If this is a typical street in a modern city like London, then what kind of society is this? It’s not a community, nor a neighbourhood, nor is it a collection of isolated individuals. It isn’t dominated by the family. We assume that social life is corrupted by materialism, made superficial and individualistic by a surfeit of consumer goods, but this is misleading. If the street isn’t any of these things, then what is it?
This brilliant and revealing portrayal of a street in modern London, written by one the most prominent anthropologists, shows how much is to be gained when we stop lamenting what we think we used to be and focus instead on what we are now becoming. It reveals the forms by which ordinary people make sense of their lives, and the ways in which objects become our companions in the daily struggle to make life meaningful.
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"An outstanding piece of work: a fine example of modern
anthropological fieldwork, a powerful corrective to the banal
notion that materialism is synonymous with excessive individualism
and, perhaps above all, an informed, sensitive, and wholly
sympathetic guide to the human diversity to be found through the
keyholes of our capital city."
Laurie Taylor, The Independent
"A wonderful and unusual antidote to the fear that humanity and individuality is losing its battle with modern consumerism. In his book, even the most trivial product of consumerism can be rendered almost magical by its owners."
"This book sums up how far social anthropology has progressed
since Henry Mayhew wrote about the skull shapes of costermongers in
the 19th century."
"A set of delicately drawn pen portraits of lives in a single, unnamed South London street ... this is a book quite out of the ordinary. While you read these pages, this is the street where you live."
Times Literary Supplement
"[I]t would be an injustice to Daniel Miller and to the
exquisite text he has crafted to describe The Comfort of
Things as anything less than beautifully written ... This
particular book opens up a variety of avenues for exploration, and
serves as a reminder of what sociologists can learn from such rich
British Journal of Sociology
"This is social anthropology at its finest."
Steven Carroll, The Age
"This is the very best kind of micro-ethnography. Miller writes
better - and with more insight and compassion - than most
novelists. This book will profoundly change the way you look at
your friends' and neighbours' homes and possessions - and indeed
Kate Fox, Social Issues Research Centre and author of Watching the English
"I am so impressed by Danny Miller's book. It is so keenly felt
and beautifully written, it provides as deep a view of modern
Londoners as early anthropologists tried to provide of residents of
more distant and exotic zones. Miller has produced a marvelously
personal and creative work, provoking us to wonder at the
extraordinary attachments of ordinary people. This is a great and
Sharon Zukin, Brooklyn College
"Through shoe leather fieldwork, human empathy, and unflinching
readiness to discern, Daniel Miller shows the central role of
material culture in contemporary urban life. An instant
Mitchell Duneier, Princeton University
"An artful antidote to continually demonised consumerism."
"A timely reminder that investing possessions with meaning is
proof of humanity rather than inhumanity."
"In this remarkable book Daniel Miller provides an illuminating
portrait of people's relations to the ordinary objects that
surround them. The result is a surprising meditation on how we all
maintain order in our daily lives."
Viviana Zelizer, Princeton University
"This book offers a bold and creative model for how we might go
about the work of theorising and abstracting, trying to tell more
or less convincing stories about the 'relationships which flow
constantly between people and things'."
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Portrait 1 Empty.
Portrait 2 Full.
Portrait 3 A Porous Vessel.
Portrait 4 Starry Green Plastic Ducks.
Portrait 5 Learning Love.
Portrait 6 The Aboriginal Laptop.
Portrait 7 Home and Homeland.
Portrait 8 Tattoo.
Portrait 9 Haunted.
Portrait 10 Talk to the Dog.
Portrait 11 Tales from the Publicans.
Portrait 12 Making a Living.
Portrait 13 McDonald's Truly Happy Meals.
Portrait 14 The Exhibitionist.
Portrait 15 Re-Birth.
Portrait 16 Strength of Character.
Portrait 17 Heroin.
Portrait 18 Shi.
Portrait 19 Brazil 2 England 2.
Portrait 20 A Thousand Places to See before You Die.
Portrait 21 Rosebud.
Portrait 22 The Orientalist.
Portrait 23 Sepia.
Portrait 24 An Unscripted Life.
Portrait 25 Oh Sod It!.
Portrait 26 José and José's Wife.
Portrait 27 Wrestling.
Portrait 28 The Carpenter.
Portrait 29 Things That Bright Up the Place.
Portrait 30 Home Truths.
Epilogue: If This is Modern Life – Then What is That?.
Appendix: The Study