Lifestyle is a group of attitudes, interests, behaviors, and behavioral orientations of a person, family, or community. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous 1929 book, The Case of Miss R. with the more modern meaning of “the basic nature of a human being as established early in life”. The concepts of the lifestyle and the attitudes that constitute it have been the object of much research, criticism, and theory over the years.
One of the most prominent current practitioners of the word lifestyle is psychologists Robert McKenzie and Gordon Gore. Their best-selling book, Discovering Your Life Style, popularized the concept. The book is widely considered a model of how to understand human behavior, especially the intergenerational transmission of values, attitudes, behaviors, and tastes. Their work on family systems and individual personality has also led to developments in the field of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The two men have continually demonstrated an interest in understanding human behavior through the lens of psychology and in particular the social media.
In their book, The Anatomy of Everyday Life: What Every Day Involves, McKenzie and Gore proposed that our dominant cultural patterns are formed by the broad gestalt of our daily life-styles which we experience and are shaped by our parents, families, friends, and peers. These life styles are then transmitted through multiple channels, including formal education, entertainment, commercial activity, and popular culture. This broad definition of lifestyle applies to everyone and not just those who identify themselves as being a member of the mass culture industry. The definition does not deny the existence of individuals who fit into different categories of the mass culture industry, such as those who are gay, lesbian, or have some other sexual preference. It also does not deny the existence of people who belong to the mass culture only in the narrow sense of pursuing the career path that the mass culture prescribes for them.
The Anatomy of Everyday Life is premised on the assumption that the sources of authority for these commonalities among daily life are personal, and that these sources can be found outside of the four corners of the city. As a result, it is a highly interpretive book because it relies on the study of pop culture, mass culture, advertising, and popular culture as a way to explain the patterns of everyday life and its effects on individuals. Although Adorno and his followers claim that the source of authority in everyday life is rational, they acknowledge that some types of ritual, such as those found in the family, can actually have an effect on the development of a person’s ability to reason. This is because the norms of the family itself can support certain forms of mentalizing and can provide a source of resistance against certain incursions upon the self-referential patterns of the person’s thought.
One of the most important aspects of this book is its treatment of the concept of “lifestyle”. Adorno believes that there is a difference between a set of life-styles and real personalities, and that there is a correspondence between these two kinds of individualities. Therefore, he insists that the word lifestyle is not meaningful, because a set of life-styles can be indistinguishable from a real personality.
I think the best compliment to Stili Di Vito’s The Anatomy of Everyday Life is the reviewer’s description of her as a “recovering” intellectual who has “largely ignored the study of how we live our lives.” The fact that the review writer herself chooses to describe herself as a recovering intellectual is perhaps not as significant as the insights that Adorno and his followers have offered in understanding how to approach the concepts of stili di vita and everyday life. A review such as this one should at least take into account the importance of studying stili di vita, because the way we understand ourselves is reflected in the way we relate to others, to our environment, and to other people.