Born on: September 5, 1999


Title of this web page -->Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research
Copyright (©) by David M. Boje, Ph.D.
Purpose: a web resource library of qualitative materials, exercises, and study guides to supplement the (2001) book titled Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage Publications. See Amazon to order book and/or read book review.

Each module on this web site will tackle a different analysis in Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (hereafter NA). Then we situate that analysis in its philosophy of science context - (press here) for summary table.

Readings Index & Abbreviations Explained (All Modules)

  1. NA Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (book) by Boje (2001) the modules that follow are keyed to the chapters of this book.
  2. HQR: Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin & Lincoln (can buy the soft cover books; excellent book for background on methods and qualitative philosophies of science).
  3. ES: Ethnostatistics by Gephart (this book transcends all false dichotomies of qualitative and quantitative).
  4. WC: Writing Culture by Clifford & Marcus (optional good for intermediate).
  5. PO: Participant Observation by Spradley (optional good for beginners).
  6. GC: Greening Culture by Herndl & Brown (optional great for very advanced QM writing).
  7. FG: Focus Group text by Krueger (required for Marketing, optional for others).
Background Reading for this Module (bold = required).

MODULE 6 CAUSALITY ANALYSIS (Continued)  - there is a floating menu on your left that takes you between modules or to the top of this one.

Causal Assertion Analysis Feb 10 Return to Index

This is a structuralist analysis that consists of identifying through content analysis the causal assertions in a set of narrative texts. What is a causal assertion? A simple definition is causality is the principle that a prior event can be necessary and sufficient for the occurrence of a subsequent event.  Historically, there are at least two competing theories of causality, generative developed by Socrates (then Hobbes) where every effect must have a cause. The Greek philosopher Aristotle enumerated four different kinds of causes: the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final. Secondly, the successionist theory, exemplified by David Hume (1711-1776) posited that causality was not a real phenomenon, somewhere between the fiction of mind and the coincidence of occurrences.

Assignment: Go back to your  recorded interview. Analyze the utterances for various types of causal assertions.  Highlight these with different color marker pens to represent your emergent typology. Assess how the assertions cluster by theme or types. Be sure to indicate how each text example is generative, psychological or successionist causality (and what sub-type each one is such as necessary, contributory, sufficient, remote or illusory correlation,  psychological essentialism, etc.). Note any antenarrating of causality. And keep any eye peeled for new types of causality. Please bring a write up of your typology and examples to class. Put these into your NUDIST or NVIVO code once you are able to work out your typology by hand.

You could highlight portions of your transcript according to types and subtypes of causality:



What are types of cause? According to Aristotle, every event has four causes, or aitiai in Greek (Boje, 2001: 96-97):

  1. Material cause —what anything is made of (“the oil reserves of Iraq are the second largest in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia” And "Oil is the most important commodity in the world, vital for both industry and the military" (Jasper, 2003, Counter Punch),
  2. Formal cause —what a thing is, the form or pattern that made the event happen ("oil is a scare resources that promotes competitive behavior"),
  3. Efficient cause — what immediate agent is acting to product the work or form (Some examples -- "oil executives met with V.P. Cheney to fashion energy policy; oil corporations contribute money to elect governments. For example, ExxonMobil contributed $1.2 million to the Republican Party. The new post-war Iraqi regime is proposing to grant USA oil companies $1.1 trillion in contracts" -- Boje, 2002 Oil Wars),
  4. Final cause—why the event happened, the motive for the sake of which war is produced. For Aristotle, the final cause was god ("Bush called the Afghanistan war a "crusade"; one motive of the Iraq war is to procure oil reserves for USA economic security; another motive is the greed of ExxonMobil, Unocal or ChevronTexaco for those reserves").

To Aristotle's cause typology, we can add several additional generative causal types (adapted from Boje, 2001: 97-98). In generative causal narrative, pool is explained as the cue stick tapping the cue ball that then hits say the six fall, bounces off a rail, and sinks the eight ball. For Socrates and Aristotle (then Hobbes & Newton's mechanistic science) every effect must have a cause.  Generative causality narratives identify prior events that are connected to and cause subsequent events. 

  1. Sufficient cause — can produce an effect by itself. Aristotle's causes (1 to 4) are sufficient ("oil scarcity can prompt a nation to go to war to appropriate that resource. since the military industrial complex runs on oil, oil constitutes a strategic resource; and the auto industry runs on oil, and blocks fuel efficiency and counteracts the search for alternative energy sources).

  2. Necessary cause — must be present for the effect to occur, but by itself cannot product the effect ("oil scarcity, for example, is necessary to produce war, but by itself cannot. Other factors are needed: a culture socialized in militarism, a pretext for invading another country, such as the war on terrorism"),

  3. Contributory cause — may lead to an effect but cannot product it by itself ("For example, ExxonMobil spent $47 million lobbying and contributing to election campaigns of the US Congress and Presidential Administrations since 1997; oil corporations together spent $26 million on the 2000 campaigns of Bush, Cheney and other republicans. Oil companies may contribute money to presidential campaigns, but systems of executive action and military deployment are also important. The Bush administration has put most of their personal investments, $144.6 million into oil and gas; this is a contributory, but not sufficient or necessary cause for war"),

  4. Proximate cause — various events happen close to the effect, but without being sufficient, necessary, or contributory causes ("the USA military is going to secure the oil fields in Iraq during its invasion, but that does not mean that oil is the objective of the war. Five former Enron executives work in the Bush administration. Enron contributed $736,800 directly to George W. Bush. Enron donated $888,265 to the Republican National Committee (Boje, 2003b, c). While Enron is proximate to the Bush administration, it does not mean it is a sufficient, necessary or contributory cause, which is when Enrongate did not become Watergate"),

  5. Remote cause — happens distant from an effect. The mechanism linking two events have not been specified ("oil is scarce and a valuable commodity, but mechanisms linking oil to war events in the Middle East have not been specified. Oil companies have contributed millions to presidential campaigns, and oil companies have met with the proposed post-war Iraqi regime, but links to war itself have not been specified. President Bush was senior executive from 1978 to 1990 in three oil companies, Arbusto Energy, Spectrum 7, and Harken oil. VP Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from 1995-2000, the world’s largest oil service company. Halliburton gave Cheney $33 million severance pay. These are remote causes, and neither necessary or sufficient causal connection to war).

The problem with the nine types of generative causal narratives is that we can forget to read the historical record, and reify a few simple events to represent the whole causal terrain. We must therefore add several narrative causal types.

  1. Psychological cause — can be a personality that cannot resist the addiction to, for example, gambling. There is a believe that in course of human and natural events there must be causal origins. After the event, there is retrospective sensemaking ("the psychological cause of USA war on Iraq is addiction to cheap oil" or "the psychological cause of junior Bush's war, is to vindicate his father's reputation after the first Gulf War" or "Andrew Fastow is to blame for Enron, and no one need look in the direction of the White House"), 

  2. Successionist cause — posits that causality is not a real phenomenon, it is either a fiction of mind or coincidence of co-occurring events. Successionist is a space between material/generative cause and psychological cause. In the case of co-occurring events, there may be no connection. Events may correlate, but not be causal ("the Bush administration maintains that while oil is a strategic resource, it is not the cause of war. The Peace Movement is making an attribution of causality without proof"),

  3. Chaos cause — suggests that effects are emergent from initial conditions, but the patterns vary from starting points. A given event may have any of a number of effects. Rather than linear A results in B, the effects can be non-linear or completely  unpredictable. Chaos is part of the new complexity theories of Einstein science ("The Peace Movement looks at initial starting conditions such as USA's earlier support of Saddam, providing Iraq with nerve gas and other weapons of mass destruction to fight Iran, then connects the dots to argue the USA is reaping what it has sown, and just did not foretell the unanticipated effects of its own terrorism"),

  4. Antenarrative cause — In narrative texts, there are frequent constructions of a causal nature. What is Antenarrative? The antenarrative is a bet that some future pattern of events will emerge from storytelling. The antenarrative is a bit of pre-story, not yet a very coherent tale. Antenarrative causality "would call into question mechanical as well as successionist (and psychological & chaos) accounts of causality" (Boje, 2001: 102). The focus is on how causal antenarrations get produced, distributed, and consumed. The task is to recover the pre-storied circumstances of causal attributions. ("Saying Oil causes Iraq War is too tidy. Peace Movement and War Machine storytellers pick different historical events. We know three USA oil companies met with post-Iraq war regime candidates. There is anticipation that this event is linked to Gulf War II.").

See rest of paper Oil War Propaganda and Root Causes


More on Antenarrative and Causality - From an antenarrative perspective we question generative, psychological and successionist accounts of causality. We do this by noting the fictive constructions, their emergence as antenarrative bets of causality, and their fictive reification. The book uses Nike Index as an antenarrative to counter claims of predatory capitalist conduct. There are other examples to explore. For example, in the Enron collapse many spin doctors would have us believe that their selection of events are causally related. Such as, "Enron collapse is the result of executive greed." Or "Enron collapse is the result of Arthur Andersen auditors' greed for their million-a-week fees." Or "Enron collapse is the result of a crisis of confidence on the part of investors." Or "Enron collapse is the result of the crony capitalism." Or "Enron collapse is the result of the failure of checks and balances of American capitalism."  Or "Enron collapse is one is a series of stock market swindles, and there will be more." 

Each is an antenarrative, a fictive causal narration to account for Enron's collapse. Somewhere behind closed doors, the spin doctors fashion these narrative and bet that they will be widely consumed (and believed). The definition of reification is taking a subjective link between events and forgetting that it is one of many alternative accounts, rendering the antenarrative into an objective narrative.  Somehow a network of a thousand event connections gets reduced in the public discourse to a few fashionable causal assertions, that get widely distributed for mass consumption. And each causal map is more than an psychodynamic marvel, it is an ideological veil, part of the fictive illusion of the theatrics of capitalism. These are more than socially produced reality constructions.  The maps are antenarratives, a configuration out of many alternatives. 

Antenarrative causality analysis calls into question mechanical as well as successionist accounts of causality (Boje, 2001: 102). Tracing antenarratives of causality calls into question just how causal assertions are made, and what is happening in the aggregation into some causal mapping.  We seek to recover the storied circumstances of causal assertion by tracing intertextual linkages (again in horizontal and vertical circumstances). Vertically we question the assertion of linear relations between events. Like Nietzsche we assert that one attributed causal ordering has no more reality than its converse or its alternative in cyclical or non-linear temporality. In cyclical time, Enron repeated its theatrical illusion and wheel of fortune in India and the UK before the reversal of fortune was unveiled behind the illusory correlations. We no longer believe Enron was a $60 billion dollar corporate or if proper accounting was used, the 7th largest corporation in America.  We question an even greater causal statement, that of the invisible hand of capitalism. There is an invisible hand steering the efficiencies of the "free" market, and it has G-R-E-E-D embroidered in its illusory fabric. The invisible gloved hands perform a sleight of hand in a game that is rigged to widen the gap of rich and poor. And from time to time to expose a story of some New Economy to be just another seedy player.  Hey, we all antenarrate. The fact my antenarrative is a minority view does not obviate causal narrativity as an emergent and self-organizing process.

An antenarrative analysis can do more than describe the links between events it can dig below the surface appearances to ascertain how the illusion is produced, distributed, and consumed. "In sum, an antenarrative analysis looks at how people put fragments of story together into causal assertion" (Boje, 2001: 107). There are antenarrative dynamics in play. 

Web Resources


MODULE - 7. Plot Analysis    or (use menu to your left)