Most dictionaries define a narrative as telling about consecutive events. However i frequently see in philosophical works and discussions, especially postmodernist ones, the use of this word in such way, where it doesn't make sense for me. Examples:

... with his claim that the postmodern was characterised precisely by a mistrust of the grand narratives (Progress, Enlightenment emancipation, Marxism) which had formed an essential part of modernity.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanarrative

This is the narrative that Drudge is trying to create, especially on slow news weekends when there's nothing real to aggregate and post: The blacks are rising up and attacking the whites. Black people are angry and they're taking over!

Source: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/whats-scary-black-people-narrative

I don't understand how is Marxism a narrative, when it is a body of theories, rather than a storytelling, and how somebody's supposition of black people being evil is a narrative too.

What is narrative? How do you define it and why there is a need for such a term in contemporary philosophy?

1 Answer 1


Its language being used metaphorically; here its being used as a synonym for ideology. Grand narrative=big story. But there is a bit more to it than that. An ideology, say for example Marxism has a start point: Marxs theories, these then develop and change over time. In this sense ideology has a narrative. But there is more, by reducing their truth value to a narrative, to a story, one questions their truth, in a sense placing them of all equal value. This is where post-modernism starts.

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