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Serguey Ehrlich Memory, Identity, and Imagination... Part 1.

Serguey Ehrlich Memory, Identity, and Imagination. The Structure of Behaviour from the Perspective of Memory Studies

Part 1. Contents.

Remembering the past to imagine the future

(Schacter et al, 2007)

Abstract: Author suggests the new approach to memory studies, where memory is a component of the guidance and control subsystem of behaviour: 1) It is possible to represent that subsystem as a ‘molecule,’ which consists of three ‘atoms’: memory, identity, and imagination; 2) ‘Atoms’ have common triple-layered narrative ‘nucleus’: specific narrative, schematic narrative template, and base mythic narrative; 3) The core of ‘nucleus’ consists of three base mythic narratives: the fairy tale (myth of booty), the heroic myth (myth of others-sacrifice), and the myth of self-sacrifice; 4) ‘Fundamental particles’ of base mythic narratives are self-sacrifice (altruism), others-sacrifice, and booty, which represent the condensed experience of human evolution. We can call them ‘primal phenomena.’ Booty is the source of cannibalistic primal trauma, which is still not worked through and is fraught with unmotivated violence and conspicuous consumption, others-sacrifice is the origin of primal religion, and self-sacrifice is the primal phenomenon of sustainable society.

The focus of analysis is the ‘nucleus’ of narrativity. Narratives are programs of behaviour, which are ‘carriers’ of memory, identity, and imagination. We can reduce the number of specific narratives to three base mythic narratives: the fairy tale is adequate for kin (family), the heroic myth is adequate for folk (nation), and the myth of self-sacrifice (Prometheus and Christ) is adequate for the global humanity. Comparing those narratives we can point out three main effects. Firstly, memory becomes deeper and encompasses a longer timeline, consequently expanding from ‘patriarchs’ (the fairy tale) through ‘state founders’ and ‘Paleolithic ancestors’ (the heroic myth) to the ‘Big Bang’ (the myth of self-sacrifice). Secondly, identity, which presumes solidarity and altruism, becomes broader by including much more people in the number of ‘our own’: ‘kin’ (family), ‘folk’ (nation), and ‘humankind.’ Ethics, which are closely connected to solidarity and altruism, are gradually shifting from selfish values of survival to altruistic post-materialist values of self-expression. Thirdly, imagination creates more and more ambitious goals of behaviour. The myth of self-sacrifice is a singular reliable tool to create memory, identity, and imagination, which are adequate for our Global Age.

The author is aware that he suggests a dream, but he also believes that history is the embodiment of competing dreams. Therefore this essay is an invitation to discussion: ‘Hit me but listen to me.’

Keywords: the guidance and control subsystem of behaviour, memory, identity, imagination, specific narrative, schematic narrative template, base mythic narrative, the fairy tale (myth of booty), the heroic myth (myth of others-sacrifice), the myth of self-sacrifice, self-sacrifice, others-sacrifice, booty, cannibalistic primal trauma, unmotivated violence, conspicuous consumption, primal religion, children sacrifice, primal phenomenon of sustainable society, altruism, egoism, ritual and program.

Bio: Serguey Ehrlich, 1961, PhD, the chief editor of The Historical Expertise (Moldova). E-mail:

Declaration of Conflicting Interest: The Author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to Stefan Berger, Astrid Erll, Natalija Majsova, Boris Mironov, Dmitry Panchenko, Milica Popovic, Ann Rigney, Victor Shnirelman, James Wertsch, and Tyler Wertsch for their very insightful comments on earlier versions of this paper, but of course the usual disclaimers apply. I would like to acknowledge the important contribution made by Oleg and Sharon Pekar towards translation of my essay.

Part 1. Contents

Part 2. How Does the ‘Space of Experience’ Destroy our ‘Horizon of Expectation’?

Part 3. Why Memory?

Part 4. Is History a Part of Memory?

Part 5. The Structure of Behaviour

Part 6. Booty as Primal Trauma

Part 7. Others-Sacrifice as Primal Religion

Part 8. Self-Sacrifice as ‘the Prime Phenomenon of All Past and Future World-History’

Part 9. Structural Concordances between Three Base Mythic Narratives and the Concepts of Marshall Mcluhan, Jan Assmann, Abraham Maslow, Georges Dumézil, and Fernand Braudel

Part 10. The Rat Ethics of the Fairy Tales

Part 11. The Deception of Heroic Myth

Part 12. The Dead End of Modernity

Part 13. The Transformation from Quantity to Quality

Part 14. ‘I Felt Sorry for Humans’ or ‘For their Sakes I Sanctify Myself’

Part 15. ‘That Holiest-of-Holies Holocaust of the Jews’

Part 16. Shakespeare is Ours!

Part 17. Witch-Hunts of Today?

Part 18. Narodniks of the Global Scale

Part 19. Bibliography

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