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Publication - Professor Dale Southerton

    The Social Ordering of an Everyday Practice

    The Case of Laundry


    Mylan, J & Southerton, D, 2017, ‘The Social Ordering of an Everyday Practice: The Case of Laundry’. Sociology.


    Sociological contributions to debates surrounding sustainable consumption have presented strong critiques of methodological individualism and technological determinism. Drawing from a range of sociological insights from the fields of consumption, everyday life and science and technology studies, these critiques emphasize the recursivity between (a) everyday performances and object use, and (b) how those performances are socially ordered. Empirical studies have, however, been criticized as being descriptive of micro-level phenomena to the exclusion of explanations of processes of reproduction or change. Developing a methodological approach that examines sequences of activities this article explores different forms of coordination (activity, inter-personal and material) that condition the temporal and material flows of laundry practices. Doing so produces an analysis that de-centres technologies and individual performances, allowing for the identification of mechanisms that order the practice of laundry at the personal, household and societal levels. These are: social relations; cultural conventions; domestic materiality; and institutionalized temporal rhythms. In conclusion, we suggest that addressing such mechanisms offers fruitful avenues for fostering more sustainable consumption, compared to dominant approaches that are founded within ‘deficit models’ of action.

    Full details in the University publications repository