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Change and Continuity in NATO and the EU: Narrative, Identity and Practice (NIP) – Towards a new Framework for explaining Change

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Abstract

The paper sets out a new framework for explaining change within similar structural conditions, linking narrative and identity construction processes with practice, which together will affect ontological security. A strong narrative and a stable identity are the key ingredients of ontological security, defined by Anthony Giddens as when an agent has a positive view of self, the world and the future and where a sense of order and continuity in regard to relationships and experiences is maintained. All individuals and organizations develop a framework for ontological security, which is closely related to “doing” (practice and action) and “being” (identity and shared knowledge). Ontological security is achieved when the so called “narrative shuttle” is in equilibrium. However, both narratives and identities are influenced by everyday practice and different forms of action conceptualized as “functional action” and “rhetorical action” – both of which may be either undermining or reinforcing of identity and narrative constructions. Especially functional action may be either strongly reinforcing or strongly undermining with severe implications for ontological security. The paper uses the examples of NATO and the EU as two similar organizations under very similar structural conditions, but with very different narrative, identity and practice patterns. Over time both have displayed very different action patterns, resulting in differing narratives and identity construction – and as a result different patterns of change. The framework shows why sudden changes sometimes occur in narrative and identity constructions and introduces an agent-level perspective on the forces of change.