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The Practice of Everyday Life examines the ways in which people individualise mass culture, altering things, from utilitarian objects to street plans to rituals, laws and language, in order to make them their own. Published in French as L’invention du quotidien.
The Practice of Everyday Life begins by pointing out that while social science possesses the ability to study the traditions, language, symbols, art and articles of exchange that make up a culture, it lacks a formal means by which to examine the ways in which people reappropriate them in everyday situations.
This is a dangerous omission, Certeau argues, because in the activity of re-use lies an abundance of opportunities for ordinary people to subvert the rituals and representations that institutions seek to impose upon them.
With no clear understanding of such activity, social science is bound to create nothing other than a picture of people who are non-artists (meaning non-creators and non-producers), passive and heavily subject to received culture. Indeed, such a misinterpretation is borne out in the term “consumer”. In the book, the word “user” is offered instead; the concept of “consumption” is expanded in the phrase “procedures of consumption” which then further transforms to “tactics of consumption”.
In the book, ordinary life is depicted as a constant, subconscious struggle against the institutions competing to assimilate the everyday man [person].