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It’s All About the Narrative, Part 2: Narratives are Social Facts

Narratives are social facts. They are emergent complex systems that are greater than the sum of their parts. They are not worlds full of objects some of which happen to be moral foundations or sacred values.


The narrative of a group represents the collective consciousness, the consensual hallucination, of the group.  It explains the groups perception of the social world; how it operates, and the place within it the members of the group occupy.  It is through our narratives that we situate ourselves withing the social universe.  

Intuitions, behaviors, relationships, attitudes, and traits that emerge from narratives are called “structural effects.”  Structural effects include intuitions about civil rights, justice, equality, fairness, kindness, and even the role and purpose of government. The positive or negative intuitions of like or dislike, approach or avoid, and fight or flee, we feel in response to the things we see in the social world around us come primarily from our narratives, not from moral foundations.

When people are moved to exercise their right to assemble or their right to protest or even in extreme cases to give their lives for others, it is almost always in the name of a narrative rather than in the name of this or that moral foundation or sacred value..   

Narratives, not moral foundations, are the primary motivators of most political thought and action.

Narratives are essentially a set of fundamental truths – unquestioned assumptions about human nature and human social action – that “everybody knows.”  They are conventional wisdom, or common sense, stitched together into a story.  In this way narratives define what’s real and not real in the minds of their believers. Narratives literally define reality.  There are as many realities as there are narratives. This is what is often meant when people say that reality, or truth, is impossible to truly know. 


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