Top positive review
A lively romp through cultural theory
on 9 December 2011
This is a lively and engaging read which uses the activities of a rather fully-packed day to introduce key thinkers and cultural theorists with snippets of their thought. So waking up almost inevitably introduces Descartes' cogito ergo sum, `I think therefore I am', dreaming takes us to Freud, watching TV to Raymond Williams, going to a party to Machiavelli and so on.
This is certainly wider than a book about philosophy as it also touches on reader-reception, and a bit of Saussure's linguistic theory; Irigaray, Kristeva and Cixous on the non-essentialism of gender; Lacan (on a shopping trip), Barthes, Foucault, Bakhtin and many other thinkers, some of whom are little more than name-checked.
If I were going to criticise the book I would say that it is sometimes a bit random: so a chapter on food and the anthropology of eating, for example, stretches from Levi-Strauss's structuralist cultural theories to Darwinian survival instinct. I also think the book suffers from `snippet syndrome' offering up soundbites that barely scratch the surface of what these thinkers are really about.
Having said that, this is an enjoyable romp through human thought. It's the sort of book I would recommend to undergraduate students studying social and cultural theory who need a down-to-earth way of applying theory to concrete examples, or to anyone wanting a flying tour through major currents of thought. The `further reading' is rather disappointingly sparse, however, and jumbles up primary and secondary reading in a haphazard manner.
Overall, this reminds me of a BBC documentary: it's fun, it's educational, it's populist - and it might just lead you into a much deeper engagement with the complexities of thought that are, inevitably, merely skimmed over here.