Awkwardness, as Kostko describes it, emerges from the violation of a mostly unspoken norm of a given community. It draws its participants in, spreading from one person to another. Interestingly, Kotsko argues that awkwardness is the result of the fragmentation of Anglophonic norms in the wake of the disintegration of the norms of the Fordist modern state into the fragmented neo-liberal world we now inhabit. This occurs both in the quickly changing workplace, as well as in the familiar story of the social movements of the 60s and 70s causing displacement of the cultural singularity—if not dominance—of the nuclear family, of white, male and heterosexual power appear here as some of the precipitating factors of a broader awkwardness about uncertain norms. Neither older nor newer norms have a total cultural predominance, and it is this situation that gives rise to contemporary awkwardness. This historical perspective is fairly persuasive as an explanation, though it raises the question—why did it take so long for awkwardness to become a dominant cultural motif?
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Awkwardness by Adam Kotsko. Awkwardness by Adam Kotsko. Awkwardness has been one of the defining traits of the awkwardly unnamed first decade of our young century, dominating comedy on both the big and small screens.
Could this trend point toward something deeper? In Awkwardness, Adam Kotsko answers that question with a resounding yes. Drawing on key insights of cultural theory, he argues that awkwardness is a structuring princ Awkwardness has been one of the defining traits of the awkwardly unnamed first decade of our young century, dominating comedy on both the big and small screens.
Drawing on key insights of cultural theory, he argues that awkwardness is a structuring principle of human experience, something that the particular conditions of our time allow us to see with greater clarity than ever before.
In an analysis that begins with the difference between the US and UK versions of Ricky Gervais's The Office, passes through the films of Judd Apatow, and culminates in the apotheosis of awkwardness, Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kotsko looks at the ways we cope with our awkwardness and the unexpected opportunities awkwardness opens up when we stop resisting it and learn to enjoy it.
Get A Copy. Paperback , 89 pages. More Details Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Awkwardness , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Awkwardness. Dec 31, Jacob rated it really liked it.
The machinery of social engagement is greased by the application of a sort of non-engagement -- the rules and conventions, explicit and implicit, that bound and steer our interactions. But these rulesets are not always shared, they are not always followed, they fall into decline, and sometimes they simply don't apply. Kotsko calls these gaps awkwardness , and he argues that it is the defining mood of our time.
He starts by establishing a typology of awkwardness, walks his framework through three The machinery of social engagement is greased by the application of a sort of non-engagement -- the rules and conventions, explicit and implicit, that bound and steer our interactions. He starts by establishing a typology of awkwardness, walks his framework through three examples from TV and film, and ends by sketching out a radical politics grounded in an embrace of awkwardness.
Mostly, it works. This page pamphlet is clearly and straightforwardly presented, but stylistically, it's most akin to the college paper, with that genre's clumsy locutions in the vein of "in this chapter, I will argue that This is disappointing, considering some of the wonderfully deadpan bits that Kotsko has produced for years at The Weblog and on the other hand, the worst of all genres is the internet book review.
But because it introduces such a useful model for looking at any number of topics -- right-wing populist resentment in contemporary American politics is an easy one, and there's a T. Eliot paper just waiting to be written -- I'd love for the book to be widely read. And if all my friends read it, then I don't have to explain it to them, which just goes to show that it will be some time before I can fully take the lessons of the book to heart.
Mar 09, Stephen Case rated it really liked it. I should write a truly awkward review of this book. But it would be largely irrelevant, except perhaps to illustrate the point Kotsko makes at the beginning of this text: we live in an age of awkwardness. We live awkwardly, sometimes painfully so. Kotsko begins his short, cogent, and ultimately encouraging examination of awkwardness with a brief philosophical reflection on awkwardness and a historical survey aimed at explaining its origins.
Kotsko argues awkwardness should be understood as a breakdown in social norms, analogous in human relationships to the breakdown in norms Heidegger analyzed related to boredom and death. Historically, Kotsko finds the origins of our awkward age in the cultural revolutions of the s.
Briefly, the argument is that though these social upheavals did away with many of the constrictive social norms governing relationships whether between classes, genders, or races , they did nothing to replace them. People learned the importance of cultural sensitivity and the dangers of political incorrectness, but rather than liberation the result was fear of offending by saying the wrong thing.
This analysis of television comedy is the meat of his work. Kotsko proposes to examined three forms of awkwardness using three popular television or movie examples. Kotsko here contrasts the American version with the British to argue that everyday awkwardness is not, as often perceived, simply the presence of inherently awkward people.
The genius of the British version, Kotsko argues, is that it illustrates that awkwardness is something created by the work environment itself. The second form of awkwardness Kotsko explores is "cultural awkwardness. The lens he choses here are the films of Judd Apatow. Apatow movies such as The Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up focus on the awkward transition from an extended adolescence or stunted adulthood into the perceived healthy, actualized maturity of a committed relationship.
Finally, Kotsko examines the work of Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm as an example of what he refers to as "radical awkwardness," the awkwardness that arises when social norms break down entirely, primarily through interactions between different social groups or classes with overlapping or contradictory social norms. Larry is a Jewish man from New York interacting with successful Hollywood stars, and much of the awkward comedy from this show, Kotsko relates, comes from Larry trying and failing to integrate into these social structures.
This is also where Kotsko makes his most audacious claim about awkwardness: that it can help us understand St. Rather than flee from awkwardness or try to eliminate it by allowing one group to assimilate the social structures of another, Kotsko says we should understand St.
Instead of shunning or avoided awkwardness, Kotsko concludes, using a particularly powerful illustration from Curb Your Enthusiasm , awkwardness should be embraced. When this happens, he suggests, there can be freedom, acceptance, and joy. The first is the question of radical awkwardness within families. If awkwardness is the breakdown of social norms, how should we understand the fact that some of the most awkward situations arise between people of shared social and familial backgrounds?
Is this simply an example of how radically insufficient these norms have become? Is there room in the analysis of awkwardness for technological awkwardness, arising from the growth of devices and communication that have outstripped the ability of social conventions to evolve alongside? The fact that I don't know how to socially interact with someone who seldom raises his or her eyes from a mobile device, for instance, as well as the socially awkward aspects of internet anonymity or lack thereof and trolling, seem especially poignant today.
Oct 02, Itai Farhi rated it it was amazing Shelves: keeping-up-with-the-philosophers , love-s-homework , post-thesis , keeping-up-with-the-lefties. A fabulous essay on the promise and peril of awkwardness. The readings of Heidegger make some tricky concepts accessible and the analysis of a Pauline community of awkwardness persuasively reconstructs, with contemporary examples, a novel interpretation of Romans. Kotsko's writing style also deserves praise, in particular for its sympathetic and non-reductive presentation of cultural materials.
Jul 11, Yngve rated it liked it. Nov 16, Kurt rated it did not like it. For anyone looking for an in-depth analysis and understanding on the quality of being awkward, unfortunately, this book is not for you. The book is weighed down by frequent references to TV plots and characters. Like Kotsko's other work, it's a tedious read. Mar 22, Kit rated it liked it. Nov 06, Joshua Buhs rated it really liked it Shelves: history , non-fiction , essays , social-issues , reference. On a couple of levels.
The series to which this book belongs is meant to reclaim this notion of a public intellectual. The book is also clever in its presentation. The ability to get such pieces printed disappeared, like, forty years ago, maybe thirty, with the decline of magazines and the scaling-back of academic publishing.
The current situation, though, with cheap printing, and especially the possibility of electronic editions has made such awkwardly! That all is the meta-cleverness—or, better, the para-cleverness. The argument the book presents is clever. The book brings philosophical ideas to bear onto current questions about culture, and especially a few of its popular products.
Is he a plagiarist? Does he do his own work? Books such as this one—as opposed to conventional philosophy—appeal to me, because they offer a comprehensive understanding of the current culture, cleverly read out of TV shows and books. The books are good to think with, the ideas worth carrying around and testing against the world. But they always seem incomplete. And clever as Kotsko is, his account seems incomplete. The argument is that America is, since the late s, afflicted by an intense awkwardness—the social rules that govern are actions are no longer widely shared, and so interactions are fraught.
The bond of the awkward
If boredom is connected to our inevitable anxiety of death, as Heidegger claims, then the equally existential condition of togetherness would have its own mood, one able to transcend even the deepest social divisions. To find the origin of so many awkward tv shows and movies, Kotsko traces the flowering of contemporary awkwardness to the breakdown of pres Fordist social norms:. The African-American civil rights movement and feminist movement both achieved considerable gains, but more radical changes proved elusive as the forces of cultural conservatism turned out to retain considerable power. It is here, I claim, that we find the ultimate origin of contemporary awkwardness: the events of the s threw the normative social model significantly off-kilter, making it impossible to embrace that model wholeheartedly — and yet they did not produce any viable positive alternative.
Awkwardness: An Essay
Awkwardness is just what a work of philosophy should be. The phenomenon of awkwardness has dominated British and American comedy for a decade. Using well-known films and television programmes as his frames of reference, Kotsko convincingly shows how awkwardness is a fundamentally social experience. When you enter an awkward situation, or even when you watch one on television, you feel awkward yourself. To feel awkward is to have a more intense awareness of the presence of others, to see as if from a distance the rules and relationships that bind us together or keep us apart. Although at first glance it seems as though awkward situations result from the actions or just the presence of awkward people, like David Brent in The Office , it is really structures, not people, that generate awkward behaviour and feelings.
By Adam Kotsko. Awkwardness is everywhere, inescapable. In America, apparently everyone loves seeing people cringing on The Office, itself based on an even more painful British original starring Ricky Gervais. Larry David, not content with defining s irony with his classic scripts for Seinfeld, now inspires morbid fascination in all those who watch his social faux-pas in Curb Your Enthusiasm, which in its seventh season has beat out The Sopranos as the longest-running series on the American premium cable network HBO. More recently he has even engaged in what can only be called retro awkwardness, playing the infamous Woody Allen character in the film Whatever Works. And of course theaters are seldom without yet another movie from Judd Apatow, the champion of those who extend their awkward adolescence into their adult years and the maker of The Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express —or if a film by the man himself is not available, audiences can easily find one starring one of his regular ensemble of actors such as Seth Rogen or Jason Segel, or one that has no particular connection but just feels somehow Apatovian.
The Unbearable Awkwardness of Being
I f the s were the age of irony, our just expired decade will surely go down in history as the age of awkwardness. Sacha Baron Cohen 's career in inciting this feeling began in and continued throughout the decade. Ricky Gervais provided more inspiration with the first series of The Office in Larry David started his cringe-inducing Curb Your Enthusiasm in Three years later came Arrested Development , a show whose comfort with discomfort extended even to incest jokes.