November 19, 2009
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!
Each day, HILOBROW pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.