If This Is Modern Life – Then What Is That?

941 words - 4 pages

In Epilogue, which is the closing chapter of the book, The Comfort of Things, Daniel Miller deals with the purpose of material culture.
The chapter starts with an important question, “If this is a street in contemporary London and these are its people, what, then, is modern life, and what is the nature of that humanity which lives in our times?” (Miller; 282). He turns to social sciences to find the answer for this question, and sets out from Durkheim. According to Durkheim it is humanity which created religion and cosmology, and people need Gods only to satisfy religious rituals and to help obey the law, which is a base of living in society.
If Miller had put the history of philosophy, social science and religion on one side and turned to people to ask, what is important in their life; or why do they think their life is full or empty, one of the possible answers are the relationships. But what he mainly studies here, are the relationships with material objects, which assures people's material presence.
He draws two conclusions from his book: “…the centrality of relationships to modern life, and the centrality of material culture to relationships.” In connection with this he refers to Bourdieu and to his study between Berbers. Bourdieu said that people don't need school or education to know what does it mean being a Berber, and how they have to behave. It is the history and the material official according to what people change their behavior. Pierre Bourdieu says that this phenomenon is typical for the French society in the 1960s as well. People believe they are free and can decide about their own life, maybe they don't even realize, but they are influenced, and their choice of the way of life was highly influenced by what they were taught.
As a comparison Miller mentions few examples from Stuart Street: for example there is Elia, who becomes emotional when her feelings are not reciprocated – this behavior is typical for Greek people; or there is James and Quentin who like gardening and going to pubs, which is a typical characteristic of British people.
In the next paragraph the writer claims that region, origin or class show continuity, but other traits change during the life of a person.
Very important part in the Epilogue is the comparison of anthropology and psychology – in the first case the cultural determinacy, whereas in the second the parental determinacy. Miller's informants were not primarily influenced by their parents, but there was in each case something that had bigger impact. parents' influence, as the writer says is only initial, but can be constructive or destructive as well.
Miller on the next pages concerns that Stuart Street for him is not a sample, because all of its people are different, with different interests and...

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