Civilizations «narrate themselves» in order to establish legitimacy, succeed against others, portray their own merits to their best advantage. The results express societal dynamics, yet also have a retroactive effect and decisively influence the self-conceptions of the «initiating societies». Political philosophies, interpretations of history and social perceptions of artistic achievements all contribute to these narratives. The dignified components, however, are by no means the sole or even the most important ones. Distinction in material culture (technological proficiency, popular art forms, etc.) or economic adroitness are even more consequential. The occidental narrative has been badly vacillating lately. Its severe crisis – due in part to a lack of collective self-confidence, but also to disagreements between its main strands – merits a meticulous analysis of a multitude of criteria. The resulting critique is embedded in reflections on a general theory of narrativity.
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. 467 pp.
Contents: Narrativity – Western values – Collective identities – The truths of visual evidence – The «9/11» paradigm
and the Muslim paradigm – Politics and rationality – Catastrophism – Economic basics – Scientific progress.