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The Practice of Everyday Life Third Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520271456
ISBN-10: 0520271459
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Practice of Everyday Life...offers ample evidence why we should pay heed to de Certeau and why more of us have not done so. For one, the work all but defies definition. History, sociology, economics, literature and literary criticism, philosophy, and anthropology all come within de Certeau's ken... De Certeau acts very much like his own ordinary hero, manipulating, elaborating, and inventing on the scientific authority that he both denies and requires."-Priscilla P. Clark, Journal of Modern History "De Certeau's book is to be praised for setting out some of the practical procedures, in which we are all implicated, that are used to invent what appears to us as our reality, and for finding at least some ways in which the totalitarian nature of our current systems of sense-making can be subverted."-John Shotter, New Ideas in Psychology --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Third Edition edition (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520271459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520271456
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter A. Kindle on January 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sometimes I am simply proud that I have read a book. This slim volume falls into that category. The fourteen short chapters explode with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and tantalizing viewpoints. To summarize these riches is unlikely to do them justice, yet I will try.
De Certeau inverts social values and cultural hierarchies. His hero metaphor is not the exemplar, but rather the ant. Wisdom resides not in the pronouncement of expert or philosopher, but in the routine discourse between ordinary people. To De Certeau the definitional constraints imposed by the experts result in artificial distinctions. Only the discourse of ordinary people is firmly rooted in experience and embraces the varieties and logical complexities of living.
Among these complexities of life is the amazing adaptive capacity of the ordinary. Even the most oppressive and controlling of cultures cannot eradicate the subversive agency of the peasant. This subversive agency is expressed through mythic stories, common proverbs, and verbal tricks. De Certeau refers to the adaptive capacity of the ordinary as tactics of living, and these tactics may be best exemplified when the worker does the personal while on the clock.
The distinction between strategy and tactics is central to De Certeau's thought. Strategy refers to the top-down exercise of power to coerce compliance. Tactics refer to the opportunistic manipulations offered by circumstance. The conflict between strategies and tactics is ironic - as strategic forces expand to increase dominance, there is a corresponding increase in opportunity for tactical subversion.
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Format: Paperback
DeCerteau's ideas in this book primarily deal with control and resistance: he finds that average people have developed various strategies that establishes their independence in a world that seeks to dominate them. He's especially interested in how people receive media: he thinks media producers (including writers) seek to impose meaning on media consumers, yet he rejects the notion that consumers consume mindlessly. DeCerteau examines the creative strategies employed by consumers, and he in fact sees them as a form of unrecognized producers (which is part of why this book is of interest to people studying 'fan fiction' and similar phenomena).
Like much French theory, this book functions like a poem, making its argument by way of symbolic relationships and analogy rather than by calling upon the causal / statistical relationships that characterize much American argument. This may turn some people off, and even by French-theory standards this book is not user-friendly at all. DeCerteau often uses common, general words (say, "writing," or "time") to refer to very particular, highly-nuanced concepts. Simply relying upon the commonly-accepted meanings of those words will not do, and yet deCerteau rarely takes the time to explain the meanings that he has in mind. The result is that the book reads like an enormous cryptogram: you can only decipher what he means by particular words by noting and crossreferencing the varying contexts in those words are used throughout the book-- a tedious process which forced this reader to continually question whether the nuggets of gold were really worth all the panning through silt.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the great books of French post-structuralist thought. I realize that to some people that might be like saying "one of the nicest Nazis I know." But for those who don't immediately dismiss the entire genre, there is much to be gained from reading, and rereading, this book.
In essence, Certeau is challenging the rather despairing vision of Foucault's The Order of Things, with its image of the panopticon from which no one can escape. Certeau focuses on everyday practices to see how people do in fact escape the all-seeing gaze of the panopticon. In particular his distinction between "strategy" and "tactics" is useful and intriguing.
The language is highly poetic and at times difficult going, but *how* Certeau says what he says is in some ways as important as *what* he says. He wants to write in a way that at the same time uses and escapes the constraints of ordinary language. It takes some getting used to, but it is worth it.
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Michel de Certeau's brilliant book is one of the primary nodes in the historical switchbox that eventually crossed the signals that led us through structuralism and practice theory to critical realism and Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. His classic exploration of everyday life will send flashes of light and pleasure through the mind on a constant basis - his dense, absolutely masterful, and witty expository quasi-poetry on economy, power, and practice is essentially an extended series of aphorisms, upon any one of which an entire essay could be based. And a good one, at that.
What we have here is a celebration of the everyday, the common, the mundane, and the wonderful capacity of life to resist systematization and classification via its organic flexibility and espirit de corps. It is a wonderful wake-up call: "A few individuals, after having long considered themselves experts speaking a scientific language, have finally awoken from their slumbers and suddenly realized that for the last few moments they have been walking on air, like Felix the Cat in the old cartoons, far from the scientific ground. Though legitimized by scientific knowledge, their discourse is seen to have been no more than the ordinary language of tactical games between economic powers and symbolic authorities."
Writing in the tradition of Lefevbre (more so than anyone else who comes to mind at the moment), his work touches upon contemporary Foucault and Bourdieu only briefly and then moves on to do much more. For example, in the way of analyses of strategic and tactical behavior, resistances, spatial practices, sublatern hermeneutics, and state/scientific ideologies of secrecy and knowledge.
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