Reflexive Habits: Dating and rationalised conduct in New York and Berlin

Krause, Monika and Kowalski, Alexandra. 2013. Reflexive Habits: Dating and rationalised conduct in New York and Berlin. Sociological Review, pp. 21-40. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper builds on the work of Norbert Elias to examine how conduct varies across cultural contexts. We compare courtship practices in New York and Berlin and ask how people act during the course of ‘getting together’ with a sexual or romantic partner. Drawing on interviews in both contexts, we find that conduct associated with the practice of ‘dating’ among New York respondents is more rationalised as indicated by a greater awareness of timing, a greater degree of intentionality and planning and a greater tendency to psychologise self and others. Berlin respondents report observations of themselves and others in less detail and tend to describe themselves as passive objects of the impersonal forces of love. Whereas conduct associated with dating is more reflexive in some ways, these forms of reflexive conduct are not themselves fully conscious or the object of reflection but have in turn become taken for granted and habitual. These findings challenge us to conceptualise habitus in a manner that does not reproduce the opposition between habit and reflexivity but allows us to use the concept as a tool to capture variations in how self-monitoring and habit are combined in modes of conduct.

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Date Deposited:

21 May 2013 14:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2013 16:29

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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