The Common Good

An Ever-new Narrative of Good News

My friend Bob Carlton sent me this link to a Guardian piece by Madeleine Bunting, "Market dogma is exposed as myth. Where is the new vision to unite us? (With religion outmoded and society fragmented, it will require a different kind of moral narrative to inspire change)."

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

The twentieth century presented us, she suggests, with two types of narratives - collective and individualist. The grand collective narratives were primarily economic: Market forces shape our lives and promise a better future. But once-promising economic narratives, whether in their communist, socialist, or capitalist forms, she suggests, have lost their luster -- tarnished by a series of events including the current economic crisis and the longstanding environmental crisis.

Individualist narratives, she says, are still popular, but they are ultimately unhelpful. She quotes documentary film-maker Adam Curtis:

What we have is a cacophony of individual narratives, everyone wants to be the author of their own lives, no one wants to be relegated to a part in a bigger story; everyone wants to give their opinion, no one wants to listen. It's enchanting, it's liberating, but ultimately it's disempowering because you need a collective, not individual, narrative to achieve change.

Curtis' analysis reminds me of a conversation I had with philosopher/theologian Pete Rollins in a Belfast pub a couple weeks ago. We were talking about a shift we were both sensing in the postmodern philosophical community -- a reappraisal of the importance of big stories or collective narratives. (I won't call them "metanarratives" because I think that term is largely, though perhaps unconsciously, associated with the narratives of empire ... which include the dominant Christian narrative, sadly ... which is a subject I grapple with at length in my upcoming book, A New Kind of Christianity.)

Bunting explains that for Curtis, collective narratives

... shape our understanding of the world and of who we are, and how we make sense and order experience. Powerful, grand narratives legitimize power, win our allegiance, and frame our private understandings of how to measure value and create meaning. They also structure time

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories


Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)