Historical Social Research

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Onno Boonstra: The Multidimensionality of Cultural Life Scripts: Results from a 1970s Survey [Abstract]

In order to understand people’s life courses in history, it is important not only to get an idea about the way transitional events were shaped by cultural life scripts, but also about the views people had about the way their life course could be shaped by themselves. Shaping your life, this is what human agency is about: the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices onto the world. But fairly uncertain is the degree to which people in the past perceived the potentialities of human agency. It is therefore important to find out not only the tools and possibilities they had to make decisions and enact them on the world, thus shaping their life course by themselves, but also the perceptions they had on putting human agency into action. Some people may have perceived human agency to be restrained because of structural impediments, while others may have perceived human agency to be restrained by cultural life scripts. Some will have perceived these constraints to be tight, while others may have considered them to be loose. As a consequence, perceptions on human agency will be very different, not only between people, but also between time periods. In this paper, the dimensions are explored of perceptions on human agency between people who lived in the Netherlands in 1970.

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