Sociology > Social Theory
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This article explores how boredom emerged as a central threat to Americans’ sense of well-being in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing upon media coverage from a range of sources, I ask: What do responses to the COVID-19 pandemic reveal more generally about the way boredom has emerged as one of the central dis-eases of modern life? Why has free time become something that increasingly generates intolerable anxiety? In what ways can studying responses to the COVID-19 lockdown help us trace larger transformations in the social construction and subjective experience of time? The article argues that while many Americans experienced boredom as a form of social death engendered by the deroutinising aspects of lockdown life, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic also reveal the way boredom has emerged as a form of psychic alienation permeating the very core of American society. Drawing upon insights from psychoanalytic theory, I will ultimately propose that our dis-ease with free time may be linked to a growing incapacity to fantasise as more and more of our mental lives are colonised by the digital infrastructures and extractive imperatives of our 24/7 society ().
The authors, whose trainings include as group analytic psychotherapists, use the theoretical framework of group analysis to facilitate experiential small and median groups for students on trainings in individual psychodynamic psychotherapy. Even though in group analytic practice it would usually be a definite no, the authors found themselves debating whether members who revealed they were a couple in the past could in fact be together in a group. This discussion prompted the authors to reflect closely on their co-facilitator relationship, causing them to consider what they understood by ‘couple’.
It offered up an opportunity (previously unconscious) to explore the binary fixing of conductors as male/female and heterosexual, and whether such fixing may be a defence by the group, including the group conductors, against allowing and exploring a more fluid, nuanced exploration of gender and sexuality. The authors propose that instead of small experiential groups, co-conducted median groups may offer a richer opportunity for such exploration.
In England and Wales, domestic homicide reviews (DHRs) seek to build a picture of the circumstances preceding a domestic abuse-related death, identify any learning and make recommendations for change. Drawing on data from document analysis of 60 DHR reports, this article explores how a victim’s real name is routinely taken out of use when a DHR report is published and, to disguise their identity, is usually replaced with a pseudonym or some other nomenclature like initials/letters. I report on the name forms used in place of a victim’s real name and the limited explication of both how (pseudo)names were chosen and the role of the family. By exploring how names are used, I argue for a recognition of the assumptions and complexity at the heart of DHRs concerning the place of the victim, family and state, and identify implications for practice, policy and research.
In ideal-typical terms, the cultural structure of love can be said to be organised according to the binary categorisations of ‘mythic’ and ‘prosaic-realist’ love. Sociological studies on the culture of love have typically favoured the latter, characterising contemporary love as a product of modern sensibilities that prioritise individual autonomy over loving commitment. And yet, as many empirical studies have shown, mythic love seems to persist. This article theoretically and empirically accounts for the endurance of mythic love by demonstrating how its core promises are reconciled with prosaic-realist love. It elaborates a theoretical model for assessing the attitudes people have towards romantic ideals: ‘structures of feeling’ (; ). To investigate romantic structures of feeling, I conducted interviews with participants who watched one of two quintessential cinematic representations of mythic and prosaic-realist love, respectively: The Notebook (2004) and Blue Valentine (2010). I found that mythic love persists as a legitimate cultural model for love through the feeling structures of irony and aspiration. Participants expressed aspiration towards mythic love through surprised faith in the film’s mythic idealism and attributed authenticity to mythic love’s purity, while also integrating prosaic-realist rationales into their assessment of mythic love’s legitimacy. Participants expressed ironic dispositions towards prosaic-realism, finding its core principles to be ‘too real’ and deflationary. These findings point to a need to take myth in romance seriously, by not only recognising its existence but also the cultural mechanisms that reconcile its promises with prosaic-realist alternatives.
Many mainstream visions of sustainable societies assume that ‘green’ products will come to replace existing ones, reducing the footprint of consumption and enabling daily life to continue relatively undisturbed. However, several sustainable consumption studies have demonstrated that product substitution is not necessarily a straightforward process. This article asks whether the increased consumption of plant-based ‘mylk’, which is marketed as a more sustainable option compared to dairy milk, can be understood as a case of sustainable consumption via product substitution. The study applies a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey with secondary qualitative data from the Mass Observation Archive. We find that while the consumption of mylk has increased and that of milk decreased, this cannot be characterised as a straightforward case of substitution. Many people consume mylk alongside milk, rather than cutting milk consumption entirely. Rising mylk consumption requires the engagement of new, sometimes conflicting, meanings around health and the environment. In addition, a range of situational factors constitute unequal mylk consumption in society, and provisioning systems present important drivers and barriers that shape mylk consumption. Overall, our account suggests that moving towards sustainable consumption is not a simple process of product substitution as mylk is often consumed in addition to milk, and as this process requires adjustments in practices and meanings, unfolds unevenly within society, and is shaped by production systems rather than just demand.
The frequency of video game consumption is a contested topic among scholars. In existing research, the extent of video game use is often related to the terminologies ‘excessive gaming’, ‘video game addiction’ and ‘problem gaming’. Yet the socio-material and practical qualities of gaming in everyday life have received little theoretical and empirical attention in the research on frequent video gaming. By considering these issues this article aims at detaching time spent gaming from a problem framework through a practice theoretical perspective. The empirical data stems from a qualitative study of young Danish adults who are frequently engaged in gaming. The article finds that gaming is constituted by multiple socio-material components that make it highly convenient to consume in everyday life. First, the devices and applications involved in gaming setups conjure mundane, and not focused, engagements with video games. Second, the mobility of gaming enables it to be simultaneously performed with other everyday practicalities such as cooking or commuting. Third, frequent video gaming may occur because the affordances of gaming grant easy access and flexible options for socialising. The convenience of gaming suggests that frequent engagements with video gaming can be viewed as a consequence of how people value their time use.
This article examines different kinds of consumption desires of Finnish consumers by asking how they would change their consumption habits if they had more money at their disposal. As previous research on consumption desires has been mainly based on the essence of desires and the cycle of fulfilling hedonistic desires and creating new ones, this study analyses the desires in the context of the ages of both consumers and consumer society. The focus was differences in consumption desires between age groups and changes across 20 years. The data were derived from three repeated surveys collected in 1999, 2009 and 2019 in Finland (N = 5,459), which were analysed with principal-axis factor analysis and ANCOVA. The factor analysis extracted three types of consumption desires: hedonistic, charitable-cultural and materialistic. Saving-oriented desires were analysed as a single item. Hedonistic consumption desires were the most typical for the youngest age group (18–25), and materialistic desires were the highest for young adults aged 26–35 across all three years of measurement. Older people had the most charitably and culturally oriented desires in 1999, but older age groups’ orientation to saving and charitable giving and culture decreased across 20 years. Hedonistic consumption desires generally decreased over 20 years, particularly in young age groups. Conversely, young people’s desire to save increased significantly, whereas the oldest age groups saved less. The research shows that both changes in consumer values and economic circumstances are manifested in people’s consumption desires.