Zygmunt Bauman and the Consumption of Ethics by the Ethics of Consumerism

Theory, Culture and Society 31 (4):97-118 (2014)
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This article focuses on the ethical quandary of Zygmunt Bauman’s interpretation of modernity as a double logic that heralds both emancipation and domination. After outlining his liberation sociology and the liquid moral ontologies he discerns, it argues Bauman’s solution to the consumption of ethics by consumerism demands too much, too late. Firstly, Bauman misappropriates Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction. The actual outcome is the dissipation of the Levinasian centrifugal self, whom Bauman wants to uphold as a cure for the Nietzschean centripetal self. Secondly, as Daniel Miller shows, totalizing critiques of consumerism – such as Bauman’s – blind us to forms of moral self-constitution within consumption. And, thirdly, Bauman’s concept of the autonomous agent overlooks the power relations that are inherent to the constitution of subjectivity. Notwithstanding, Bauman highlights the need to articulate an ethics of freedom, and the article concludes with Foucault’s aesthetics of existence to meet this challenge.



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Bregham Dalgliesh
University of Tokyo

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References found in this work

The Subject and Power.Michel Foucault - 1982 - Critical Inquiry 8 (4):777-795.
The Politics of Friendship.Jacques Derrida - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (11):632-644.
Modernity and Ambivalence.Zygmunt Bauman - 1990 - Theory, Culture and Society 7 (2-3):143-169.
Social Space and Symbolic Power.Pierre Bourdieu - 1989 - Sociological Theory 7 (1):14-25.

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