1st Edition

Comfort and Contemporary Culture The problems of the ‘good life’ on an increasingly uncomfortable planet

By Andrew Hickey Copyright 2024
    174 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    To be comfortable stands as an aspiration of the times; to be comfortable defines what it means to live ‘the good life’. We talk about such things as maintaining a comfortable home, a comfortable lifestyle and a comfortable retirement. We seek out comforts in the relationships we sustain, the leisure practices we enact and the possessions we accumulate. We look for promises of comfort in the words of a close friend and our next pair of shoes. Furnished in the home, optionally outfitted in cars, scrutinised in holiday brochures and brushed up against in the clothes we wear, comfort is there, marking distinctions and framing decisions about what it means to live well. But by consuming comfort in the ways that we do, we do ourselves harm and limit our only planet of its capacity to provide for the requirements of life. This is a world that grows ever more uncomfortable because of comfort and when linked to consumption and excess, indulgence and apathy, it occurs that comfort carries effects that have existential consequence.

    Utilising analyses of popular culture and ethnographic accounts of everyday life, Comfort and Contemporary Culture works through case study accounts of comfort’s enactment to pose questions around what it means to live, now. Comfort and Contemporary Culture poses alternative renderings of the idea of comfort to return the concept to its earliest roots in notions of confortāre. The revisioning of what we take as comfort requires urgent attention, with the ecological, social and intrapersonal implications of comfort’s current excesses demonstrative of this need.

    This book will be relevant reading for students and scholars of cultural studies and sociology, cultural anthropology, social geography and studies of community.

    Section 1 The Condition of Comfort 1. Comfort, where? The Dimensions of Comfort 2. Situating the Argument 3. The Narrative Construction of Comfort 4. But Again; Comfort? Some Final, Initial, Notes Section 2 Permutations of Comfort: A Pragmatic Consideration of Comfort’s Surfacings 5. Upon Booking the Flight: The Physiographies of Comfort 6. A Trip to the Shops: Comfort’s Ethical Recognition 7. A Visit to the Oncology Ward: Comfort as an Observable State of Being 8. In the Living Room: The Securitization of Comfort Section 3 Permeations of Comfort: A Further Consideration of Comfort’s effects 9. Comfort’s Individualisation: The Cruel Optimism of Comfort 10. Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted: Comfort and the Reformation of the ‘Good Life’


    Andrew T Hickey is Professor of Communications in the School of Humanities and Communication, University of Southern Queensland.