The four studies in this issue embark upon a journey of exploration and discovery of the relationship between time and technology in liquid modernity. This introduction seeks to help that journey and is concerned with the divide between the online and offline segments of the world we currently inhabit, and what this might mean for life, love and happiness.
Britain’s August riots were an explosion bound sooner or later to happen. Just like a minefield: one knows that some of the explosives will, true to their nature, sooner or later explode, but one doesn’t know where and when. In the case of a social minefield, however, an explosion is likely to spread instantaneously, thanks to contemporary technology transmitting information in the ‘real time’ and prompting the ‘copy-cat’ effect. This particular social minefield was created by the combination of consumerism with (...) rising inequality. This was not a rebellion or an uprising of famished and impoverished people or an oppressed ethnic or religious minority but a mutiny of defective and disqualified consumers, people offended and humiliated by the display of riches to which they had been denied access. (shrink)
Each one of T.H. Marshall's trinity of human rights rested on the state as, simultaneously, its birth place, executive manager and guardian. And no wonder. At the time Marshall tied personal, political and social freedoms into a historically determined succession of won/bestowed rights, the boundaries of the sovereign state marked the limits of what humans could contemplate, and what they thought they should jointly do, in order to make their world more user-friendly. The state enclosed territory was the site of (...) private initiatives and public actions, as well as the arena on which private interests and public issues met, clashed and sought reconciliation. In all those respects, the realm of state sovereignty was presumed to be self-contained, selfassertive and self-sufficient. (shrink)
To measure the life `as it is' by a life `as it might or should be' is a defining, constitutive feature of humanity. The urge to transcend is nearest to a universal, and arguably the least destructible, attribute of human existence. This cannot be said, however, of its articulations into `projects' - that is, of cohesive and comprehensive programmes of change and of visions of life that the change is hoped to bring about - visions that stand out of reality, (...) adumbrating a fully and truly different, alternative world. For the constantly present transgressive urge to be articulated into such projects, some less common conditions must arise. Utopia is one of the forms such uncommon articulations may take. This article explores the conditions that defined that form - those of modernity in its initial `solid' stage, a form that was marked and set apart from other articulations of the transgression urge by two remarkable attributes: territoriality and finality. It is concluded that in the transgressive imagination of `liquid modernity' the `place' (whether physical or social) has been replaced by the unending sequence of new beginnings, inconsequentiality of deeds has been substituted for fixity of order, and the desire for a different today has elbowed out concern with a better tomorrow. (shrink)
A liquid modernity, where the traditional certainties have become fluid and blurred, presents a major challenge for education. The world is changing so quickly that homo sapiens, learning animal par excellence, can no longer rely on strategies acquired through learning experiences, let alone those derived from traditional values or wisdom. The excess of useless information creates a glut. When saturation level is reached, accumulation ceases to be a sign of wealth and becomes undesirable. Knowledge is confined - discarded like refuse (...) - in the infinite capacity of cyber-computers. What should we humans keep and what should we reject in this process? In times of liquid modernity, how and what should our children be taught in order to be able to develop survival strategies throughout their lives? (shrink)
Contrary to its heaping disasters, various actors and interpreters viewed the 20th century as the century of progress. This was as true of certain Marxists, or communists, as it was of Americanists such as Parsons. The temptation was to view the century, even in progress, as result, to view change as the precondition rather than as the process. Capitalism and modernity live on, rather, in the permanent revolution of liquid modernity. Capitalist, or at least liberal-democratic, and socialist utopias nevertheless behaved (...) as though perpetual peace was possible, if not impending. Uncertainty and contingency reigned in everyday life, if not in intellectual or progressive culture. Only now does the serpent again have its tail in its mouth. (shrink)
Why do most of us consider ourselves free but also believe there is little we can change in the way the world is run - individually, severally, or even collectively? Why has the growth of individual freedom coincided with the growth of collective impotence? Bauman argues that this condition hangs on the agora - the space where private and public meet to seek the creation of 'public good', a 'just society', or 'shared values'. The problem is that little remains of (...) such old style spaces. We cannot, he argues, overcome our collective impotence without resorting to politics and using the vehicle of political agency. Three orientation points for a reconstruction of politics are suggested: the republican model of the state and of citizenship, basic income as a universal entitlement, and re-enabling the institutions of autonomous society by catching up with the controlling extraterritorial powers in an age of globalization. (shrink)
Willie Horton probably cost Michael Dukakis the American presidency. Before running, Dukakis served for ten years as governor of Massachusetts and was one of the most vociferous opponents of the death penalty. He also thought prisons to be primarily tools for education and rehabilitation. Dukakis wished the penal system would restore to criminals their lost or forfeited humanity and prepare convicts for a “return to the community”; under his administration, state prisons' inmates were allowed home leaves. Horton failed to return (...) from one of those leaves. Instead, he raped a woman. This is what can be expected when soft-hearted liberals…. (shrink)
Globalization cuts both ways. Not only does it valorize the local in a cultural sense, it constructs the local as the tribal. Processes of geopolitical fragmentation give those in power even more room to manoeuvre. Glocalization involves the reallocation of poverty and stigma from above without even the residual responsibility of noblesse oblige. Geographical and social mobility are dichotomized; populations are refigured as tourists and vagabonds. Globalization thus reinforces already existing patterns of domination, while globalization indicates trends to dispersal and (...) conflict on neo-traditional grounds. The privileged walk, or fly away; the others take revenge upon each other. (shrink)
As many authors have acknowledged in these pages, Will Kymlicka has produced an admirable attempt to reconcile the differences of communitarians and liberals. However, Kymlicka's synthesis ignores the aspects of each theory which make his task impossible. Particularly, his analysis rests upon a misleading picture of communitarian community and an incomplete appreciation of the divergent liberal and communitarian understandings of freedom and pluralism. In the process of demonstrating the incompatibility of these theories, the similarities between communitarianism and nationalism are explored.
The Left is characterized by its lack of humor. This has set it apart from other forms of opposition to capitalism, e.g., avant-garde art. The latter's irony, self-mockery, and playfulness was a Ièse-majesté to the Left as much as it was to the priests of the establishment. Épater-le-bourgeois has never been a Left strategy, because the Left has treated le bourgeois seriously as the author of a project the Left diought worth fulfilling and as the hindrance to its fulfilment at (...) the same time. The Left was and remained until recently the counter-culture of capitalism. Ecologically it could only come into being once capitalist culture launched a program geared towards achieving a rational society. (shrink)
Because of the growing debate concerning the nature of Soviet-type societies, a symposium-review was organized around two important recent books on the subject. The following are discussions of either one or both of the following volumes: Ferenc Feher, Agnes Heller, Gyorgy Markus, Dictatorship over Needs, St. Martin's Press (New York, 1983). Victor Zaslavsky, The Neo-Stalinist State: Class, Ethnicity and Consensus in Soviet Society, M.E. Sharpe, Inc. (New York, 1982). In social analysis, effective explanations alternate “thick description” with “thin description” Zaslavsky's (...) The Neo-Stalinist State and Feher's, Heller's and Markus’ Dictatorship over Needs, can be seen to track “actually existine socialism” down the respective paths of “thick” and “think” analysis. (shrink)