The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life

Eviatar Zerubavel, Author Free Press $22.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-02-934420-0
People carve reality into discrete mental slices, ``islands of meaning''; they categorize, classify and label. This tendency, according to Zerubavel, can lead to the rigid mind that detests ambiguity. Stereotypes are born as the rigid mind lumps together ``the poor'' or ``Orientals.'' In a lucid, brilliantly original look at the way we compartmentalize reality, the author, a Rutgers sociology professor, uses fundamental insights into humans' boundary-drawing habits to illumine the sense of self, taboos, xenophobia, aversion to bodily discharges, sex, daily rituals, the need for privacy, humor and modern art's blurring of the distinction between art and life. Without using jargon, he crams in a wealth of phenomena, from wedding ceremonies to children's oceanic, fluid mindset which he places on a continuum with mythical thought and psychosis. Readers will edge closer toward attaining a ``flexible mind'' that avoids freezing reality into any one mental context. Illustrations. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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