The Social Ordering of an Everyday Practice: The Case of Laundry

Josephine Mylan*, Dale Southerton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
276 Downloads (Pure)


Sociological contributions to debates surrounding sustainable consumption have presented strong critiques of methodological individualism and technological determinism. Drawing from a range of sociological insights from the fields of consumption, everyday life and science and technology studies, these critiques emphasize the recursivity between (a) everyday performances and object use, and (b) how those performances are socially ordered. Empirical studies have, however, been criticized as being descriptive of micro-level phenomena to the exclusion of explanations of processes of reproduction or change. Developing a methodological approach that examines sequences of activities this article explores different forms of coordination (activity, inter-personal and material) that condition the temporal and material flows of laundry practices. Doing so produces an analysis that de-centres technologies and individual performances, allowing for the identification of mechanisms that order the practice of laundry at the personal, household and societal levels. These are: social relations; cultural conventions; domestic materiality; and institutionalized temporal rhythms. In conclusion, we suggest that addressing such mechanisms offers fruitful avenues for fostering more sustainable consumption, compared to dominant approaches that are founded within ‘deficit models’ of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1134-1151
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Early online date8 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • domestic technologies
  • everyday life
  • laundry systems
  • sustainable consumption
  • theories of practice

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