The relevance of the three levels of scripting—cultural scenarios, interpersonal scripts, and intrapsychic scripts—is far from identical in all social settings or for all individuals in any given setting. In traditional or paradigmatic settings, cultural scenarios and a limited repertoire of what appear to be ritualized improvisations may be all that is required for understanding by either participants or observers of almost all expected behavior. However, in what I have earlier called postparadigmatic societies, such as ours, there is substantially less by way of shared meanings and, possibly of greater significance, of ten there are profound disjunctures. As a result, the enactment of the same role within different spheres of life or different roles within the same spheres routinely requires different appearances, if not different organizations of the self. In such settings the instructive implications of cultural scenarios become less coercive, as they become optional or given to alternative interpretations and uses.

In the absence of a pervasive and strongly enforced consensus, the diminished powers of cultural scenarios do not occasion a voiding of the social contract, causing an unleashing of pre-social drives, but give rise to anomie in its classic form. The intensity often associated with anomic behavior might be interpreted not as the instinctive drives freed from the ordering constraints of social life but as restorative efforts, often desperate efforts, aimed at effecting a restoration of a more solidary self. In other words, anomie feeds not on some permanent conflict between the organism and social life but on the ultimate dependence upon collective life that describes all human experience.

The consequences of anomie, as envisioned by Durkheim, were collective and individual disaster, the re-establishment of viable scenarios, and an evolutionary transformation of the individual. The latter, which Durkheim saw as a likely outcome, involved a greater growth of psychic functions such that individuals prove capable of providing many of the narrative continuities that previously were the direct product of collective life (Durkheim 1893).2 As this occurs, the integration of personal motives and social meanings that make social conduct possible should be constrained to enter negotiations of unprecedented complexity. Scripting is a particularly useful metaphor for understanding this process of negotiation.

By way of summarizing, it is difficult to conceive of any behavior, except one that is in fact biologically programmed, that is not, in our sense, scripted. And if nothing else has been established, it should be clear that the term scripted is not merely a synonym or code word for “learned”. All behavior, or perhaps one should say all conduct or all action, involves all three levels of scripting, though not all three are of equivalent relevance in all situations or at all levels of concern.