I must admit that reading Michel de Certeau was as much of a challenge as an enlightening experience for me. The more I read, the more I wanted to understand and decipher all the layers of theory inbedded in his book. It could also be that I was reading the book on the plane as I flew across the continent to Orlando, and struggled to stay awake. I think this experience both enhanced and inhibited my understanding of “The Practice of Everyday Life.” I decided to post a comment to help me in pulling together all these ideas, which I will soon summarize for future use.
Michele de Certeau begins by positioning his book in a “continuoung investigation of the ways in which users- commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules- operate” (p.xi) This would be what anthropology refers to as culture. Yet, my questions would be how attainable is this contextualization in humanity as a whole? or can we ever distinguish between the passive/subconscious ways in which people operate versus the purposely and dinamic choices people make.
Michel de Certeau explains that he is mainly concerned with the thoeretical model of construction of individual sentences with an established vocabulary, a study of linguistics and its structural aspects which promise to enable a positivistic analysis of culture. If this type of analysis is possible, then can it be applied to other time and place? It’s interesting that he qoutes Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar, yet Chomsky himself has made revisions to it, trying to avoid a strict positivistic approach to it.
One aspect de Certeau discusses which I found very interesting is the study of la perruque. I think this is some what of a cultural universal. The way in which the worker feels the justified need to outsmart the boss, perhaps because of his/her position of subordination to the latter. I was thinking of examples from my life when I have done this, like when I worked at McDonalds and would give free food to customers and friends (though it’s embarrising to admit it now). de Certeau analysis of the motivation for la perruque reminds me of Marx’s theory of the bourgeousie and the proliterian relations. Particularly in his analysis of consumerism, when he states “the only freedom supposed to be left to the masses is that of grazing on the ration of simlacra the system distributes to each indiviudal. That is precisely the idea I oppose: such an image of consumers is unacceptable” (p.166). In this he is describing a condition we are faced with now. We have gone from being referred nationally as citizens to consumers, as our key role in the nation. It’s interesting to see how even after a major national disaster as 9/11, president Bush announcement encouraged people to shop. de Certeau would be sadden and disgusted to see the way our society is now.