Narrative And Moral Meaning


I’m in Berlin 9th-12th July presenting my first academic paper at my first ever academic conference.

The paper is on Narrative & Moral Meaning. My basic contention is that fictional narratives (novels, short stories, plays and TV drama) are structurally didactic and are, and always have been, crucial to the way human societies exchange moral, political and social ideas with each other.

Stories do not exist in a rarefied artistic domain self-consciously divorced from the real-world. Nor do they exist in a vacuous empty arena of meaningless spectacle. They are central to how we define ourselves as individuals and societies and without them human societies simply couldn’t function.

A PDF of the presentation PowerPoint can be downloaded here.

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17 responses to “Narrative And Moral Meaning

  1. moelarrythecheese

    Hi, I’m back. Sorry I’m late. I hope that won’t affect my grade. I read your paper and found it very interesting. Regrettably, among other things, it explains how commies make their propaganda films. It’s sad how devious evildoers can misuse good things. I was confused about you’re dates of travel to Germany. Perhaps the confusion was contrived in order to throw-off FBI tails. Anyway, if you haven’t gone yet – don’t mention the War. If you have already gone – I hope you didn’t mention the War.
    By the way, why couldn’t you have posted a picture of people wearing clothes?

    • It also explains how Hollywood Cinema propagandises the idea of the heroic individual rather than the cooperating cinema. The point of the paper is that all stories are propagandising to a degree – not just your friends the Commies. (I’m an anarchist by the way – not a Communist)

  2. moelarrythecheese

    So as an anarchist you want to wreck society through violence, like Godzilla.

    • Like Tom Paine, I don’t think society is the same as government and that elite power always has to be resisted and challenged because as Lord Acton said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Indeed, I share many of these ideas with the Freemarket Libertarians. The difference being that I see economic power as being just as corrupt and oppressive as political power.

  3. moelarrythecheese

    Well, it sounds as though you have given abundant consideration to your choice of doctrine. One shouldn’t become an anarchist on a mere whim.

  4. moelarrythecheese

    Is an anarchist willing to let his or her property and family be damaged/injured by other anarchists in the name of Anarchy?

    • No! Destruction of property has nothing to do with the political philosophy of anarchy – which is about challenging and confronting power and empowering individuals and communities rather than coercive State political power or Corporate economic power. The vandalism at demonstrations of those teenagers of all ages who call themselves ‘anarchists’ has nothing to do with anything and is simply childish. The social anarchism or democratic socialism of someone like Noam Chomsky or myself is perfectly compatible with individual ownership of domestic property and would believe on defending that ownership against vandals or thieves. Private ownership of domestic property is not the same as private ownership of corporate capital as acquiring and keeping it does not necessarily entail the economic exploitation and social dominance of other human beings.

  5. moelarrythecheese

    Thank you for that answer. Apparently I have a superficial understanding of the concept of anarchy. Who, would you say, is the most famous anarchist?

    • In Europe, Russian novelist Tolstoy. English writer William Godwin, Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Russians Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin.

      Influential American anarchists include Henry David Thoreau, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, social ecologist Murray Bookchin, Paul Goodman, linguist Noam Chomsky and John Zerzan.

  6. moelarrythecheese

    Thank you for that reply. I’ve heard of Thoreau and Chomsky, but I didn’t know they were anarchists. Apparently I missed out on the Anarchy 101 course in school. Were there any anarchists who actually succeeded in bringing about “anarchy?”

    • Well, historically they reckon the Paris Commune that lasted 3 months in 1871 is the closest.

      I would argue that every time a local community organises itself without direction from government or business that this is “anarchy in action” – village fetes, carnivals, barn raising, the scouts, football teams etc, etc.

      The revolution in Egypt was undoubtedly anarchist in structure i.e. there was no directing organisation and the community structure in Tahir Sq developed organically without a command structure.

      Perhaps the most successful anarchist organisation ever is Alcoholics Anonymous which is organised without a command structure, without rules (only guidelines & suggestions) and where every group is autonomous but operates within a hugely successful world-wide community.

      My kind of social anarchism does not propose a utopian ‘system’ that will bring us heaven on earth. I for one certainly accept that power will always defend the interests of itself and in that sense will always be corrupt – whether it be capitalist, democratic, fascist, socialist, communist or whatever. Therefore I regard all power elites as suspect – business management, police, army, local government, national government and so on.

      So for me anarchism is about being perpetually sceptical about the claims of those in power and resisting the oppressive tendencies of power whenever and wherever they arise.

  7. moelarrythecheese

    Thank you for the thorough and interesting explanation. Most of this is new to me and I appreciate being enlightened. I would like to ponder one observation that you made about small-scale public projects such as village fetes, carnivals, etc. Couldn’t it be said that even small affairs such as these possess small, yet subtle, governing structures? Also, even though the Tahrir Square crowd was unsupervised by a “government” apparatus, don’t you believe that over time it, like any group of people, would have evolved a governing structure of some kind? Could it be that any anarchy “crowd” would naturally evolve a governmental controlling structure over time without the deliberate assistance of any of the members?

    • Well, yes sure, some sort of structure will emerge, as it did in Tahir Sq, but the point is it is not imposed. For any community or society to function over time there has to be coordination, organisation and strategic planning and I certainly don’t deny that. But a ‘coordinating’ structure need not be the same as a ‘governing’ structure. The concept of ‘government’, as it is usually understood, entails a top-down command structure with a power elite directing and controlling others backed up ultimately by the threat of coercive force.

      So the Anarchism I am proposing is not a free-for-all where everyone can do exactly what they want, when they want, with no regard to others. Such a situation would indeed be chaotic ‘anarchy” (note the small ‘a’). Anarchy as a political philosophy seeks to challenge the legitimacy and efficacy of the ‘top-down command structure with a power elite directing and controlling others backed up ultimately by the threat of coercive force’.

  8. moelarrythecheese

    As you explain it Anarchy doesn’t seem all that disagreeable. I would certainly take it over Communism.

  9. moelarrythecheese

    Yes, there is reason to be optimistic. Progress is being made. Your condition is improving. I have succeeded in steering you away from Communism, and eventhough it is an improvement you have stumbled over into Anarchy. But you’re heading in the Right direction. With a bit more effort you’ll be on your way to Capitalism and, Glory Be, The American Way!

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