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The Practice of Everyday Life

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,416 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Michel de Certeau considers the uses to which social representation and modes of social behavior are put by individuals and groups, describing the tactics available to the common man for reclaiming his own autonomy from the all-pervasive forces of commerce, politics, and culture. In exploring the public meaning of ingeniously defended private meanings, de Certeau draws bri ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published 2002 by University of California Press (first published 1980)
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,416 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Dec 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory, taught
I teach this sucker, so there's gotta be some good in it, right? Oh, but it's beastly dense in classic French post-structuralist fashion. Some of it is beautiful - I love his reflection on traveling by rail, and while I prefer Henri Lefebvre's place-space distinction (it makes more intuitive sense that the empty homogeneous stuff would be space and the emotionally marked stuff would be place), the discussion of how maps serve to make abstraction from itineraries (i.e. lived experience) is quite ...more
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
I'm giving this a full five stars while operating on the presumption that the parts I didn't understand are just as good as the parts I did. de Certeau is by no means an easy read, and I imagine a full comprehension of what he argues requires a facility with many more theorists and disciplines than I have (for example, I loved his critiques and analysis of Foucault and Bourdieu, but couldn't wrap my head around his discussions of Freud and Heidegger largely, I think, because my psychoanalysis an ...more
I'm interested in what your professor expected you to get out of reading this.

"By a paradox that is only apparent, the discourse that makes people believe is the one that takes away what it urges them to believe in, or never delivers what it promises." (105)

When read as a series of aphorisms without a central initiating purpose to orient the reader, the reader is in the position of pure wanderer; i.e. when read in excerpt, the 110th floor view of the writing is hidden from the reader. If the go
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Way too wordy, dense, and heady, but full of wonderful ideas that assume the agency and capability of regular people. We aren't just consumers! We are doing things! The world is terrible, but every day we are resisting in really small ways. Isn't that great to hear?
رغد قاسم
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
كتاب مُرهق من كتب اللغة الجديدة :) كما أُسميها
مُتعب بالنسبة لغير الأكاديميين لكن فِيهِ فلسفة جيدة .
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
I echo some of the previous readers' comments about the density and difficulty of De Certeau's sentences - I had to look up words in the dictionary 3 times in one sentence at some point, and this was at the graduate school level. However, I also love love his metaphor of walking in the city as a way of affirming individual ways of doing life, of seeing, of choosing, of practicing everyday life, in contrast to mainstream ways that society is constructed, as expressed in the metaphor by the set ro ...more
Candy Wood
If I needed an explanation for not going into sociology, this book would provide it. Do we need a 200-page book to examine “the practice of everyday life”? I feel a bit like the centipede worrying about which foot to start out on. Still, there are some interesting insights: the tiny chapter 8, “Railway Navigation and Incarceration,” could stand alone as an essay on the strange relationship to space experienced by passengers on a train, and I was surprised and delighted to find a reference to Ver ...more
Apr 19, 2008 added it
Shelves: theeeeeeory
OK, so I know this was very influential on the transition between the study of representation and production and the study of practice and use. Despite that, other than a few select chapters, I found the book borderline unreadable. I can handle Foucault, Barthes, and Baudrillard just fine, and while Deleuze/Guattari is a stretch, I can still do it. This, on the other hand, just struck me as unreadable, and largely bullshit. So I can't say I was a fan, you know?
Mar 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
As an anthropology Phd student I’ve read so many books on this area and this is the first book I barely understood anything from it and suffered every moment of reading it.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I read de Certeau's PEL for a DMin course. Below find my "working outline" and reflections on the text.

[Note: I found this difficult to follow—especially Parts 3-5. For this reason, my outline will be much briefer than for other texts.]

General Introduction
“Everyday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of
others” (xii). The consumers/users of popular culture actively put the products of the producers to uses unforeseen/uncontrolled/unpredicted by the producers. The co
Linda Stewart
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When I read the first paragraph of the introduction, I knew I had found a theoretical home. Michel de Certeau's "investigation of the ways in which users--commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules--operate" is about freedom, resistance, access, and the art of "dwelling" in the everyday. Reading de Certeau validated all the ways I have been teaching inductively. My practice was found in his theory. A reversal of good fortune. Be certain to read Chapter 7 - "Walking in the Cit ...more
Dec 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-theory
Hard to understand at first, but as you keep reading it, it starts making sense. de Certeau looks at how ordinary people through their everyday practices and embodied experiences reclaim their autonomy, and resist power structures.
This is the first time I've ever read a work of theory and felt like I was hearing my own thoughts, more clearly articulated, more grounded in the literature, but expressing impressions and preoccupations that were my own. I will reread it, quote it, act on it.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Revisiting de Certeau for my diss revisions - helpful, frustrating, and thought-provoking all at once.
Dwight Davis
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most dense books I've ever read, contrary to a title that leads one to think of a simple meditation. What de Certeau offers us is an analysis of practices of everyday life (i.e. walking in a city, riding a train, reading, writing, etc.) that show that these practices carry with them technologies that shape the subject. Assuming that I am reading correctly, the argument seems to be that everyday life is itself beholden to the forces of capital and the State.

I found de Certeau's reflec
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sakyčiau, kad visiems, kam įdomios žmonių veiklos ir tų veiklų artikuliacijos, ir ypač tiems, kas bando apie jas rašyti ar kalbėti - labai labai rekomenduotinas tekstas. Nieko nenusausinantis iki popierinių perskyrų, pakankamai mįslingas ir sudėtingas, ir tuo pačiu labai įtikinantis - parodantis dar vieną, visiškai netikėtą kampą, iš kurio irgi galima žiūrėti ir galvoti. De Certeau nepriklauso ryškioms filosofijos kryptims, stambioms pagal metodus susidariusioms grupėms ir todėl neįtraukiamas į ...more
Thai Divone
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: critical-theory
In a single sentence: I wish I've read it three years ago, in the year preceding to me becoming a university student. Every paper I've written could have been so much better (and for the life of me, they weren't bad) if I've read it only a few days before it. In the introduction to the Hebrew edition, there is a promise that the book can change one's life. I don't know if it changed them for me, but I do know that I'm kinda looking at my life a bit different. It is one of those books. For a chan ...more
Zech Mickel
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Difficult read, particularly the first half. Argues that consumers are not merely passive victims of the consumeristic air they breathe, but rather that consumers have much agency in the ways they use products, leaving their own mark on the products. In other words, the producers and advertisers of products cannot control what a consumer does with the product, how they react to the product, and how they implement it (or don’t) into their life. Using products in a subversive way, then, can be a f ...more
Imbuvable. Incompréhensible 99% du temps, la prose pédante et alambiquée a eu raison de moi malgré une forte détermination. C'est dommage car le discours s'éclaircit sporadiquement et révèle de rares pépites. Mais honnêtement, il y a tellement d'autres livres à lire je ne vois pas pourquoi je continuerai à me dégouter de la lecture avec une logorrhé hermétique. C'est bien de penser, mais si on ne sait même pas communiquer ses idées à autrui, la réflexion est à mon sens caduque.
Chloe Ducluzeau
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-history
incredibly dense but the ideas which i grasped I really did love. Weirdly predictive in a prophet-like way? Also quite hopeful in its assertion of the everyday man’s subversive tactics in the face of oppressive institutions and authority at large...
Michael Lew
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An essential piece to understand Lyon and its history (the impact of Jacquard's invention on the programming of mechanical looms and the silk industry) which leads to contemporary concepts of what Prof. Eric von Hippel calls user-driven innovation.
Nom Chompsky
Another re-read, and probably not worth the migraine unless you’ve gotta flesh out an essay on walking ahahah.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, non-fiction
I wouldn't start with this one if you're new to sociology, but otherwise extremely good.
Rebecca Zheng
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking, well-written response to the Frankfurt School's ideologies (and in particular, the writings of Horkheimer and Adorno)
Matthijs Driesen
The writing is too thick. As usual with French intellectuals, he ought to have stepped off his high horse and sieved his language a little more. But I guess that to publish in France, it is mandatory to beat about the bush. If your understanding of French isn't very advanced, do find a translation, because this is a tough read. I read it three times, making notes. It is a shame that the reading experience is so very painful, because the points De Certeau makes are -very- interesting. In fact, he ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الكتاب في مستواه متفاوت ما بين الممل جدا والرائع جدا.

الأجزاء المملة هي بشكل عام القسمين الأولين و أجزاء من القسم الثالث والرابع (الكتاب يقع في خمسة أجزاء(. في هذه الأجزاء يكثر الحشو والتكرار و الدخول في تفاصيل مؤلفات و أبحاث أخرى قد لا يكون القارئ ملما بأي منها. هذه الأجزاء لا تستحق أكثر من نجمتين في التقييم.

لكن الأقسام الباقية هي بحق مذهلة وممتعة، بالذات بداية القسم الثالث (في الكلام عن المسارات في المدينة) و نهاية القسم الرابع (القراءة: اصطياد) ومرورا بكامل القسم الخامس (طرائق في الاعتقاد) و ح
This is a book I recommended frequently to people without actually having read, given that a classmate of mine back in the Medieval Spatial Theory course had explained parts of it very persuasively. It was hard to find in stores so I bought it online, and found it a very beautiful (and very deliciously-smelling) book. I read most of this in the Dublin airport (side-by-side with The Last Unicorn) which might be pretty fitting when you've got a book thinking about even our interactions with space ...more
Miguel Soto
El día a día, ignorado por las disciplinas más elevadas, es sin embargo la fuente de las estructuras sociales y personales. En esa cotidianeidad las personas se las ingenian, se las arreglan con lo que tienen, con todo y a pesar de que las élites encargadas de estructurar la situación traten de hacerles el bobo. Retomando numerosos ejemplos y puntualizaciones teóricas (en especial foucaultianas y freudianas), nos podemos acercar un poco a conocer esas tácticas, esas artes de hacer de la gente de ...more
kayla reed
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was awesome- some of his analyses are incredibly beautiful. Some are completely incomprehensible. I advice following the translator's advice (from my edition at least) and reading parts 3-5 before reading 1-2. I didn't and 1-2 were very confusing and theoretical and I had a difficult time following much, especially not knowing a ton about the context in which the book was written. However, parts 3-5 were very enjoyable and moving to read. Would highly recommend if you're interested in philo ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it liked it
The Practice of Everyday Life is a tribute to the ingenuity of the everyday person. It's a set of essays, and should be read this way (he seems to contradict himself - at time a structuralist and at other time a post-structuralist). He describe contemporary societies as transforming from verbal to visual. The ordinary (the ants, the weak) cope with their circumstances by being creative and circumventing the cards they are dealt. He believes people in everyday life don't follow scripts but they c ...more
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Spatial history 1 29 Jun 24, 2010 06:32PM  
  • The Production of Space
  • Outline of a Theory of Practice
  • Space And Place: The Perspective of Experience
  • Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory
  • Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity
  • The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change
  • The Social Life of Things
  • The Arcades Project
  • We Have Never Been Modern
  • The Location of Culture
  • Time and Narrative, Volume 1
  • On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection
  • The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
  • Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses: A Particular Study of the Senses
  • The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • The Country and the City
“To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper. The moving about that the city mutliplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place -- an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations (displacements and walks), compensated for by the relationships and intersections of these exoduses that intertwine and create an urban fabric, and placed under the sign of what ought to be, ultimately, the place but is only a name, the City...a universe of rented spaces haunted by a nowhere or by dreamed-of places.” 40 likes
“To practice space is thus to repeat the joyful and silent experience of childhood; it is, in a place, to be other and to move toward the other...Kandinsky dreamed of: 'a great city built according to all the rules of architecture and then suddenly shaken by a force that defies all calculation.” 21 likes
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