1987): 614-634. 93. See also Patrick Joyce, Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1848-1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); William M. Reddy, Money and Liberty in Modern Europe: A Critique of Historical Understanding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Michael Sonenscher, "Mythical work: Workshop production and the Compagnonnages of eighteenth-
648 in (Camof Meanings Work centuryFrance," PatrickJoyce, editor, TheHistorical bridge:Cambridge UniversityPress, 1987).
94. Neil Smelser, Social Change in the Industrial Revolution (Chicago: University of
ChicagoPress, 1959). 95. Somers,"Property, law, and the public sphere in the formationof modern citizenship rights," in John Brewer, editor, Early Modern Conceptions of Property
Press,forthcoming). (Berkeley: Universityof California 96. Carol B. Stack,All OurKin (New York:Harperand Row, 1974); Maxine Berg, in and the early phases of industrialisation Eng"Women's work, mechanisation
land," in Patrick Joyce, The Historical Meanings of Work (Cambridge: Cambridge
UniversityPress, 1987), 64-98; KarlPolanyi, TheLivelihoodof Man, ed. Harry W. Pearson(New York:AcademicPress, 1977). 97. Touraine,"An introductionto the study of social movements"; Cohen, "Strategy of identity"; Cohen andArato, CivilSociety.
98. See Frank Parkin, Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1979), for a sociological elaborationof this basic notion. Weberianand anthropological
99. See, e.g., Stack, All Our Kin; David Vincent, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working Class Autobiography (London: Europa
work and Publications,1981); Louise Tilly,J. W. Scott,and M. Cohen,"Women's
European fertility patterns," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 6 (1976): 447-
100. MacIntyre, After Virtue, 26.
101. Cited in E. P. Thompson,"Themoral economy of the English crowd,"Past and
Present 50 (1971): 77-136.
in of 102. Ortnercalls this "rupturing narrativity" her analysisof Eliot Liebow's Tally's the whereshe gives an exampleof how power relationshave ruptured narCorner behavior- or urbanAfricanfuture-oriented" rativeidentities- and thus "normal in American men (Ortner, "Narrativity history").See also Haraway, Simians, identities." limit and and Cyborgs, Women, Lemert,"Subjectivity's " on "fractured and 103. Violi, "Gender, subjectivity language." 104. Ibid,.,175.
105. Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman. 106. Collins, Black Feminist Thought.
107. Williams,TheAlchemyof Race and Rights,6, and Lawrence,"Theworld and the 2286. river," ibid. 108. Williams, 2286. 109. Lawrence,"Thewordand the river," Law Review101 (1987): Harvard Justiceengendered," 110. MarthaMinow,"Forward: 10.
111. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, 216.
and 112. Marshall, "Citizenship social class." can no 113. This is of course only an analyticdistinction; narrative be purelysymbolic or material.
114. Pierre Bourdieu, An Outline of a Theory of Practice; "Social space and the genesis
A and "Thehabitsand the space of life-styles,"in Distinction: Social of groups";
Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard Uni-
versityPress, 1986). and R. 115. This is a situationdescribedin detailin Margaret Somers,"Citizenship the and place of the publicsphere:Law, community, politicalculturein the transition
to democracy," American Sociological Review 58 (1993): 587-620.
116. Somers,"Property, and the publicsphere." law, Economic History 117. See F. M. L. Thompson,"Socialcontrol in VictorianBritain," Review,2nd Series 34/2 (1981): 189-208, and Alistair Reid, "Politicsand economics in the formationof the Britishworkingclass:A response to H. F. Moorhouse," Social History3/3 (1978): 347-361, for a sense of how pervasive the social controlthesiswas in social historyduringthe 1970s. Uniand 118. MichaelSandel,Liberalism the Limitsto Justice(Cambridge: Cambridge versityPress, 1982), 178. See also Robert Bellah, Habitsof the Heart(Berkeley: Press, 1985). Universityof California 119. See Maurice Halbwachs, The CollectiveMemory(New York: Harper & Row, 1980 (1950)); Scott, Genderand the Politics of History;and Benhabib,Situating theSelf. 120. E.g.,Chodorow,TheReproduction Mothering; of Gilligan,In a DifferentVoice. 121. JoEllen Shively, "Perceptionsof western films among American Indians and Anglos,"AmericanSociologicalReview57 (1992): 725-734. 122. The questionof the epistemological place of categoriesin the contextof an overall relationaland narrativeapproachis a majortheme of White'sIdentityand Control.Calhoun,in "Imagined discusses categoriesand relationships communities," to by bringingWhite's "structural equivalence"and "indirectrelationships" the and studyof nationalism identity. 123. Steven Brint, "Hidden meanings: Cultural content and context in Harrison White's structuralsociology,"Sociological Theory10/2 (1992): 194-207, 196. And see White'sresponseto this criticismof whatBrintsees as an overlyrelational approachto sociology, in HarrisonC. White, "A social grammarfor culture: Reply to StevenBrint," SociologicalTheory10/2 (1992): 209-213.