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Everyday Life

The Discovery Of The Everyday

From the 1950s onward, the everyday or the "ordinary" was discovered in the sense of becoming a focus of interest as a way of inserting human experience into an increasingly abstract social theory and social history. Alfred Schutz, in studies of "the world of everyday life," bridged the gap between the philosophy of Husserl and the practice of sociologists, like the Hungarian Agnes Heller, who combined ideas from Marx, Weber, and Husserl in her work. Phrases such as "everyday culture," "everyday knowledge," and "everyday thought" became commonplace.

In France, the sociologist Henri Lefebvre offered a critique of recent changes in everyday life from a Marxist point of view. The philosopher Michel Foucault drew attention to the importance of power relations at an everyday level. The polymath Michel de Certeau's study of French society in the late 1970s, which emphasized the freedom of ordinary people to construct or "invent" their daily life as workers, consumers, or viewers, helped bring the concept of the everyday into common currency (a historian of mysticism as well as a sociologist, Certeau may have been inspired by treatises like that of Olier mentioned above).

In Russia, the semiologist Yuri Lotman studied what he called the "poetics of everyday behavior," for example the influence of literature on life or the theatralization of the behavior of Russian nobles in the late eighteenth century. In the English-speaking world, Erving Goffman's vision of everyday life as a series of dramas has attracted much attention, while feminist sociologists such as Dorothy Smith have used the everyday as a point of entry into the social world of women.

The idea of "practices" has become central to the study of the everyday, especially the "rules" or conventions underlying everyday life, what Lotman called "poetics" and the anthropologist-sociologist Pierre Bourdieu the "theory of practice." Thus the history of science is being rewritten as the history of practices such as experiment. A linked concept is that of "tactics," in other words attempts to obtain what one wants within the framework of the rules or by finding ways round them. Thus the American anthropologist James Scott has drawn attention to the importance of what he called the "everyday resistance" of agricultural laborers, viewed as a middle way between obedience and open revolt.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ephemeris to Evolution - Historical BackgroundEveryday Life - Everyday Antiquities, The Everyday In Academic Discourse, The Discovery Of The Everyday, The History Of The Everyday