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The Practice of Everyday Life Third Edition Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book the first time 25 years ago. I still find it thought-provoking.Published 16 months ago by James K. Scott
For a French theorist, de Certeau is reasonably readable. I have only read this in translation, so I will add that caveat. Read morePublished on November 21, 2013 by Buffy
This order was a mistake, I already had the book and I did not need it a second time,redudantly. I can only read a book onePublished on August 12, 2013 by paul Surlis
Optimistic view of human life, beautifully written. Essential reading for me. I come back to this book year after year.Published on August 1, 2013 by KD Lu