Narrative Quests and Social Change

A Response to Christian Smith's What Is a Person?


  • Aline H. Kalbian

Aline H. Kalbian, Department of Religion, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32301,


In this response to Christian Smith's What Is a Person?, I raise questions about his conception of the human life as a narrative quest and his account of change in social structures and institutions. The metaphor of life as a quest suggests a solid, isolated, and integrated moral agent. I wonder whether the experiences of most moral agents render a different picture—one where life is fragmented and characterized by complex webs of relationships. Smith provides a detailed account of how social institutions change. I pose examples of more subtle and complex types of change as a way to press him to think about whether his account of change is too linear.