chapter  13
14 Pages

How should we understand ‘general understandings’?

ByDaniel Welch and Alan Warde

Practice theory is increasingly prominent in social scientific analysis. Hence, its virtues and its defects are being subjected to greater scrutiny. As part of that exercise, we examine the conceptualisation of widespread cultural understandings in the social scientific use of practice theory. Schatzki’s (1996; 2002) schema of practice components has proved generative, particularly as adapted by Warde (2005) and Shove et  al. (2012). However, virtually no attention has been paid to Schatzki’s (2002) concept of ‘general understandings’, which is one potentially relevant instrument to address this challenge.1 In The site of the social, Schatzki (2002) introduces the category of general understandings into his schema of components of practice, an addition to his earlier tripartite model of ‘practical understandings’, ‘rules’ and ‘teleoaffective structures’ (1996). In this chapter, we seek to open up issues posed by general understandings as a category within a schema of generic practice components. The concept of general understandings promises to deal with broad cultural conceptions which transcend the boundaries between ‘integrative practices’ (Schatzki, 2002).