Zygmunt Bauman

By: Tor Aarestad
November 19, 2009

zygmunt-bauman2
PHOTO: Grzegorz Lepiarz / photogl.com

Although other scholars have been cited as soothsayers of the mechanics of our Great Recession, ZYGMUNT BAUMAN (born 1925) has been unerringly the Prophet of its ethos. Since his retirement from active teaching at the University of Leeds in 1990, Bauman has been issuing hortatory missives at a blistering pace. But lo, these bound homilies have been difficult to find on our heathen shores; allow me to share some of his teachings to ye unwashed. Our time is not post-modern, as some heterodox teachers may say, it is liquid modern — the solid, institutional structures of the past have been washed away, leaving us monadic sinners floating in seas of variously agglomerating networks. Nomadism and hybridity are the sacred words of the now! But Satan is still at work in this time of liquid modernity, and he has many followers of  his Orthodoxy of the Consumer Society — whose acolytes are Homo consumens and Homo eligens (man choosing). Man is trapped by the obligation to choose — to choose his allegiances, his identity, the goods that define his happiness, his fluid career in our non-Fordist, flexible liquid capitalist economy. Satan’s weapons are ressentiment (which the Prophet translates from the ancient tongue as “rancor, repugnance, acrimony, grudge, umbrage, spite, malignancy — or better still, a combination of all of them”) manifesting itself in the bitterness of inferiors toward their superiors, or as the drive to one-up one’s so-called brethren; and anxiety — the universal and central emotion of Homo consumens (as the Prophet would say: “It’s pleonastic!”). Reject the consumer society, brothers and sisters! The ethic of modernity leads inevitably to categorial murder, the Prophet teaches us. Shun adiaphorization! Love thy neighbor! Only yet-dreamed-of global networks can solve our global problems! Repent!

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What do you think?

  1. He is AWESOME. He continues to circle around chains of connected ideas year after year, elaborating them further, pouncing on new facts (advertisements, reality tv) to fit into his elaborate argumentative architecture. He has a bunch of slim books that are great — liquid times, liquid love, liquid modernity, community. I think you would like The Art of Life or Liquid Times. His newest book, Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers, is excellent, but longer, integrating in condensed, but partially lifted form the elements from the little books. The little ones are quite lovely, though, and his style is not as deadening and trenchant as that of his peers.

  2. Oh, and Winds, don’t tell Josh but he even writes a bit about … [sotto voce] generations.

  3. I LOVE ZYGMUNT BAUMAN!!!!!! huge fan. and i use the word pleonastic in honor of him too ;)
    he is indeed our Liquid Modern prophet!!!!!

  4. I read his books whenever I can find the time! He is so prolific and so brilliant. I would love to meet him some day and ask him questions.

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