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Log In Sign Up. Everyday life and cultural theory. Ben Highmore. Ben Highmore traces the development of 7 conceptions of everyday life from the cultural sociology of Georg Simmel, through 8 the Mass-Observation project of the s to contemporary theorists such as 9 Michel de Certeau. He is editor of the Everyday Life Reader forth- 2 coming, Routledge No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or 5 utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now 6 known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in 7 any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Civilisation, Modern——20th century. Culture——Philosophy ——History——20th century. Figuring the everyday 1 2 2. Arguments 17 3 4 3. Simmel: Fragments of everyday life 33 5 4. Surrealism: The marvellous in the everyday 45 6 7 5. Mass-Observation: A science of everyday life 75 9 7. It is an 9 introduction, not so much because it is written in an introductory style though I hope that it is written in a way that avoids some of the more unap- 1 petizing conventions of academic writing , but because work on the everyday 2 is, as I argue, only just beginning.

Or rather, 5 the kinds of interventionist scrutiny that it has received have often been 6 undertaken in the name of governing the everyday. Chapter 2 which tells you what the rest of the book is about, and tries to knit 1 together some of the main arguments might seem more like an introduc- 2 tory chapter than chapter 1. After chapter 6 2 the book progresses in the usual chronological fashion. As such the every- 5 day often becomes the occasion, the territory for a puzzling that is often 6 directed elsewhere.

The theorists and theories chosen here seem to me to be 7 characterized by a much more directed attention to the everyday as a prob- 8 lematic. They all seem to bring the everyday into an awkward focus. For suffering bad moods, garbled monologues, missed meal 4 times, and much besides, I dedicate this with all my love. Our children have probably not come out of this unscathed either. Thanks also to Zebedee who came along just at the right time.

A number of people have read part or all of earlier 5 versions of the book some were hoodwinked into it, others volunteered 6 themselves; all of them helped. Finally I want to 4 thank my parents, who have supported a career which for so many years 5 must have seemed invisible.

It escapes. On the one hand it points without judging to 3 those most repeated actions, those most travelled journeys, those most inhab- 4 ited spaces that make up, literally, the day to day. This is the landscape 5 closest to us, the world most immediately met. Here the most travelled journey can become the dead weight 8 of boredom, the most inhabited space a prison, the most repeated action an 9 oppressive routine.

Here the everydayness of everyday life might be experi- enced as a sanctuary, or it may bewilder or give pleasure, it may delight or 1 depress. Or its special quality might be its lack of qualities. It might be, 2 precisely, the unnoticed, the inconspicuous, the unobtrusive. If the every- 2 day is that which is most familiar and most recognizable, then what happens 3 when that world is disturbed and disrupted by the unfamiliar?

In modernity the everyday 6 becomes the setting for a dynamic process: for making the unfamiliar familiar; 7 for getting accustomed to the disruption of custom; for struggling to incor- 8 porate the new; for adjusting to different ways of living.

The everyday marks 9 the success and failure of this process. It witnesses the absorption of the most revolutionary of inventions into the landscape of the mundane.

The new becomes 2 traditional and the residues of the past become outmoded and available 3 for fashionable renewal. But signs of failure can be noticed everywhere: the 4 language of the everyday is not an upbeat endorsement of the new; it echoes with frustrations, with the disappointment of broken promises.

This investigation starts, like all investigations should, 8 with a detective. He gets bored when the mysterious and enig- 3 matic side of life is not taxing his rationalistic intelligence.

Nor does he suffer so much when faced with the everyday. Give me problems, give me 5 work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate 6 analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. But this image of the everyday as a deadening force is only one of the elements of everydayness in the cosmos of the Holmes 2 stories. We could not dare to conceive the things which are really mere 8 commonplaces of existence.

Indeed many of the Sherlock Holmes stories start with what seem 8 to be ordinary, petty occurrences that hardly warrant the attention of the 9 great detective. But for Holmes the everyday is not what it seems.

Or rather the everyday is precisely the route to be taken in solving the mystery he is 1 investigating. Holmes works his disenchant- 4 ment at various different levels. In this, Holmes could be seen as demystifying the 8 bizarre and returning events to the everyday. This 1 may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him.

But here again, what appears to be extraordinary is brought back 4 within the realm of the ordinary and everyday. What appeared to be the gift of 1 foresight is merely the systematic application of a method. To the mystery of the everyday, Holmes brings the disenchantment of rationalism. If he loves 8 the bizarre and mysterious side of the everyday, he loves its disenchant- 9 ment through rationalism even more.

This constellation needs to be 1 related to ideas and practices that are central to modernity. Boredom, for 2 instance, will connect us to the peculiar temporal experiences that seem to 3 emerge from the patterns and arrangements of modern working life. But Western modernity is 8 also characterized by mystery.

Paradoxically, rationalism holds within it an irra- 4 tional kernel: it seeks to disenchant the world through an unquestioned belief 5 in its own value. Mechanical clocks, as they emerged in the fourteenth 6 century, standardized the units of time and were dynamically related to 7 changes in working patterns.

Clocks alone cannot account for the 2 particularity of modern time. And on a page at the end of his book, he daily registers the number of lessons said, pages written, sums wrought, etc. This daily monitoring and 2 accounting was a routine that marked each and every day, but it also contin- 3 ually divided and catalogued the day into countable segments.

Such practices 4 emphasized the routinization and regimentation of daily life. Prior to the late nineteenth 6 century standardized time was regulated only at a local level: to travel was 7 to enter non-synchronized time. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it would be the railway and telegraph systems 1 in the s that would set the pace for establishing a global standardization 2 of time Kern 11— The everydayness of everyday 3 modernity is a synchronization based on minutes and seconds.

The modern 4 spectacle of thousands of commuters converging on the metropolis by train 5 each morning is dependent on timetables synchronized to the minute, even 6 if these trains are regularly late. Similarly Susan Stewart writes: 4 The prevailing notion that everyday time is a matter of undifferentiated 6 linearity may be linked to the prevailing forms of experience within the 7 workplace.

Such a notion presents us with an assembly line of tempor- 8 ality, an assembly line in which all experience is partial, piecemeal. There the movements of 8 the instrument of labour proceed from him, here it is the movement 9 of the machine that he must follow. In manufacture the workers are the parts of a living mechanism. In the factory we have a lifeless mech- 1 anism which is independent of the workers, who are incorporated into 2 it as its living appendages.

In the varied literature on assembly line work the theme of regulated activity and the slowness of time are continually evident.

It sucked on 2 you as you waited the next job. The more irritated you became, the slower it moved. The 4 slower it moved, the more you thought.

Thinking was a very slow 5 death at times. What makes continuous production reg- 8 ister so vividly is the regulating of time within the widespread conditions of 9 industrialization. From the point of view of the everyday, industrialization is not something limited to factory production, but something registered in 1 nearly all aspects of life.

The extensiveness of industrialization needs to 4 be noted, not simply as a technological condition, but as a sensory-mental 5 experience. Industrialization 5 in general is locked into the uneven and unequal experiences of social differ- 6 ence in a dynamic that homogenizes and differentiates at the same time see, 7 for instance, Kramarae The experience of homogenized time is 8 unevenly distributed across social differences: the boredom of factory work is 9 differentiated from the boredom of the computer operator, which is differen- tiated from the boredom of the domestic worker, and so on.

The standardizing of time and the routinization of daily life that accompanies it operate across this ambiguity: 2 3 The pages falling off the calendar, the notches marked in a tree that 4 no longer stands — these are the signs of the everyday, the effort to 5 articulate difference through counting. The everyday is caught in a web of 9 administration with terrifying effects. Tracing the cultural conditions that have allowed this form of 5 life to dominate, Weber recognizes the mark of a Puritanical asceticism.

For 9 when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the 1 tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. Perhaps it will so determine them 4 until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. But fate decreed 7 that the cloak should become an iron cage. If the result of Weberian and 2 Marxian everyday modernity is boredom, this is a boredom that is cut through 3 with a murderous insistence.

Middle-class journalists in the eighteenth 3 century believe the nouveaux riches to be bored. In the nineteenth 4 century encouraged by Lord Byron the middle class assigns the condi- 5 tion to the aristocracy. The old think the young are bored. Seen from the point of view of an emergent middle class, aristocratic everyday life was decadent 1 luxury and excess as daily routine and lacking in the kind of differentiation 2 that could enliven it.

Such a condition produced boredom as a sign of the his- 3 torical redundancy of the class.


Everyday Life and Cultural Theory : An Introduction

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Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction

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