The Practice of Everyday Life Paperback – Dec 1 2011
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"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.
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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.
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.