Engaging the Everyday
Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma
An argument that environmental challenges will only resonate with citizens of affluent postindustrial countries if sustainability concerns emerge from everyday practices.
Far-reaching efforts to address environmental issues rarely seem to resonate with citizens of the United States or other wealthy postindustrial societies. In Engaging the Everyday, John Meyer considers this impediment to action on environmental problems—which he terms “the resonance dilemma”—and argues that an environmental agenda that emerges from everyday concerns would resonate more deeply with ordinary citizens. Meyer explores the contours of this alternative, theorizing both obstacles and opportunities and then considering it in terms of three everyday areas of material practice: land use, transportation by automobile, and home dwelling.
Adopting the stance of an “inside critic” (neither detached theorist nor narrow policy advocate), and taking an approach that he calls “contested materiality,” Meyer draws on a variety of theoretical perspectives to construct a framework for understanding material practices. He reimagines each of the three material practices in terms of a political idea: for land, property; for automobiles, freedom; and for homes, citizenship. His innovative analysis offers a grounded basis for reshaping our talk about political concepts and values.
Hardcover$51.00 X ISBN: 9780262028905 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in
Paperback$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262527385 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in
Engaging the Everyday isn't a book you read every day. Yet again, John Meyer, one of the most interesting environmental philosophers, thinks outside the box. This time it is about how we rather than 'the system' or 'corporations' could limit the harm to the environment.
The Hebrew University, coauthor of The Spirit of Cities
Meyer pioneers a uniquely political approach to environmental social criticism that follows from a startling central proposition: that it is not outright opposition and denialism that are the most significant impediments but what he aptly terms the 'resonance dilemma.' This is the failure of climate and environmental challenge—however important we may grant that they are—to strike us as integral everyday concerns. This lively, eloquent, accessible volume models the very style of social criticism that it calls for in response to this dilemma: a 'resonant' environmental criticism that works on (rather than against) everyday practices.
Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, author of Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Philosophy
Reviewing a vast range of theorists, Meyer shows them wrestling with the same issue: how to frame environmental arguments in a way that gives them political efficacy. He argues cogently for respecting the complexity of people's existing values while aspiring to move them to change their behavior for environmental reasons.
author of Divided Natures and Precautionary Politics
- Winner, first annual Clay Morgan Award for the Best Book in Environmental Political Theory (2017).