Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 17 September 2019

The Politics of Everyday Life

Abstract and Keywords

As recently as 1985, the doyen of social science history in Germany, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, said the study of everyday life added little more than a bit of ‘gruel’ to the main course of history. Since then, the turf wars between social history, history from below, and cultural history have themselves become a thing of the past. It was during the 1950s–1970s that first sociologists, and then ‘new social’ historians, embraced the everyday. The flowering of consumption studies since would be unthinkable without the recognition that everyday life is an important – perhaps the most important – place people find meaning, develop habits, and acquire a sense of themselves and their world. This article offers an historical account of the changing scope and politics of everyday life. In contrast to recent discussions that have made the everyday appear the product of Western Europe after World War II, it traces the longer history of the everyday and the different politics of modernity which it has inspired.

Keywords: everyday life, politics, social history, modernity, consumption

The great historian will in as full measure as possible present to us the every-day life of the men and women of the age which he describes. Nothing that tells of this life will come amiss to him …. In the writings of our historians, as in the lives of our ordinary citizens, we can neither afford to forget that it is the ordinary every-day life which counts most; nor yet that seasons come when ordinary qualities count for but little in the face of great contending forces of good and of evil, the outcome of whose strife determines whether the nation shall walk in the glory of the morning or in the gloom of spiritual death.

Theodore Roosevelt, 19121

Man must be everyday, or he will not be at all.

Henri Lefebvre, 19472

Everyday life is the secret yeast of history.

Agnes Heller, 19703

The everyday is political. Readers today will hardly raise an eyebrow at this statement—after all, the personal is political, too. This was not always so. As recently as 1985, the doyen of social science history in Germany, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, said the study of (p. 522) everyday life added little more than a bit of ‘gruel’ to the main course of history.4 Since then, the turf wars between social history, history from below, and cultural history have themselves become a thing of the past. Big Politics (states, parties, great men) has been joined by little politics, attentive to the subjectivity, power, and resistance of ordinary people in their ordinary lives. From the heights of extraordinary events, the analysis lowered to take in the ‘infra-ordinaire’, as the French novelist Georges Perec called it.5 The everyday is pretty much taken for granted now. This is the problem that animates this essay. The quotidian, which is about the familiar, has itself become so familiar that it stands in the way of appreciating its historical genesis.

It was during the 1950s–1970s that first sociologists and then ‘new social’ historians embraced the everyday. The flowering of consumption studies since would be unthinkable without the recognition that everyday life is an important—perhaps the most important—place people find meaning, develop habits, and acquire a sense of themselves and their world. People, we learnt, were absorbed by their daily lives. They registered a change of wallpaper more than a change of government. History books, local museums, school classes, and television shows6 were not only ‘peopled’ but ‘thinged’,7 giving us a greater appreciation of people's material lives, what they owned, how they got it, how they used it, and how they disposed of it—in short, of the life cycle of consumption.

Fame has come at a price, however. Such is the common sense appeal of the everyday that it can mean everything and nothing to everyone. In part, this problem mirrors the democratic character that made the subject so attractive in the first place. Unlike sitting on a throne or storming the Bastille, everyday life is not something particularly special. Everyone has one. The problem was aggravated by intellectual politics and praxis. Everyone started to talk of the everyday, though they rarely meant the same thing.

The everyday has resisted definition. In 1978, a decade after the quotidian took politics by storm, Norbert Elias wrote a critical note about the sociology of everyday life. In the 1930s Elias himself had written a pioneering account of the civilizing process of manners, but he remained unconvinced by the idea that the everyday was an identifiable subject. He noted eight different meanings in circulation. For some writers, the everyday was made up of ordinary routines in contrast to extraordinary events. For others it stood for a people's history versus that of elites, or, more narrowly, for the work-day of (p. 523) the labourer rather than bourgeois luxury. For yet others it marked out the private from the public. Some associated the everyday with spontaneous and authentic actions as opposed to the conscious and artificial world of art and science, while others saw it precisely as the sphere where false needs and experiences ruled. Clearly, these approaches were incompatible. That they managed to multiply and coexist, Elias argued, reflected that sociology itself was fragmenting. Structural models with an ambition to explain everything had hit a crisis of confidence. This left a vacuum for ‘sects’, each conducting their own conversation rather than talking to each other.8

It would be unfair to levy exactly the same charge at historians—the pioneers of history from below, after all, were locked in heated debate with Weberian historians who studied states, classes, and modernization. Still, Elias's main observation about the cacophony of voices stands, and only gets more confusing once we add history and cultural studies. What prevented these approaches from colliding was not a shared substantive position but a shared suspicion of universal, structuralist, and deterministic models. Everyday life reclaimed whatever conventional approaches had left out. For historians, it became a catch-all for the little man and the little things in life, for agency, and the concrete. It encompassed everything from the spectacle of food protests in the First World War to unspectacular routines of eating and blowing one's nose in sixteenth-century France. Few stopped to ask whether there was such an entity as the everyday in the first place or how it had evolved over time. The political romance of the everyday meant that most historians treated it as a given, a realm of human experience which had always existed and which they had retrieved from obscurity. Ironically, then, studies which prided themselves on rehabilitating the concrete evolved into a body of literature which in method and focus was all but concrete.

The aim of this chapter is not to lay down a universal law about what the everyday is or is not. Its goal is more modest. It seeks to offer an historical account of the changing scope and politics of everyday life. Everyday life is not simply out there. In contrast to recent discussions which have made the everyday appear the product of Western Europe after the Second World War, I am keen to recover the longer history of the everyday and the different politics of modernity which it has inspired. The 1950s–70s have been treated as a natural unit of analysis. The age of affluence, neo-realist film, the Situationist International, and new forms of identity and lifestyle politics provided the historical soil for the seminal studies by Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, microstoria, history workshops, and the appetite for people's history and ordinary artefacts more broadly.9 (p. 524) What happens if we move the historical goalposts? Everyday life did not suddenly begin in 1947 with the first volume of Henri Lefebvre's Critique. The post-war years were one chapter in a longer story. Not that societies always thought there was such a thing. The everyday is not any day. It was in the decades on either side of 1900 that we can discern a growing fascination with the quotidian, in terms of cultural praxis and intellectual reflection as well as political ambition. The city and the home came into view as the political terrain of everyday life. In this earlier gestation—and in sharp contrast to the later celebration of resistance and individual ruses—everyday life was a utopia of modernization, directed by states, experts, and social movements. Broadening the time-frame, then, also shifts our perspective. The focus on post-war affluence as a formative moment has anchored the history of everyday life in the particular experience of Western Europe as it was coming to terms with the American empire of goods; it is, probably, no coincidence that these years also were the formative years for many recent commentators. This has given the politics of everyday life a geographical centre and linear time-frame but at the cost of creating a convergence history where attention to everyday life appears as a Western European left-progressive response to post-war affluence. Here is yet another irony, for the radical contribution of microhistory and history from below was precisely to tear up such centred, linear scripts and to show how history can be told from multiple perspectives and at different scales. The political ambition to reform everyday life in Japan and in the Soviet Union in the 1920s offer two such additional vantage points. Taking a longer perspective allows other forms of consumption and politics to enter the stage.

In the spirit of this volume, I look back at past debates but also look ahead to outline three directions for future research. One concerns our point of view, another process, and a final one space. In addition to approaching it ‘from above’ or ‘from below’, it may be useful to see everyday politics as operating ‘in between’, a channel open in both directions where the infra- and extraordinary meet and, sometimes, collide. A second, related point is to turn the standard association of the everyday with sameness more into a historical question about process. Sameness is not stasis. Moments of breakdown and disruption allow us to see what is needed to keep ordinary consumption practices going. My final point questions the dominant view of the quotidian as a self-contained sphere, a refuge from the world where people could exercise microbe-like resistance. The evidence for everyday life as a separate realm is thin and doubtful. This, however, does not make it any less important. Rather, a more porous view allows us to consider the interconnections between the politics of the everyday and the national and global.

Everyday Life: A Short History

In history as in sociology, the three decades after the Second World War marked a sustained search for everyday life. The search benefited from certain shared contexts—a growing suspicion of technology, grand narratives of progress, and orthodox Marxist (p. 525) models of base/superstructure, on the one hand, and the new wave of gender and identity politics in the 1960s and 1970s, on the other. Together with the expansion of the social sciences and of university places, this created a buoyant market for anthropology, cultural studies, oral history, and the study of consumption. Recent commentators have stressed the shared European moment of the quotidian.10 The interest in the everyday grew out of a suspicion of big structures and determinist accounts of capitalism and class. It rejected the idea that politics was a battle over the control of the state and institutions. One source of inspiration was the attempt to humanize Marxism. Lefebvre had translated Marx's 1844 manuscripts in the 1930s. Similarly, historians from below in the 1970s turned to the younger Marx and his idea of alienation. How people appropriated their world moved to the centre of analysis. This, however, left room for significant differences about the nature of the everyday, its political content and, for intellectual praxis. Ultimately, political contexts as well as disciplinary preoccupations produced substantially different traditions.

For sociologists and theorists, the intellectual centre was France. Here discussion of the everyday was tied to a public debate about consumer culture. It was a pre-1968 phenomenon.11 Everyday life appeared ambivalent, simultaneously under siege by consumer capitalism and eluding it. Politics flowed in and out. Historians, by contrast, tended to look at it as a separate sphere. Fernand Braudel, one of the leaders of the French Annales, presented quotidian life as almost unchanging, a world apart from politics and markets.12 In Germany, where everyday life became the province of history from below in the 1970s, historians were more interested in its politics but equally keen to see the everyday as a space apart, with its own rules and logic. Here the context was set by a debate about Nazism, not affluence. The everyday was used to show the limits of fascism and restore agency to ordinary people.

The theoretical point of view was developed most ambitiously by the sociologist-philosopher Henri Lefebvre in his three-volume Critique of Everyday Life (1947, 1961, 1981). For Lefebvre, the everyday was not a discrete sphere. Rather it was a ‘level’ between the grey and stagnant trivial and the realm of decision and events. This ‘level’ was constantly shifting as goods and technologies entered life, met needs, and created new ones. The everyday was not a universal aspect of human existence but the product of modernity. Earlier societies, Lefebvre insisted, had shared an identical ‘style’. It was capitalism and the division of labour that tore apart this unity in the course of the nineteenth century, separating high culture from common culture, leisure from work, masses from classes, and ideology and religion from folk wisdom. It was this split which opened up the everyday. Consumer culture in the 1950s and 1960s deepened those fissures. Technological progress was achieved at the cost of an ‘underdevelopment of everyday life’. Happiness was reduced to comfort. Advertisers and the fashion industry manipulated people into consuming out of fear of being excluded; like many European (p. 526) commentators, Lefebvre took a leaf out of J. K. Galbraith's The Affluent Society (1958). The consumer technologies that invaded the home, Lefebvre wrote, made ‘mincemeat of everyday life’.13 Modernity advanced with a dialectical force, chopping up time and rhythms in the pursuit of progress but at the same time creating repetition, monotony, and the familiar as a side-product. The everyday served as the repository of older rhythms, which ‘lagged’ behind historical time.

In his study of rhythms, towards the end of his life in 1991, Lefebvre compared modern societies to horse trainers who used ‘dressage’ to break in animals. Through institutions and rituals like politeness, society instilled repetitive, automatic behaviour. Liberty was an illusion. Social dressage ‘determines the majority of rhythms’. Once habits had formed it was difficult to change them. If this meant ideas of individual freedom were overblown, it also explained why totalitarianism and consumerism had failed to conquer ordinary life. The everyday was stubborn. It was this conservatism that made the quotidian so attractive to many scholars in the 1960s and 1970s; some, like Michel de Certeau, focused on creative acts of resistance, while others, like Michel Maffesoli and Richard Hoggart, stressed an ingrained attitude of resignation.14

For Lefebvre, the everyday was thus bipolar. It ‘drags itself along in the wake of change’, yet was never sealed off from politics. Private life, he wrote in 1961, was ‘saturated’ with public life, while the public was simultaneously becoming ever more private.15 Thanks to television and magazines, the ‘humblest farm-hand “knows” queens, princesses and filmstars’.16 Ordinary people knew bosses’ kitchens, bathrooms, and home interiors as well as their own. That private was now public was, he stressed, an illusion, but this made it no less powerful in a society in which media consumption had become central. Twenty years later, in the final volume of the Critique, he went one step further. Consumption was changing the relationship between citizen and state. By treating citizens as users of services, the democratic state had diluted itself to a ‘service state’—a prescient prognosis of the ‘consumerism’ of public services that would capture the imagination of right and left in the 1990s.17

Far from separate, the micro was enveloped by the macro. The everyday was thus never a passive object of domination. It also contained the potential for emancipation which, he hoped, would ultimately overcome alienation and fragmentation. The critique of consumption developed in tandem with a search for a more humanist Marx after Stalinism; Lefebvre was expelled from the Communist Party in 1958 and his engagement with the everyday stemmed from his life's project to revitalize Marx. Lefebvre extended the young Marx's analysis of the split between private bourgeois and public citizen to (p. 527) consumer society.18 Consumer capitalism simultaneously exported the everyday to the rest of society and led to a fracture between needs and desires. The study of everyday life, according to Lefebvre, was to show ‘how the social existence of human beings is produced, its transition from want to affluence and from appreciation to depreciation.’19 In 1957 Lefebvre launched his manifesto for a romantic revolution. Three years later he set up the research group on everyday life at CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique). It was here, a year later, that Guy Debord, the leader of the Situationist International, attacked the artificiality of consumer needs and poverty of contemporary life and laid out ‘Perspectives for Conscious Alterations in Everyday Life’; in the spirit of the argument, Debord broke with the convention of the lecture and instead communicated with the audience through a tape recording.20

The everyday promised a new terrain of revolutionary action after Stalinism. For Lefebvre, its critique required total praxis. ‘Changing the world’, Henri Lefebvre wrote in his second volume of the Critique in 1961, ‘means changing the everyday.’21 Fragmentation and alienation could be overcome. Instead of an old-style, top-down, state-led revolution ‘from without’, the emphasis was on the transformation of lived experience ‘from within’. As is well known, American-style mass consumption was a crucial target and dystopia in this debate.22 Equally important, the rehabilitation of the everyday entailed a new sensitivity to consumption (as opposed to work) as a source of human identity and (potentially) of human freedom. Consumption, not the means of production, now appeared as the lever of change. The everyday was the new frontier of consumer capitalism. Territorial colonialism, Debord and Lefebvre argued, was being superseded by the colonial conquest of the home and mind. Instead of physical violence, fashion and advertisers exercised the violence of conformity.23 Jean Baudrillard in 1970 defined consumption as the ‘organisation totale de la quotidienneté’, a line echoed by Lefebvre.24 In France, Lacanian psycho analysis provided the everyday with a particularly pronounced, additional gravity that moved the subversive, revolutionary (p. 528) centre of political action further away from class and institutions to the realm of desire. The everyday was the stage where the self rediscovered itself through a set of new, liberating experiences. While consumer culture provided French commentators with a new zone of engagement in the 1950s and 1960s, the sociological and public investment of the everyday in France needs also to be seen as continuation and reworking of a pre-existing cultural tradition where surrealist artists had championed the experience of poetics and arts (not formal political practice) as transformative experience.

The ambition of ‘total praxis’ received a serious knock in the 1970s from Michel de Certeau, who disaggregated everyday life into an ensemble of individual practices and ways of doing (reading, eating, walking). The study of everyday life, which had originally proceeded from mature Marx to young Marx, now made do without Marx altogether. Still, Certeau—himself a historian as well as sociologist—stopped short of the flight from politics that would characterize much of the ‘new history’ in this decade. What he did was to lower the sights of political action. Subversion took the place of revolution. While no longer holding the potential of total transformation, the everyday still offered individuals a chance to resist conformity through ‘microbobe’-like strategies; this was in marked difference to Pierre Bourdieu's account of habitus where embodied tastes reproduce existing hierarchies.25 It gave consumption a political dimension of its own. Certeau presented the ‘tactics of consumption [as] the ingenious ways in which the weak make use of the strong.’26 His emphasis on unintended, creative uses, on clever tricks, and on how individuals manipulated and reappropriated goods in the course of practice was an important step towards a recognition of the active consumer.

Historians came late to the everyday, with the exception of a few forerunners in the Annales. And when they did, in the 1970s, they did so in a political context where Lefebvre's confidence in romantic revolution had been superseded by a more relativistic and sceptical tone. It mattered hugely that historians’ interest in the everyday was largely a post-1968 phenomenon. Politically, it gave it a compensatory function. Mentalities and everyday life took the place of revolutionary utopias. The identity crisis was most pronounced in France, the mother of revolution. ‘Nouvelle histoire’ gave a depoliticized nation the chance to find itself in an equally depoliticized past.27 The quotidian past offered comfort in an uncertain present. Whereas earlier sociologists wanted to expose the familiar as that which was not known—from housewives’ columns in glossy magazines to driving habits—the new generation of cultural historians were fascinated by the strange.

Historians preferred to write about the everyday as if it were a given realm, with little interest in its genesis or ambivalence. In the 1970s and 1980s, the everyday started to appear in a wide range of guises, from a virtually depoliticized sphere of cooking, eating, and sleeping all the way to the politically supercharged protests over the price of food and rationing in times of war. Braudel, in his three-volume Civilization and Capitalism, (p. 529) significantly gave Les Structures du quotidien (1979) the first volume to themselves, separating them physically as well as analytically from those on commercial capitalism and world domination. Looking back on his life's work, Braudel wrote that ‘mankind is more than waist-deep in daily routine. Countless inherited acts … repeated time after time to this very day, become habits that help us live, imprison us, and make decisions for us throughout our lives.’28 To him the everyday mattered because it pulled us along, not because of agency and politics. By contrast, social historians who took their lead from E. P. Thompson—who himself avoided the term ‘everyday’—focused on dramatic clashes over bread, food prices, scarcities, and the black market. This has enriched our understanding of the politics of consumption in Berlin, London, Moscow, and Vichy France in the era of the two world wars.29 The everyday here, however, is not at all about sameness and routine. Rather it is about suspension and crisis, moments when inherited customs, beliefs, and habits came under pressure or broke down. Admittedly, these were no longer the great events of great men, but they were ‘events’ nonetheless. They simply broadened the repertoire of events and actors, stretching the terrain of politics from the Cabinet office to the neighbourhood street, including housewives as well as politicians.

History from below went a step further. The quotidian had its own politics and agency, ‘new’ social historians stressed. Dorothee Wierling, an early gender historian, defined ‘the everyday as the sphere in which people through their actions exercise direct influence on their condition’,30 a broad definition that was equally silent about the production of rhythms and desires that had interested social theorists and about the pull of routines in Braudel. The main target was an older social history. To lump together ordinary people as either heroic rebels or passive conformists was too schematic. Hans Medick challenged Thompson's opposition between plebeian culture (authentic) and commercial capitalism (inauthentic and coerced) in the eighteenth century. Common people, too, participated in fashion, drink, and commercial culture.31 If industrial capitalism triumphed, it did not snuff out people's everyday life. They continued to find meaning and subjectivity in the family and at the workplace, where they cultivated what Lüdtke called ‘Eigensinn’. Such ‘self-will’ created a micropolitical universe of its own.32 (p. 530) Routinely sneaking off for an illegal coffee-break, pulling each other's moustaches, and other horseplay, all this was political, too, he insisted. It was a very different conception of everyday politics from that of Lefebvre. Instead of reciprocal flows between private and public, it was a world apart. Here ordinary people kept their distance from national politics. In a case study of factory life in Saxony, Lüdtke presented a sheltered micropolitics which allowed workers to retain their self-respect and sense of independence both from the discipline of the factory and from parties and unions. The separation between these political worlds, he argued, reached its greatest point in 1933.33

For Marxist historians, feminism was one bridge from structures to subjectivity. As it was women who did the shopping and cooking and who kept the fabric of domestic life together, this was hugely consequential for a scholarly recognition that consumption mattered. In Britain, Raphael Samuel was amongst the first to cross that bridge. Women's stuff, he wrote, was not ‘trivia, but a way of challenging centuries of silence … It is unclear why a preoccupation with the material practices of everyday life … is either Utopian or undesirable from a Marxist point of view.’34

For these ‘new’ social historians, the rehabilitation of the everyday was a political act in two major respects. One was to challenge the intellectual division of labour. People's history demanded a more democratic praxis of history—giving ordinary people their voice back and including them in history workshops and oral history projects. The other was to fight consumer capitalism from the bottom up, by getting under the skin of its trivial appeal. In essays resembling Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin, Samuel followed the appeal of retro-chic, heritage, fake ‘historic’ watches, and arts and crafts wallpaper.35 The charge that capitalism bred ‘false’, inauthentic needs lay never far from the surface. It ‘is unlikely’, he wrote in 1981, ‘that we shall ever be able effectively to combat bourgeois ideology until we can see how it arises in ourselves, until we explore the needs and desires it satisfies, and the whole substratum of fears on which it draws.’36

These different points of entry explain why the everyday often appeared in such contrasting lights, and why exchange and cross-fertilization between historians and social scientists remained limited. Only Certeau in the 1970s provided a shared point of contact in a post-revolutionary setting. While Lefebvre would belatedly be exported to cultural studies in the United States,37 he had virtually no reception amongst German historians from below, who looked to the more structuralist Pierre Bourdieu.38 Anglo-Saxon cultural historians meanwhile took their cue from anthropologists.

(p. 531) German radicals also liked to speak of ‘Konsumterror’, but however sceptical historians of below were of the American way of life privately, intellectually they were preoccupied with the Nazis, not contemporary fashion and consumer goods.39 They turned to the everyday as a way of coming to terms with Nazism by examining the role of ordinary people under the Swastika. In particular, they challenged a simple divide between consent and coercion; the turn to oral history in Italy followed a similar path.40 As most of the ‘new’ social historians came from the left and labour history, it is not surprising that their focus was on the workplace and ‘kleine Leute’, plebeians or little guys. Instead of homes filling up with goods and gadgets, the German interest was in deprivation and getting by, more ‘Little Man, What Now?’ than the women's lifestyle magazines which caught Lefebvre's attention. Everyday life happened at the edge of a proletarian existence. It was a struggle for survival, about how the poor got by and preserved some autonomy under totalitarian rule. The study of everyday life, Lüdtke wrote, aimed to give back ‘their own contours to those who had been beaten, exploited and murdered by and during German fascism.’41

These national and political traditions shaped how intellectuals saw their own role and that of their subjects. Oral history and history workshops were driven by a democratic impulse to free people from the straightjacket of structural interpretations. Historians ought to listen to people since they knew their own lives best. Everyday life was simultaneously treated as an object of study and a ‘medium of memory’; in this view, quotidian routines left their mark on people's consciousness. Talking about them could unlock otherwise hidden memories.42 By contrast, Debord had compared everyday life to ‘a sort of reservation for good natives who keep modern society running without understanding it.’43 Lefebvre's humanism, too, had limits: ‘people in general, do not know their own lives very well, or know them inadequately’.44 That is why they needed a sociologist and philosopher to interpret them.

Let us take stock of the discussion so far with a few interim observations. It is noteworthy how historians’ initial focus on production and work led to a more sealed conception of everyday politics, compared to the earlier French debate that evolved around goods, images, desires, communications, and their consumption. Whether we approach the everyday as a ‘sphere’ or as a ‘level’ influences not only what we see but where we see it coming from and going to. Intriguingly, when cultural historians and historians from below took to the everyday they resisted asking too much about its history. This (p. 532) was, arguably, because the everyday was a weapon in the battle against a unitary history, big structures, and grand narratives. The result was a series of pointillist pictures. What it sidestepped was a basic historical question: if the everyday was a sphere, how did this sphere come about and change over time? John Brewer has recently stressed how the historical turn to the everyday was prepared by neo-realist film in the wake of the Second World War and the aesthetic shift to narrating reality from multiple points of view.45 For the social sciences more generally, we need to distinguish between a recognition that the everyday was concrete and fragmented, on the one hand, and a critique of linear history on the other. For Lefebvre, the everyday was fragmented and contradictory, but he was nonetheless convinced that it had a history and that it contained a total truth. This is not to say that we need to subscribe to his account of that history. His evidence for the progressive ‘underdevelopment’ of everyday life in affluent post-war societies, for example, made a whole range of debatable observations, such as a reduction in tourism and travel, the erosion of cooking, and a ‘backwardness’ in terms of sex and family planning—at the very moment when most people started to fly to the sun for the first time, discovered new tastes and cuisines, and experimented with new forms of sexual pleasure.46 Similarly, it is unhelpful to see the invasion of the home by technology and consumer goods as a twentieth-century phenomenon, as Lefebvre liked to do; he invoked an idyllic picture of recent country life and organic community. New coal-burning fireplaces, saucepans, and teapots in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gas, baths, and toilets in the nineteenth, and, more generally, technologies of comfort and convenience have long transformed domestic needs and rhythms.47 Still, historians should learn from Lefebvre to ask questions about the genesis of the everyday. What has been the course and extent of the fragmentation between leisure, work, and the everyday? How did it proceed in different times and places? What is the respective contribution of capitalism, nationalism, and ideology? Is the distance always widening, or are there also times of fusion?

Everyday Life: A Longer History

Integral to these questions is when societies started to reflect on everyday life and for what purpose. Most historians have looked to the age of affluence after the Second World War. This focus has been reinforced by intellectual politics, in particular academic turf wars over the imperial ambition of neoclassical economics. The rise of mass consumption is tied up with the hegemony of rational choice and American power during the Cold War. In this view, accounts of human behaviour that have looked at habits, routines, (p. 533) and the everyday appear as a recent emancipatory reaction, reclaiming human nature from the clutches of consumer sovereignty and its neo-liberal champions. One historian who has spoken up for the ‘habitual, repetitive, [and] unreflective’ has confidently declared that ‘everyday life … had not been the province of either history or social study before the Second World War.’48 Whether routines are automatically unreflective is a matter of debate; a recent study has stressed how many people in fact use them for thinking and fantasizing.49 The point here is that such assertions are based on a paradigm inherited from the Cold War. Everyday life has a longer, more surprising history.

Fascination with the everyday can be traced back to several intellectual traditions in the decades around 1900, the formative moment of the social sciences and academic professionalization. The first point to emphasize is the pluralistic history of the everyday. For French writers after the Second World War, and for later Hungarian thinkers like Agnes Heller, a principal source of inspiration was Georg Lukacs's discussion of Marx and the concept of reification. Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness (1923) was the Urtext for later Marxist critiques that saw the everyday as a hybrid of alienation and emancipation.50 The everyday, Lukacs argued, was neither authentic nor inauthentic. It was where commodification was most directly experienced. Consumption united the purchase and use of goods with the proletariat's self-awareness as that group which sold its labour. Commodification and self-knowledge thus worked in tandem. This humanist Marxism would emerge as the dominant voice of studies of the everyday in Western Europe after the Second World War, but at the time it was just one amongst many currents. These ranged from Edmund Husserl's phenomenology of everyday life and the life-world—concepts that later would be picked up by Garfinkel and Habermas—to Alfred Schütz's early sociology of everyday life.51 Martin Heidegger contributed a nihilistic strand, where ‘Alltäglichkeit’ (everydayness) produced the very opposite of emancipation: a conformist mindset.52 References to the everyday, Alltag, and quotidien are scattered across the works of intellectuals, novelists, and surrealists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These include figures we might expect—like Walter Benjamin and his cultural archaeology of urban spaces and rhythms—but also other more surprising instances. Max Weber, in his classic essay on the three types of (p. 534) legitimate rule, for example, described charismatic rule as ‘ausseralltäglich’ (extraordinary) and noted how, once the ruler holding its personal magnetism died, authority had a tendency to be routinized in everyday life (‘Veralltäglichung’)—a very different politics of everyday life from that discussed previously.53

Perhaps the most compelling analogue to the humanist Marxist rehabilitation of the quotidian was the liberal tradition of pragmatism. It dominated American public discourse in the first half of the twentieth century, but has since been marginal and has largely dropped off the radar of those writing about the everyday. Pragmatists made meaning and identity an everyday process. Instead of lofty, abstract thought, philosophy and psychology had to be brought down to earth and made concrete. In a 1905 lecture, William James, its pre-eminent spokesperson at the time, declared that ‘any philosophical system which does not answer the questions of life—of real, grimy, everyday life—can be called to account as not fulfilling its vocation.’54 The ‘common sense’ of the ‘common man’ became worthy of study.

James's plea for the concrete was not so dissimilar from Lefebvre's half a century later, but it rested on a very different understanding of human behaviour in general, and habit, in particular. James, too, noted how habits tended to embody individual character and conserve social structures. ‘Habit’, he wrote in The Principles of Psychology (1890), was ‘the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance.’55 It ensured that miners kept on mining in darkness, and fishermen fishing in winter. Once our habits were fixed it was too late to switch to a different path of life. This also prevented ‘social strata from mixing.’ At the same time, habits also had a progressive, liberating potential. This was for two main reasons. First, James explained, habits set free ‘the upper regions of brain and mind’, and thus enabled human flourishing. Repetition and training enabled people to carry out at the same time a far greater range of practices than if an action needed the full attention of the conscious will—what today is called multitasking. ‘There is no more miserable human being’, James wrote, ‘than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar … [is the] subject of express volitional deliberation.’56 Once they had become embodied sensations, all repeated actions needed was a ‘cue’ to set off a chain of movements. As a good deal of consuming practices operate in this mode (eating, washing, playing sports, driving), how such habits are learned, passed on, and modified or broken is a subject of enormous importance, although it has received little attention from scholars of consumption until recently.57

(p. 535) Habit formation, secondly, was linked to social action and ethical progress. Unlike later commentators, James was interested less in how habits were imposed from the outside and more in how they were cultivated on the inside. For pragmatists, concrete action was the true base of ethical life. James acknowledged that there were many bad habits—drink in particular. Yet, habits could also improve character. James scorned passive entertainment and self-absorbed pleasures of the imagination that bore no practical fruit. ‘The habit of excessive novel-reading and theatre-going will produce true monsters …. The weeping of the Russian lady over the fictitious personages in the play, while her coachman is freezing to death on his seat outside, is the sort of thing that everywhere happens on a less glaring scale.’58 The remedy was to ensure that actions, through repetition, developed into the habitual partner of sentiment. A little daily exercise of doing something for no other reason than that we would rather not, would train our ‘habits of the will’ and prepare us for that moment when we might be confronted with a serious challenge. Over time, the routine of paying attention in school and work would strengthen the power of judgement. Repetition, in other words, far from making habitual actions trivial or mindless, nurtured critical faculties.

What has this got to do with consumption? A great deal. For this way of looking at behaviour managed to engage with both choice and routine, two modes that later became separated by neoclassical economics and studies of everyday life. Instead of treating choice as an instant, it viewed it more organically as a habit of reflection, something that could be trained and refined over the course of one's life. The home economics movement was one channel which brought this idea into public circulation, teaching thousands in the inter-war years how to develop ‘wise consumption choices’.59

That habits could be changed through consumption had been an intellectual leitmotiv since the Enlightenment if not earlier. From the late seventeenth century, writers noted how new tastes and goods stimulated industrious habits, and discussed the influence of comfort and convenience on social disposition and cultural refinement. We need to know more about what happened to this discourse after the eighteenth century and its relation to the engagement with habits and everyday things around 1900; William James, for example, had read Sydney Smith, an early nineteenth-century Anglican writer. Political economists continued to discuss ‘comfort’ and in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt offered one of the first histories expressly concerned with the material trappings of daily life and new habits of cleanliness and politeness.60

(p. 536) The fascination with the everyday in the years around 1900 owed a good deal to the transformation of comfort and the accumulation of objects, new and old, in previous generations. New research on the Parisian bourgeoisie, for example, has highlighted the great number of material changes that supported new sensibilities and habits in the course of the nineteenth century. Increasingly sophisticated locks on dressers and private bureaus as well as front doors created feelings of security and interiority. Curtains and carpets blocked out noise. The selective introduction of gas changed illumination. The cult of the antique fashioned new tastes and practices, such as collecting, and brought bric-a-brac and exotic objects into the home.61 In many ways, this preoccupation with ‘confort’ and advice in popular guidebooks on how best to arrange the interior to reflect one's own personality and taste, continued on tracks that reached back to the eighteenth century and the Renaissance.

What arguably distinguished the quotidian moment of the early twentieth century from earlier periods was the broad public interest in everyday life and the energetic attempts to transform it. Intellectuals and artists were carried along by a much bigger cultural and political current. In part, this was fed by a real material spring. Living standards were rising in the late nineteenth century and new objects, comforts, and domestic technologies were changing American and European homes. Standardization meanwhile triggered an interest in antiques, bric-a-brac, folk customs, and ‘authentic’ country furniture. Tellingly, one of the earliest and most ambitious collectors of popular everyday objects was Henry Ford, whose collection in Dearborn, Michigan, would stretch across 9 acres. Ethnographic exhibitions put on display American Indians cooking bread and Swedish peasants churning butter. Daily life, it was said, exhibited the civilizational state or ‘genius’ of a nation.

Which quotidian matters moved into focus depended on the viewer's political lens. In the United States, the everyday was largely seen in democratic outlines. The first living history museum opened in Oakland, California, in 1896 to give visitors a feel for the life and character of people in the past.62 A democratic society needed a people's history, not a story of great men. Historians, like ordinary citizens, should give their full attention to everyday things, Theodore Roosevelt said. In this broadly progressive vision, everyday life preserved a historical record of the growth of democracy. By contrast, the Soviet Union and Japan took a more aggressive approach in the inter-war years: their aim was to change it.

It is tempting, looking at the literature after the Second World War, to imagine everyday life as a bulwark against modernization, a fortress of true humanity under siege by the anonymous and inauthentic forces of bureaucracy and consumer capitalism. (p. 537) In the years after the First World War, however, everyday life was an object of modernization, not an escape from it. Indeed, in terms of public policy and discourse, it would not be far-fetched to say that everyday life was the child of modernizers. In the Soviet Union, it was a revolutionary conception, in Japan a reformist one. This difference notwithstanding, both looked to everyday life as a nursery of modern habits and mentalities. People would abandon feudal customs and folk beliefs and acquire instead habits of self-discipline and rational calculation.

To be successful, the Russian Revolution had to be followed by a revolution of everyday life, Trotsky announced in The Problems of Everyday Life in 1924.63 People carried with them an outdated material shell. It had to be replaced with one fit for socialism. The future did not only depend on how things were produced, but on how they were consumed. The avant-garde constructivist Boris Arvatov elaborated: bourgeois capitalism had split consumption from production, and high from low culture; socialist everyday life would reunite them, with labourers, artists, and intellectuals working together. Consumption, Arvatov argued, was decisive in shaping a people's ‘world-outlook and, more importantly, its world-feeling.’ The material everyday created a ‘person's cultural type.’ The United States, as the highest stage of capitalism, showed the way forward. Here things were ‘dynamized’ and ‘spoke for themselves.’ Arvatov listed collapsible furniture, automat restaurants, and reversible outfits as examples. Yet American capitalism still alienated things from nature. The remedy lay with new technologies of consumption. In electricity and the radio, ‘for the first time, producing and consuming forms of energy are applied in the same way; nature in its pure form penetrates society and becomes byt [daily life].’ Socialism would drive this process to its historical conclusion and usher in ‘the dominion of Things’ where objects and instruments reconnected people and nature.64

The reform of the ‘byt’ targeted the petit-bourgeois home and the oppression of women within it. Reform strategies reflected the changing realities of power. In the 1920s, party activists and feminists moved deep into the home and tried to eradicate private pleasures and routines. The party promoted communes and housing cooperatives. All socialists were expected to follow the same objective code of everyday behaviour. In the 1930s, official policy began a partial retreat. Instead of suppressing them, Stalin now tried to harness private desires and possessions to the goal of productivity. Stakhanovites, the most productive workers, were rewarded with a gramophone, and Boston suit or crêpe de Chine dress. Housewives were urged to beautify their private home, with needlework and tablecloths, not to smash the chains of their petit-bourgeois oppression.65 The retreat was never complete, however. The party, it was said, no longer (p. 538) had any business in interfering with ‘the trifles of everyday life’,66 as long as people's behaviour still served its interests. Personal cleanliness became the touchstone of socialist civilization, the full, untrimmed beard its enemy. The wives of party leaders swarmed across the country to bring mirrors and razors to work units. It is doubtful they had read William James, but they appreciated how daily habits conditioned the self. Shaving and other daily routines left their mark on internal will as well as external appearance. They embodied self-discipline and self-respect.

In Japan, the reform of everyday life (seikatsu kaizen) was led by a coalition of state ministries, professionals, women's groups, and other civic organizations. It combined nationalist and progressive goals. ‘Everyday life’, a Home Ministry official explained, ‘is the expression of the nation's thought, and national thought appears and takes the form of everyday life.’67 Rationalizing daily life would simultaneously improve social welfare (by cutting waste) and strengthen the nation (by catapulting it from feudalism into modernity).68 Superstitious customs would be cast off in favour of a more instrumental rationality. Costly weddings and funerals had to stop, personal budgeting to start. Housewives and husbands were asked to pay attention to time, in the sense of being punctual but, equally importantly, of planning ahead for the future. They were urged to improve society by improving themselves, in their hygiene, their clothing, and their domestic comfort. These reform initiatives extended from the everyday life exhibitions of modern dwellings and kitchens in the 1920s to the ‘new life’ campaigns of the 1950s.69 The budget book, the savings account, and the modern kitchen, with gas, running water, and functional work units, where the housewife could carry out tasks standing up, were the material manifestations of a ‘better’ everyday life.

What these initiatives suggest is that we must be careful to avoid simple oppositions. Japanese reformers and many intellectuals in the 1920s and 30s were drawn to everyday life not as a conservative refuge from change but as a modern stimulus to it. Although they have yet to receive serious attention in the general literature, Japanese intellectuals were amongst the pioneers of an ethnography of everyday life. The architect Kon Wajirō, who observed urban life from street corners, dreamt of a new discipline of ‘modernologio’ (kokengaku) that would study the ‘abnormal’. Its explicit goal was to change everyday life. Consumption—and American jazz, film, and fashion in particular—was appreciated (p. 539) as a source of subjectivity.70 The context of modernization in which Japanese intellectuals found themselves thus placed them in a different relation to the everyday and to past and future than better-known European contemporaries like Walter Benjamin. For Benjamin, capitalist modernity had cast a dream-like spell over people. Urban spaces and everyday things were passageways into the past—and for the scholar, therapeutic routes to wake them up. Benjamin likened shopping arcades to ‘caves containing the fossil remains of a vanished monster: the consumer of the pre-imperial era of capitalism, the last dinosaur of Europe.’71 For Japanese writers, by contrast, the everyday embodied the future. It was the feudal past which had been an inauthentic dream. Some, like Gonda Yasunosuke, who studied bars, brothels, and cinemas in Tokyo's Asakusa district, feared modernity might result in homogenization, turning the Japanese into slaves of things. Many others, however, saw the quotidian as liberating. For Kon Wajirō, people regained agency through things and choice. Unlike feudal customs, which had been top-down and ceremonial, everyday life was authentic and immediate. The modern home, street life, and quotidian pleasures were sources of self-awareness and revealed the true soul of the people. A generation before Lefebvre, the Marxist Tosaka Jun urged philosophers to take clothes and objects seriously. The everyday, he argued, was the true reality philosophers had failed to see.72

The Japanese case further illustrates the danger of approaching habit and choice as always opposed, one belonging to everyday life, the other to the market. For reformers in Japan, everyday life was about replacing ‘bad’ customary habits with ‘good’ modern habits. Routines such as keeping a budget book would help families make informed choices about saving and spending. It was choice which distinguished everyday life from custom, and which made consumption the main focus of attention for reformers and intellectuals.

Harry Harootunian, who has done most to illuminate the Japanese engagement with the quotidian, has stressed how the everyday emerged in the context of urban modernity—hence, the focus on cinemas, urban fashion, and the ethnography of street life. Urban modernity, however, had a private as well as a public side. For the appreciation of everyday life as well as its praxis, the home played a crucial role. Arguably, domestic and urban space are best seen as symbiotic. In Japan in the 1920s, reformers wanted dwellings to be stripped of ornamentation, modified for chairs, and equipped with simple, sturdy furniture. After the Second World War, new housing introduced functional Western room design. We know from recent ethnographic work that these material changes did not lead to a wholesale Westernization of domestic life; in their flats, families created (p. 540) Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and built alcoves (tokonoma) to house ornaments, souvenirs, and spiritual objects.73 In Europe, similarly, families moved into modern housing but, once inside, remained immune to the pleas of modernist architects and designers for functional simplicity and Neue Sachlichkeit. At the same time, the urban networks that delivered running water, gas, and later electricity marked a break in many ‘ordinary’ routines, from cooking and bathing to going to the toilet and reading under a gas light.


In Cultural Revolutions, one of the few books that explicitly sets out to follow the politics of everyday life, Leora Auslander examines the place of quotidian objects and material habits in the English, American, and French revolutions (1640s, 1760s–1770s, and 1789–1800). All revolutionaries quickly found that changing people's minds required changing material culture. The English banned dancing, Americans donned homespun clothes, and the French sans-culottes made long trousers the republican uniform.74 Yet, what is, perhaps, equally striking is how marginal the impact of these revolutions was on everyday life in the long run. Once they were over, dress and eating returned to earlier patterns. For a revolution like the French one, which set out to create a new world with its own calendar and language, the legacy on everyday life was miniscule, leaving behind little more than the tricoloured cockade and a national anthem. It fades into insignificance when compared to the transformations brought about by railways, running water, the motor car, or the television set.

If we move forward in time to the Russian Revolution (1917) and China's Cultural Revolution (post-1966), the repercussions are more dramatic. This was, in part, because socialism explicitly targeted the home as the incubator of bourgeois habits and mentalities. Such interventions often had surprisingly unintended consequences. In China, Mao mobilized young men and women against their parents in the hope of diverting their loyalty from the family to the party. What happened instead was that Chinese youths acquired a sense of personal autonomy and material entitlement. The anthropologist Yunxiang Yan has charted the spread of possessive individualism in village communities in Heilongijang province in north-east China. When the local party structures started to wither away in the 1970s, it left behind a culture of ‘privatism’. Instead of a communal material culture, the legacy of the Cultural Revolution was homes with individual rooms, possessions, and leisure pursuits. Parents and children started to watch their favourite programmes on separate TV sets in separate rooms.75

(p. 541) The politics of everyday life is not limited to the express designs or unintended consequences of revolutions, however. Taking their cue from the late Michel Foucault and the social theorist Nikolas Rose, recent historians have moved the inquiry from formal politics to ‘governmentality’, that is, the practices and mentalities which authorities have used to govern their citizens. Here attention shifts from institutional structures (parties, ministries, trade unions) to the technologies of everyday life, such as gas lighting, postboxes, abattoirs, and toilets. In nineteenth-century Britain, it is argued, these technologies taught people to discipline themselves according to a liberal ideal of self-regulation. Personal hygiene has been treated as a test case, the private cubicle of the toilet as its material manifestation.76 There is little doubt that these new urban networks cast social relations in a new political light. Street gas lamps were critical for the ability to see the poor, for example. As Chris Otter has noted in his history of light in Victorian England, the political consequences of these technologies were far from straightforward.77 While better lighting and transport enhanced freedom by facilitating circulation, it also threatened freedom by bringing people and things into collision with each other.

Research on governmentality has been helpful in broadening the scope of politics to include its material articulation. At the same time, the shift from actors and institutions to strategies of rule has made it often difficult to know exactly who did what to whom. The relation of ‘governmentality’ to more conventional forms of political power and ideas remains unclear. How much was the ‘liberal’ governmentality attributed to gas lighting and water closets, for example, a function of these technologies, how much of the liberal political culture of Victorian Britain? After all, these technologies also spread across nationalist, authoritarian, and, in the inter-war years, to socialist and fascist societies. Governmentality studies work with such a strong theoretical lens that they end up finding strikingly similar techniques of rule in all sorts of historically specific and varying situations, from Victorian cities to urban China today.78 While governmentality studies therefore are a welcome shift away from conventional political history, they tend to replicate a top-down view that sees the everyday as an object on which experts, architects, and reformers impose desired, new forms of behaviour. The primary attention is on the rationalities of self-rule hidden in the designs of planners and engineers. Actual practices of consumption often disappear from view.

In fact, everyday life has been remarkably porous, open in both directions; politics flows outwards as well as inwards. This double flow has varied considerably across time in terms of force and substance, depending not only on technological innovation but on existing private practices, as well as the public norms and institutions available for collective action. Nineteenth-century conflicts over gas and water illustrate some of the ways new technologies brought politics across the doorstep. The appropriate use of gas was (p. 542) a constant bone of contention between consumers and providers. Many householders worried about safety. Before going to bed, they would lock their doors and switch off the main valve, against the advice of the gas company. Measuring consumption was a second problem. Engineers were in despair over the many users who misread their meters or, worse, manipulated them with magnets or enlarged the gas openings.79 Consumers meanwhile were enraged when they were charged the full rate for lights that often only flickered. In a few cases, they were driven to collective action and even set up their own company—Parisians formed a Union des Consumateurs de Gaz in 1879. Generally speaking, however, these conflicts were fought out one by one and rarely spilled over into organized consumer politics.

Water generated a more powerful political current, especially in Victorian England. Water connected new practices and ideals of comfort and cleanliness with thorny issues of public health and a political tradition of the citizen as ratepayer. In Britain, landlords paid for water as citizens of their local government on the basis of their local property tax. Irritation at being overcharged by private monopolies was thus easily translated from an individual into a civic grievance, raising questions of rights and democratic accountability. Some called for a ‘water parliament’. In the early 1880s, ‘consumer defence leagues’ sprang up in London to defend the rights of water consumers.

As the networks changed habits and levels of consumption, other troubles began to bubble to the surface. Baths were a classic problem of the political tensions that could arise from the normalization of a practice. Traditionally, baths had been treated as a luxury, for which water companies were entitled to charge ‘extra’, over and above the rate for ‘domestic’ purposes. As baths spread, however, and bathing was accepted as a normal part of domestic life, such premium charges started to look atavistic, a barrier to public morality, cleanliness, and a civilized lifestyle. In Sheffield, respectable townsmen formed a Bath Defence Association and led a consumer boycott.

The arrival of constant supply in the big cities, in the 1880s–1890s, raised political tensions to new heights. In one generation, Londoners, poor and rich alike, became used to having water on demand, night and day. When a series of droughts hit London in the mid-1890s, it forced the water companies to suspend constant supply. People were furious. The companies blamed the drought on ‘wasteful’ consumers and urged the public to conserve water. Consumers ignored them and blamed profit-hungry companies instead. Workers and housewives, progressives and socialists, joined in widespread protests. A public takeover followed in 1904.80

These cases raise substantive as well as methodological questions about the nature of the everyday and its relation to non-everyday processes and power. For one, they point (p. 543) to the limitations of approaching the everyday as a separate, intimate sphere, parochial, inward looking and instinctively conservative. The terrain of everyday life is more differentiated. New technologies like water pipes, hot baths, flush toilets, and constant running water changed practices of consumption which, in turn, generated norms and expectations that could exert pressure on public life and politics. The clean Victorian who enjoyed the comfort of his home was not only an individual end-user but also a citizen with ideas about his public rights as a ratepayer. By 1900 cleanliness and access to running water had almost become a democratic right that carried with it obligations for public authorities. The creation of urban networks, meanwhile, also tied households together in new interdependent relationships. In Victorian England, a vibrant associational life ensured that these material networks were civic as much as technical affairs.

Everyday life, then, stands in a reciprocal relation to civil society as well as state and economy. The dialogical flow has been well captured by the contemporary historian Paul Ginsborg, who has presented families as the ‘agents of everyday life’ and nodal points of civil society. Families are distinguished by their ‘plasticity’, he notes, and their ability to change. This makes their relation to the outside world flexible and contingent. They can be inward looking and withdrawn or they can be ‘porous … open not closed, curious and willing to intermingle.’81 The orientation of everyday life therefore is not given but results from the interplay of family, civil society, and state. How that interface has changed over time deserves greater attention from historians.

A second qualification concerns resistance. The celebration of ruses, horseplay, and resistance has come naturally in a dualistic world view that sees the everyday as the space where ordinary people try to retain their creative individuality against big systems. It is rather less helpful if we want to understand the career of ordinary consumption practices, such as washing, cooking, or driving, that are tied to technological networks. People are not only rebels or victims. Their daily habits ratchet up aggregate demand and help shape the technological systems that try to meet it. They ‘co-construct’ systems of provision, in the words of science and technology studies.82 One lesson from the rising levels of water consumption in the modern era is just how impossible authorities have found it to control and modify daily practices; in London, after constant supply was introduced, many householders just left the tap running in the summer to water their gardens overnight. In the years around 1900, municipal authorities and social democrats believed that once water was in public hands, civic spirit would encourage conservation and eliminate private waste and future droughts. Repeated scarcities and water stress in the following decades exposed this belief as naive. Once people developed routines of watering their garden with a water hose, washing their cars, and taking more frequent baths and (later) showers, it was difficult to break such habits. Behind the expanding volume and infrastructure of consumption lurk the everyday practices of millions.

(p. 544) One innovative development in the study of everyday life in recent years has been the turn to practices.83 Practices—eating, reading, taking photos, holidaying, and so forth—involve the integration of materials, meanings, and skills. An electric oven on its own does not make a meal or shape how a family has dinner. In contrast to governmentality, the practice approach takes seriously that it is ultimately people who have to integrate the different elements for a practice to arise and to continue. At the same time, it recognizes that the accomplishment and coordination of practices are not personal quirks but conditioned by larger societal configurations. Time use studies, for example, record remarkable differences in the distribution of practices. In France, people sit down for a leisurely lunch and dinner whereas in Finland they snack throughout the day. Energy and water use, similarly, follow different cycles.84 Everyday life ticks to a variety of rhythms in modern societies, depending on a whole range of regionally and socially specific temporal configurations, from different work, commuting, and housing patterns, to holidays and school hours, down to the opening hours of the local shop. New practices can compete and crowd out old practices.

Instead of carving up life into micro-quotidian and macro-structures, research on practices recognizes, as Lefebvre did, that they are entwined, although not always in the same manner. Practices take us into how consumption is done. They are a reminder that we are dealing with processes that involve learning (and forgetting) and require feats of coordination with other practices. Consumption can be seen as a long evolutionary story of the rise, mutation, and diversification of some practices and the extinction of others. These are historical processes, although we still know relatively little about what the normalization of a practice (or its death) precisely looked like.85 One way forward for research is to use moments of disruption such as water scarcity, electric blackouts, and traffic jams as historical passageways into the creation of normality. The normal does not just happen. Breakdowns reveal the effort needed to integrate technology, meaning, and competence to keep a practice going.86

In the debate about consumer society—past and present—the terms have been set by affluence, choice, and variety. It would be foolish to deny their impact on public policies, academic practice, and ideas of the good life. One unfortunate legacy, however, has been to treat consumption as the natural twin of market societies, alien to socialist economies. Proceeding from practices, normalization, and disruption instead of individual (p. 545) choice and motivation leads to a more ecumenical approach. Bathing, watching television, home improvement, driving, and many other consumption practices spread in socialist everyday life as well as under capitalism. There may have been fewer brands to choose from in the socialist bloc in the 1960s–1980s, but Eastern like Western Europeans were entangled in an historically unprecedented, ever more complex web of consumption practices.

Where socialism made a difference was to their social distribution, coordination, and politicization. Fewer cars meant less driving, fewer showers less showering. On the other hand, the shortage of consumer goods gave a special boost to other practices like home improvement, knitting, and sewing. Above all, socialism exacerbated the challenge of coordination, especially for women. Queuing for goods ate up time that could have been devoted to other practices. We have earlier pleaded for a more porous conception of the everyday. This also applies to socialist countries like the German Democratic Republic (GDR), although here it was the state, not civil society, which provided the political interface. The GDR operated an elaborate petitioning system. Set up to contain dissent, the petitions developed into a forum for hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens to voice their frustrations about poor-quality housing, the interminable wait for a car, shoddy service and queuing in vain for a new pair of shoes for the children. These petitions did not galvanize organized opposition but it would be equally wrong to discount their political effect. What they did was to foster a political subjectivity by making citizens articulate what ‘normal’ daily life should be like, and connect its shortcomings with the failure of the state to deliver that normality. Was it really ‘normal’, petitioners asked, that one had to suspend ordinary life and take a holiday to hunt down a pair of children's shoes or return a faulty product to the factory for the umpteenth time? The failure to coordinate everyday practices satisfactorily became the failure of the regime.87

In the modern world, conventions of comfort and convenience and the ways of eating, dressing, and dwelling associated with them, were not only home-grown and national, but exported by traders, missionaries, and imperialists. The ‘civilizing mission’ of the nineteenth century involved the global scaling-up of provincial European norms and practices. Eating with cutlery and napkins, sleeping in beds in stone houses, washing with soap, and putting on trousers and dresses, these became universal ideals. It is impossible to make sense of the global distribution of this material civilization without the role played by empire.

At the same time, global food and commodity chains changed the ethical scale of everyday life. Eating breakfast and sipping tea now connected consumers in one continent to producers in another. Potentially, the politics of everyday life was now global. It can be tempting to trace back today's ethical consumer movements to the boycotts (p. 546) of slave-grown sugar around 1800. Historical reality was less straightforward and progressive. Liberals dreamt of a world where trade connected people and continents in webs of interdependence. But by 1900, few people in the affluent north troubled themselves with the conditions of the millions in the south who sweated to procure the ingredients of their comfort. Coffee, cocoa, and many other colonial products previously prized for their exotic qualities were nationalized, rebranded as national mass consumer goods. Interestingly, it was at the very time that Westerners discovered the consumer in New York, Berlin, London, and Paris that they forgot about the African consumer. In the inter-war years, caring at a distance meant privileged British housewives buying Canadian apples and Kenyan coffee to support their white cousins in the empire.88


For the study of consumption, everyday life is central since so much is about how people actually use things and services. In the study of everyday life this centrality has taken two forms. While one tradition warned of mind-numbing consumerism and standardization, others have celebrated the everyday for giving rise to creative acts of consumption and resistance. When historians were drawn to everyday life in the 1970s they tended to view it as a sphere separate from politics and commerce, where ordinary people lived their lives according to their own logic. There were compelling historiographical reasons for this approach at the time, but, in retrospect, we can see how it simultaneously separated historical research from the intellectual pre-history of everyday life and from alternative ways of looking at the subject. This chapter has tried to stretch out the topic, historically and conceptually. Everyday life was neither a new product of the Cold War, nor was (or is) it a natural site of resistance to modernization. On the contrary, in the early twentieth century it attracted attention from revolutionaries and reformers as a vehicle of modernization. Like any large concept and phenomenon, the everyday has been conceived differently in different traditions. To treat it as a separate sphere that stands in opposition to state and capitalism is an ideological choice, not some given reality. In fact, everyday practices have often interacted with state and civil society.

Because they are concrete does not mean quotidian practices are ‘micro’ phenomena that can be studied apart from ‘macro’ systems. It is a methodological fallacy to collapse size and scale. In ordinary consumption practices such as washing, eating, and driving tiny actions combine with vast networks. Science and technological studies have concerned themselves with their material impact. But their political and ethical scale are perhaps of equal interest. Everyday life is often defined as trivial, but this does not mean (p. 547) it is necessarily numbed or unreflective. Trivial acts, especially when they are embodied through eating and drinking, could at times carry enormous ethical force. How and why the ethics of everyday life has changed over time is a rich subject for future historians.


Auslander, Leora, Cultural Revolutions: The Politics of Everyday Life in Britain, North America and France (Oxford: Berg, 2009).Find this resource:

    Brewer, John, ‘Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life’, Cultural & Social History, 7/1 (2010), pp. 87–110.Find this resource:

      Certeau, Michel de, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984; 1st French edn. 1974).Find this resource:

        Ehn, Billy, and Löfgren, Orvar, The Secret World of Doing Nothing, (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2010).Find this resource:

          Fitzpatrick, Sheila, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford: Oxford Unversity Press, 1999).Find this resource:

            Ginsborg, Paul, The Politics of Everyday Life: Making Choices, Changing Lives (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005).Find this resource:

              Harootunian, Harry, History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural, Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life (New York: Columbia University Press 2000).Find this resource:

                Highmore, Ben (ed.), The Everyday Life Reader (London: Routledge, 2002).Find this resource:

                  Lefebvre, Henri, The Critique of Everyday Life, 3 vols. (1947, 1961, 1981; English trans. London: Verso, 1991, 2002, 2005).Find this resource:

                    Lüdtke, Alf (ed.), Alltagsgeschichte: Zur Rekonstruktion historischer Erfahrungen und Lebensweisen (Frankfurt: Campus, 1989).Find this resource:

                      Moran, Joe, Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast to Bedtime (London: Profile Books, 2007).Find this resource:

                        Ross, Kristin, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (Cambridge MA: MIT, 1996).Find this resource:

                          Sheringham, Michael, Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).Find this resource:

                            Shove, Elizabeth, Trentmann, Frank, and Wilk, Richard (eds.), Time, Consumption, and Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2009).Find this resource:

                              Taylor, Vanessa, and Trentmann, Frank, ‘Liquid Politics: Water and the Politics of Everyday Life in the Modern City’, Past and Present, 211 (2011).Find this resource:


                                (1) ‘History and literature’, Presidential address to the American Historical Association, repr. in Theodore Roosevelt, History as Literature and Other Essays (New York, 2006), pp. 27–9.

                                (2) Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1 (Paris, 1947, 2nd edn. 1958; English edn. London, 1991), p. 127.

                                (3) Agnes Heller, Das Alltagsleben: Versuch einer Erklärung der individuellen Reproduktion (Budapest 1970; German edn. Berlin 1978), p. 25, my translation.

                                (4) ‘Hirsebrei’; Hans-Ulrich Wehler, ‘Königsweg zu neuen Ufern oder Irrgarten der Illusionen? Die westdeutsche Alltagsgeschichte’, in Franz-Josef Brüggemeier and Jürgen Kocka (eds.), Geschichte von unten—Geschichte von innen: Kontroversen um die Alltagsgeschichte (Hagen, 1985), pp. 17–47, at p. 37.

                                (5) Georges Perec, L’infra-ordinaire (Paris, 1990).

                                (6) For the consumption of history, see Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: Popular Experience of the Past (London, 2005).

                                (7) In addition to the popular wave of biographies of things, see Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, 1986); Bill Brown, ‘Thing Theory’, Critical Inquiry, 28/1 (2001), pp. 1–22; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (New York, 2001); Susan Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan (Berkeley, CA, 1997); Daniel Roche, A History of Everyday Things: The Birth of Consumption in France 1600–1800, trans. Brian Pearce (Cambridge, 2000); Frank Trentmann, ‘Materiality in the Future of History: Things, Practices, and Politics’, Journal of British Studies 48/2 (April 2009), pp. 283–307.

                                (8) Norbert Elias, ‘Zum Begriff des Alltags’, in Kurt Hammerich and Michael Klein (eds.), Materialien zur Soziologie des Alltags (Opladen, 1978), pp. 22–9; Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (1939, Engl. edn Oxford 1994).

                                (9) Henri Lefebvre, The Critique of Everyday Life, 3 vols. (1947, 1961, 1981; English trans. London, 1991, 2002, 2005); Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984; 1st French edn. 1974). Kristin Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (Cambridge MA, 1996); John Brewer, ‘Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life’, Cultural & Social History, 7/1 (2010), pp. 87–110.

                                (10) Brewer, ‘Microhistory’. See also Jacques Revel, ‘Introduction’, in Jacques Revel and Lynn Hunt (eds.), Histories: French Constructions of the Past (New York, 1995).

                                (11) Michael Sheringham, Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present (Oxford, 2006).

                                (12) Fernand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life (New York, 1981).

                                (13) Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday, Vol. II (Paris 1961; English edn. London, 2002), p. 75, and p. 145.

                                (14) See Sheringham, Everyday Life, pp. 212–47.

                                (15) Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 2, p. 34, see also pp. 4, 70–4.

                                (16) Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 2, p. 91.

                                (17) Henri Lefebvre, The Critique of Everyday Life: From Modernity to Modernism, Vol. III (Paris, 1981; English edn. London, 2005), pp. 79–82, 122–8. Compare, John Clarke, Janet E. Newman, Nick Smith, Elizabeth Vidler, and Louise Westmarland, Creating Citizen-Consumers: Changing Publics and Changing Public Services (London, 2007).

                                (18) Compare Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1, pp. 170–2 and Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 2, pp. 79–81 with Marx's ‘On the Jewish Question’ (1844) in Karl Marx, Early Political Writings, ed. Joseph O’Malley (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 28–56.

                                (19) Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World (New Brunswick, NJ 1971), p. 23.

                                (20) Guy Debord, ‘Perspectives for Conscious Alternations in Everyday Life’ (1961), repr. in Ben Highmore (ed.), The Everyday Life Reader (London, 2002), pp. 238–45. The relationship between Lefebvre and Debord, however, should not be exaggerated and was more tenuous than sometimes presumed; see the reconstruction by Vincent Kaufmann, Guy Debord; Revolution in the Service of Poetry (Minneapolis, 2006) pp. 165–72.

                                (21) Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 2, p. 241.

                                (22) Richard F. Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (Berkeley, CA, 1993); Axel Schildt, Detlef Siegfried, and Karl Christian Lammers (eds.), Dynamische Zeiten: Die 60er Jahre in den beiden deutschen Gesellschaften (Hamburg, 2000); Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through 20th-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2005).

                                (23) For biographical and intellectual connections between Lefebvre, Georges Perec, the experimental novelist of Les Choses (1965), and Roland Barthes, who studied the sign power of advertising in these years, see Sheringham, Everyday Life.

                                (24) Jean Baudrillard, La Société de Consummation (Paris, 1970), p. 264.

                                (25) Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Paris 1984, engl. edn.Cambridge, MA, 1979).

                                (26) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, CA, 1984; 1st French edn. 1974), p. xvii.

                                (27) François Dosse, L’histoire en miettes: des Annales à la nouvelle histoire (Paris, 1987); Lutz Raphael, Die Erben von Bloch und Febvre: Annales-Geschichtsschreibung und nouvelle histoire in Frankreich, 1945–80 (Stuttgart, 1994).

                                (28) Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism (Baltimore, MD, 1979), p. 7.

                                (29) Belinda J. Davis, Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000); Maureen Healy, Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire: Total War and Everyday Life in World War I (Cambridge, 2004); Shannon Lee Fogg, The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables, and Strangers (Cambridge, 2008).

                                (30) Dorothee Wierling, ‘Alltagsgeschichte und Geschichte der Geschlechterbeziehungen’, in Alf Lüdtke (ed.), Alltagsgeschichte: Zur Rekonstruktion historischer Erfahrungen und Lebensweisen (Frankfurt, 1989), p. 171.

                                (31) Hans Medick, ‘Plebeian culture in the transition to capitalism’, in Raphael Samuel and Gareth Stedman Jones (eds.), Culture, Ideology and Politics (London, 1982), pp. 84–112; at length, see now John Styles, The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, CT, 2007).

                                (32) Alf Lüdtke, ‘Cash, Coffee-Breaks, Horseplay: Eigensinn and Politics among Factory Workers in Germany Circa 1900’, in Michael Hanagan and Charles Stephenson (eds.), Confrontation, Class Consciousness, and the Labor Process (New York, 1986), pp. 65–95; Belinda Davis, Thomas Lindenberger, and Michael Wildt (eds.), Alltag, Erfahrung, Eigensinn: Historisch-Anthropologische Erkundungen (Frankfurt, 2008).

                                (33) Lüdtke, ‘Cash, Coffee-Breaks, Horseplay’.

                                (34) Raphael Samuel, ‘People's History’, in Raphael Samuel (ed.), People's History and Socialist Theory (London, 1981), p. xxxi.

                                (35) Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory (London, 1994).

                                (36) Samuel, ‘People's History’, p. xxxi.

                                (37) See the special issue edited by Alice Kaplan and Kristin Ross, ‘Everyday Life’, Yale French Studies, 73 (1987).

                                (38) German sociologists took earlier notice; see Thomas Kleinspehn, Der verdrängte Alltag: Henri Lefebvres Marxistische Kritik des Alltagslebens (Giessen, 1975).

                                (39) The historical engagement with Americanization came later; see Alf Lüdtke, Inge Marssolek and Adelheid von Saldein (eds.), Amerikanisierung: Traum and Alptraum im Deutschland des 20. Jahrchunderts (Stuttgart, 1996).

                                (40) Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life (New Haven, CT, 1982); Laura Passerini, ‘Work, Ideology and Consensus under Italian Fascism’, History Workshop, 8 (1979), pp. 82–108.

                                (41) Alf Lüdtke, ‘Einleitung’, in Alf Lüdtke (ed.), Alltagsgeschichte, p. 10, my translation.

                                (42) Lutz Niethammer, ‘Einleitung’, in Lutz Niethammer (ed.), Die Jahre weiss Man nicht wo Man sie Hinsetzen soll: Faschismuserfahrungen im Ruhrgebiet (Berlin, 1983), p. 20, my translation.

                                (43) Debord, ‘Perspectives for Alterations in Everyday Life’, p. 240.

                                (44) Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1, p. 94.

                                (45) Brewer, ‘Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life’.

                                (46) Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 2, pp. 145 f. There is an interesting affinity here with the idea of cultural regression and a decline in ‘real’ pleasure, including sex, in John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (New York, 1958), pp. 218–9.

                                (47) See the chapters by Pennell and Shove in this volume.

                                (48) Pat Hudson, ‘Closeness and Distance’, Cutural & Social History, 7 (2010), pp. 375–85, at pp. 376–7.

                                (49) Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren, The Secret World of Doing Nothing (Berkeley CA, 2010).

                                (50) Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (1923; English edn. 1971). See further, Edward Roberts, Philosophizing the Everyday: Revolutionary Praxis and the Fate of Cultural Theory (London, 2006).

                                (51) See Kurt Hammerich and Michael Klein (eds.), Materialien zur Soziologie des Alltags (Opladen, 1978).

                                (52) Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, (Tübingen, 1927; 2nd edn. 2001). Lefebvre warmed to Heidegger's later Holzwege (1959). Recent attempts at a left-Heideggerianism have been criticized as ‘philosophically incoherent’—Geoffrey Waite, ‘Lefebvre without Heidegger: Left-Heidegerianism qua contradictio in adiecto’, in Kanishka Goonewardena, Stefan Kipfer, Richard Milgrom, and Christian Schmid (eds.), Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (New York, 2008), p. 106. This does not diminish their interest as a historical phenomenon. On earlier sociologists, see Hammerich and Klein (eds.), Materialien zur Soziologie des Alltags.

                                (53) Max Weber, ‘Die drei reinen Typen der legitimen Herrschaft’, in Soziologie, universalgeschichtliche Analysen, Politik (Stuttgart 1973), p. 163.

                                (54) Lecture at Wellesley College, 1905, repr. in William James, Pragmatism (Cambridge MA, 1975), Appendix 2, at p. 275.

                                (55) William James, The Principles of Psychology (New York, 1890), Vol. 1, p. 121.

                                (56) James, The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, p. 122.

                                (57) Jukka Gronow and Alan Warde (eds.), Ordinary Consumption (London, 2001); E. Shove, Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience: The Social Organisation of Normality (Oxford, 2003); Elizabeth Shove, Frank Trentmann, and Richard Wilk (eds.), Time, Consumption, and Everyday Life (Oxford, 2009).

                                (58) James, The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, p. 125. For a more sympathetic account of these cultural practices, see John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination (New York, 1997).

                                (59) Hazel Kyrk, Economic Problems of the Family (New York, 1929), p. 391; John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York, 1922). Compare Mark Bevir and Frank Trentmann, ‘Civic Choices: Retrieving Perspectives on Rationality, Consumption, and Citizenship’, in Soper, Kate, and Frank Trentmann, eds. Citizenship and Consumption: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. (Basingstoke, 2007), pp. 19–33.

                                (60) Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860, New York 2nd edn. 1958); Wilhelm Roscher, Principles of Political Economy, trans. John J. Lalor (New York, 1878), pp. 231–2.

                                (61) Manuel Charpy, ‘Le Théâtre Des Objets: Espaces Privés, Culture Matérielle et Identité Bourgeoise, Paris 1830–1914’, 2 vols., Ph.D. thesis (Université François-Rabelais de Tours, 2010). See also Clive Edwards, Turning Houses into Homes: A History of the Retailing and Consumption of Domestic Furnishings (Aldershot, 2005); Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions (New Haven, CT, 2006).

                                (62) Bill Brown, A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature (Chicago, 2003), pp. 108 f., and more generally for the turn to things in this period.

                                (63) Leon Trotsky, The Problems of Everyday Life (1924; engl. edn New York 1973).

                                (64) Boris Arvatov, ‘Everyday Life and the Culture of the Thing (1925), Transl. By C. Kiaer’, October, 81 (1997), pp. 119–28.

                                (65) Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935–41 (Cambridge, 1988); Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford, 1999); Jukka Gronow, Caviar with Champagne: Common Luxury and the Ideals of the Good Life in Stalin's Russia (Oxford and New York, 2003). See also Fitzpatrick's chapter in this volume.

                                (66) Rabonitsa, 1936, cited in Victor Buchli, An Archaeology of Socialism (Oxford and New York, 1999), p. 78. See also Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1995).

                                (67) Tago Ichimin, quoted in Jordan Sand, House and Home in Modern Japan: Architecture, Domestic Space, and Bourgeois Culture, 1880–1930 (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 183.

                                (68) It broadly looked to a middle-class ideal of domesticity—similar orientations can be found in colonial India and elsewhere, although the global circulation of this domestic ideal deserves further research. See Judith E. Walsh, Domesticity in Colonial India: What Women Learned When Men Gave Them Advice (Lanham, MD, 2004); Douglas Haynes, Abigail McGowan, Tirthankar Roy, and Haruka Yanagisawa (eds.), Towards a History of Consumption in South Asia (Oxford, 2010).

                                (69) Sheldon Garon, Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life (Princeton NJ, 1997).

                                (70) Harry Harootunian, History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural, Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life ( New York, 2000), esp. pp. 126–8. Several Japanese writers had been influenced by Heidegger.

                                (71) Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Eiland Howard and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA, 1999), p. 540, R2, 3.

                                (72) Harry Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture and Community in Interwar Japan (Princeton, NJ, 2000), esp. chapters 2 and 3. As Harootunian points out, not all commentators were progressive. By 1942, the quotidian was also championed by those who wanted an Asian zone ruled by Japan and looked to it as a glue between past and present.

                                (73) Inge Daniels, The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home (Oxford, 2010).

                                (74) Leora Auslander, Cultural Revolutions: The Politics of Everyday Life in Britain, North America and France (Oxford, 2009). Compare, Richard Wrigley, The Politics of Appearances: Representations of Dress in Revolutionary France (Oxford, 2002).

                                (75) Yunxiang Yan, Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949–99 (Stanford, CA, 2003).

                                (76) Tom Crook, ‘Power, Privacy and Pleasure: Liberalism and the Modern Cubicle’, Cultural Studies, 21/4–5 (2007), pp. 549–69; Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London, 2003). For further discussion, see Trentmann, ‘Materiality in the Future of History’.

                                (77) Chris Otter, The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800–1910 (Chicago, 2008).

                                (78) Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong (eds.), Privatizing China: Socialism from Afar (Ithaca, NY, 2008).

                                (79) Graeme J. N. Gooday, The Morals of Measurement: Accuracy, Irony, and Trust in Late Victorian Electrical Practice (Cambridge, 2004); Martin Daunton, ‘The Material Politics of Natural Monopoly: Consuming Gas in Victorian Britain’, in Martin Daunton and Matthew Hilton (eds.), The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America (Oxford, 2001), 69–88.

                                (80) Vanessa Taylor and Frank Trentmann, ‘Liquid Politics: Water and the Politics of Everyday Life in the Modern City’, Past and Present, 211 (May 2011). For France, see Jean-Pierre Goubert, The Conquest of Water: The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age (Princeton, NJ, 1989).

                                (81) Paul Ginsborg, The Politics of Everyday Life: Making Choices, Changing Lives (New Haven, CT and London, 2005), pp. 91–2.

                                (82) Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch (eds.), How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (Cambridge, MA, 2003).

                                (83) Theodore R Schatzki, Karin Knorr-Cetina, and Eike von Savigny (eds.), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory (London, 2001); Alan Warde, ‘Consumption and Theories of Practice’, Journal of Consumer Culture, 5/2 (2005), pp. 131–53; Elizabeth Shove, Matthew Watson, Martin Hand, and Jack Ingram, The Design of Everyday Life (Oxford, 2007).

                                (84) Elizabeth Shove, ‘Everyday Practice and the Production and Consumption of Time’, in Shove, Trentmann, and Wilk (eds.), Time, Consumption, and Everyday Life, pp. 17–33.

                                (85) Some insights are in Daniel Roche, A History of Everyday Things; Gail Cooper, Air-Conditioning America: Engineers and the Controlled Environment, 1900–1960 (Baltimore, MD, 1998). See also the chapter by Shove in this volume.

                                (86) David E. Nye, When the Lights Went Out: A History of Blackouts in America (Cambridge MA, 2010); Frank Trentmann, ‘Disruption is Normal: Blackouts, Breakdowns and the Elasticity of Everyday Life’, in Shove, Trentmann, and Wilk (eds.), Time, Consumption, and Everyday Life, pp. 67–84.

                                (87) Frank Trentmann, ‘Kurze Unterbrechung—Bitte Entschuldigen Sie die Störung—Zusammenbruch, Zäsur und Zeitlichkeit als Perspektiven einer europäischen Konsumgeschichte’, in Sven Oliver Müller, Christina Benninghaus, Jörg Requate, and Charlotte Tacke (eds.), Unterwegs in Europa: Beiträge zu einer vergleichenden Sozial- und Kulturgeschichte (Frankfurt, 2008), pp. 219–46; Ina Merkel, Utopie und Bedürfnis: Die Geschichte der Konsumkultur in der DDR (Cologne, 1999); Jonathan Zatlin, The Currency of Socialism (Cambridge, 2007).

                                (88) Trentmann, The Consuming Passion (forthcoming), chapter. 2; Frank Trentmann, ‘Before “Fair Trade”: Empire, Free Trade, and the Moral Economies of Food in the Modern World’, Environment and Planning, D 25/6 (2007), pp. 1079–102.