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By: Howard Feather

Social Theory of Displacement: Adventures in the Everyday

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What is happening when we mistake one thing for another? Disorientations and double takes are a key part of the lived experience of modern capitalism. But the corollary of this is an existential anxiety which motivates a perpetual search for reassurances of our individual and collective identities.

How do we escape self-estrangement and alienation on any level of existence? The experiential gaps in formal bureaucratic and marketised ‘life’ present us with absolute boundaries or difference, and hence binary forms of identity. The search for identity is then accompanied by an inability to deal with the hybridity and cognitive dissonance of everyday life.

The fragmentations of institutional life nevertheless produce something that passes for a world of reciprocal recognition (we are all colleagues, part of a ‘team’ and so on). In fact, at the same time this pulls the rug out from beneath a sense of mutuality with fellow incumbents of such formal, contractualised settings. The dominance of formal institutions in modern life promotes the idea that we can ‘find ourselves’ within these settings and it does so by insinuating within itself the experiential world that it lacks.

Here, informal social worlds appear in chimerical and caricature form. Modern capitalism feeds off and mimics the spontaneity, contingency, and collegiality of the lived world in order to present itself as the genuine article.

Social Theory of Displacement: Adventures in the Everyday attempts to unravel the conundrums posed by living in these parallel worlds of reciprocity and contractualism.

Howard Feather has taught social theory at the University of East London, City University, London and London Metropolitan University and is the author of Intersubjectivity and Contemporary Social Theory: the Everyday as Critique. He was a longstanding member of the Editorial Collective of the journal Radical Philosophy. He currently teaches sociology at the Open University.

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