Thinking sociologically about kindness: Puncturing the blasé in the ordinary city

Julie Brownlie, Simon Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article makes the case for a sociological engagement with kindness. Although virtually ignored by sociologists, we tend to know kindness when we see it and to feel its absence keenly. We suggest there are at least four features of ‘ordinary’ kindness which render it sociologically relevant: its infrastructural quality; its unobligated character; its micro or inter-personal focus and its atmospheric potential. This latter quality is not the ‘maelstrom of affect’ associated with urban living but can subtly alter how we feel and what we do. We illustrate these features through a study of everyday help and support. In doing so, we argue that – as much as Simmel’s blasé outlook – small acts of kindness are part of how we can understand city living and that, despite the cultural trope of randomness, a sociologically adequate account of kindness needs to recognise the ways in which it is socially embedded and differentiated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1222-1238
Number of pages17
Issue number6
Early online date26 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • kindness
  • relationships
  • emotions
  • infrastructure
  • city


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