The Return of Storytelling

The provocative South Korean philosopher Byung Chul han asserts that narratives create bonds that connect and link us forming communities that save us from contingency however he argues that today traditional narratives are being replaced by a culture of fragmentation and disconnection presenting new challenges for communication.

26 October 2023

Book Review of “The Crisis of Narration” by Byung Chul Han

By Marco Nicolini, Digital Strategist at Azerta

In a world where information is generated at unprecedented speeds, where news gets lost in digital noise, and social media dominates our lives, Byung Chul Han, the renowned South Korean philosopher, takes us on a profound journey into the crisis of narration in his book titled “Narration in Crisis.” Known for his in-depth analysis of contemporary society, Han delves deep into understanding how the decline of narration affects our understanding of the world and ourselves.

The author begins his analysis by noting how traditional narratives, with their hero archetypes and transformation arcs, are being displaced by a culture of fragmentation and disconnection. This is because, in the age of information, our lives are saturated with data that lacks a unifying meaning. Social media and the instantaneity of communication have led to a loss of depth in our personal and collective stories, as we increasingly live in the moment, amidst the constant barrage of “developing news,” which replaces meaningful narratives that once invited us to gather around the campfire.

The philosopher guides the reader through the concept of “exhaustion,” a term he has popularized. In a society obsessed with productivity, we often find ourselves in a constant struggle to meet expectations and surpass limits. This exhaustion has a profound impact on our ability to articulate meaningful stories. The “burnout syndrome” is a tangible manifestation of this reality, where the narrative of our lives is reduced to an unrelenting pursuit of goals, leaving little room for reflection

Another crucial point in the book is the role of social media in creating a narcissistic and superficial culture. Han argues that our obsession with visibility, self-promotion, and the accumulation of “likes” or followers has replaced the rich and complex narrative of our lives with a simplified and often distorted version. Instead of fully experiencing our moments, we tend to document them for the sake of online validation, further undermining our ability to construct a coherent and authentic narrative.

Despite painting a bleak picture of the current situation, Byung Chul Han doesn’t stop at criticism. He offers a hopeful perspective by pointing out that, despite the crisis, narration has not completely disappeared. Instead, he suggests that we must explore new ways of telling our stories, grounded in self-exploration, authenticity, and depth.

Narration in Crisis” is a book that packs a punch and challenges readers to reconsider how they construct and share their stories in the digital age. Byung Chul Han invites us to rethink the significance of reflection, connection, and personal narration in a world often driven by distraction and superficiality. In doing so, he reminds us that, despite the crisis, we still possess the ability to weave meaningful stories that provide purpose to our lives.

What Han proposes, as a philosopher, is to revisit our origins and rediscover narratives that foster connections and create a sense of unity, rather than perpetuating the “non-permanent fractions” of events that quickly become obsolete. In short, he encourages us to return to the concept of a tribe.

This is also relevant for businesses, as they, too, need to construct a narrative that resonates and makes common sense. That’s why brands are also significant internally; they enable a swift connection to “who we are,” “what we do,” and “what drives us,” all of which are interlinked within the narrative that needs to be created.