Jul 29, 2009

histories and stories

History is first and foremost a tangled net of events. Each event lies in dozens of stories, determined and overdetemined by the causes flowing through them, yet ever open to new directions and twists. Indeed, given happenings may be seen as parts of different events within different stories. Because people and groups construct their future by interpreting their causal environment, the very knowledge of the past itself shapes the future, even though aggregate regularities and structural necessity simultaneously oblige it … But plot is a chimera. History does not happen in stories, even if we usually talk about it as if it did. The storylike element enters history itself only because we as historical actors frame our future intentions relative to a past understood in stories. The past stories we consider do assume thereby a special causal importance, although not an importance that can overwhelm either structure or direct determination.
andrew abbott, the system of professions

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