Making Sense of Everyday Life by Susie Scott

At a critical moment in time when the British Sociological Association has marshalled an impressive cast of luminaries to orchestrate the ‘sociology and the cuts’ blog and the Con-Dem coalition continues its relentless assault against public service provision, Susie Scott reminds us of the need to explore and elucidate the mundane and habitual aspects of everyday social life.

Making Sense of Everyday Life is a lively and informative deconstruction of three strands of quotidian sociology: ‘rituals and routines’, ‘social order’ and ‘challenging the taken-for-granted’. Scott brings much analytical insight and empirical clarity to these disparate strands across ten relatively short but highly illuminating chapters. Its contents range from the explanatory ‘theorising the mundane’ to the instructive ‘researching everyday life’. In doing so the reader is introduced to the founding ideas of ethnomethodology, phenomenology and symbolic interactionism. It is to Scott’s immense credit that Making Sense of Everyday Life discloses the underlying rules, routines and regularities of everyday life through the prism of an eclectic mix of sociological examples and observations drawn from less rarefied fields. Scott is particularly strong on the sociology of emotion and in discussing health, illness and disability. There is, though, perhaps a casual over-reliance on the pop anthropology of Kate Fox’s Watching the English: the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour and a similar reticence to critique sociology’s drift towards what the amateur pugilist and MacArthur foundation ‘genius’ Loic Wacquant has described as its neo-romantic current.

Scott has produced a clear and concise introduction to the sociology of everyday life. It will appeal most directly to undergraduate students or the ‘lay’ reader with an interest in the overlap between micro and macro levels of social analysis. The book’s weakness, if it is one, is that it is curiously apolitical at the very time when public intellectuals should be striving to expose and make sense of political manoeuvres that seek to radically reengineer the role of the state and recalibrate the rhythms and routines of community life.

Martin Whiteford, University of Liverpool

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