At Day's Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch

By A. Roger Ekirch

Bringing mild to the shadows of historical past via a "rich weave of quotation and archival evidence" (Publishers Weekly), pupil A. Roger Ekirch illuminates the facets of existence frequently missed through different historians—those that spread at evening.

In this "triumph of social history" (Mail on Sunday), Ekirch's "enthralling anthropology" (Harper's) exposes the nightlife that spawned a special tradition and a safe haven from day-by-day life.

Fear of crime, of fireplace, and of the supernatural; the significance of moonlight; the elevated prevalence of disease and demise at evening; night gatherings to spin wool and tales; masqued balls; hotels, taverns, and brothels; the concepts of thieves, assassins, and conspirators; the protecting makes use of of incantations, meditations, and prayers; the character of our predecessors' sleep and dreams—Ekirch unearths a lot of these and extra in his "monumental study" (The Nation) of sociocultural background, "maintaining all through an infectious experience of wonder" (Booklist).

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However Parsons’s emphasis on the‘motivational’ aspects of the theory of action left open a series of problems which centre on the actors’ knowledge of their circumstances. Although these problems are complex and interrelated, three major problematic areas can be outlined. First, while sociologists may have developed satisfactory analyses of the actors’ actions, they are nonetheless confronted by actors who can account for their actions by citing particular aspects of their circumstances as relevant to their decisions.

Second, the actors co-ordinate their actions in terms of putatively shared knowledge of their circumstances and, in many cases, shared knowledge of the range of considerations which may influence choices among courses of action. The theorist of action is thus faced with the problem of intersubjectivity: the problem of accounting for shared or mutual knowledge and understanding among actors. Third, actors may from time to time subjectively apprehend and describe their actions as the products of ‘strategic’ choices in which they manipulate the normative grounds of activities for some ulterior purpose – ‘finding an excuse’ to avoid going to a party is an obvious and commonly experienced example.

PARTINGS OF THE WAYS With the above, highly simplified, account of the phenomenological approach to mundane object constitution behind us, it is now possible to glimpse a variety of possible directions which phenomenological research can take. A first direction would be to continue in the way sketched in the preceding paragraphs. , properly carried out, results in a phenomenological psychology (Schutz, 1962d: 115). It is represented by the work of several major figures in phenomenology including Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1964), Gurwitsch (1964, 1966) and, to a lesser extent, Schutz himself (1970).

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