Twenty years ago some thought that postmodernism would change time: the past and the future would dissolve into an extended present, a provisional impermanence, an uncertain shift devoid of direction. Regardless of the accuracy of these predictions, anyone is able to ascertain that everyday life has indeed changed. That reassuring sequence of customary gestures and behaviours that accompanied the passing of time was meaningful only because our activities had a direction, our habits had a purpose, repetition was advantageous. Today life is uncertain and insecure, and everyday life is a tangled realm of emergencies, confused priorities, and chaotic flows of information and events that resist any attempt at order. Nevertheless, to cite T.S. Eliot, "human kind cannot bear very much reality": the greater the uncertainty, the greater the need to defend oneself from it. Using a wide variety of material (film, literature, journalism), the author examines the most important changes in everyday life: the compression of time and space, the development of technology, the increasing impact of the media, innovation in consumption and labour patterns, the evolution of social relationships. The resulting book seems to draw on any reader's daily experience and encourages the reader herself to take responsibility for her destiny and acknowledge with a sense of awe the infinite interplay of recurrences and differences which makes up life.
Paolo Jedlowski teaches Sociology at the "Orientale" University in Naples and Sociology of Communication at the University of Lugano.