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)
The global financial crisis has shattered the illusion that all was well with capitalism and forced us to confront the great challenges we face today with a new sense of urgency. Few are better placed to do this than Zygmunt Bauman, a social thinker whose writings on liquid modernity have pioneered a new way of seeing the world in which we live at the dawn of the 21st Century. Our liquid modern world is characterized by the transition from a society (...) of producers to a society of consumers, the natural extension of which is the society of perpetual debtors. The ruling idea of the society of consumers is to prevent needs from being satisfied and to create demand; its natural extension is to enable consumers to consume more by borrowing. Debt was transformed into a crucial profit-earning asset of capitalism in liquid modern times. The present-day 'credit crunch' is not the outcome of the banks' failure but rather the fruit of their success in transforming the majority of men and women, young and old, into a race of debtors. They got what they were looking for: a society of debtors whose condition of being in debt was made self-perpetuating, with more debts being offered, and more undertaken, as the only way of escaping from the debts already incurred. Starting from this reflection on the current global financial crisis and prompted by the probing questions of his interlocutor, Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo, Bauman examines in an historical perspective some of the most pressing moral and political issues of our time, from international terrorism and the rise of religious and secular fundamentalism to the decline of the nation-state and the threats posed by global warming, issues whose seriousness and urgency attest to the fact that we are living today not only on borrowed money but also on borrowed time. (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)
Bauman offers an exposition of his ideas against the context of art and artistic practices. He draws links between his work on ‘liquid modernity’ and the practices of Gustav Metzger dating back to the 1960s. In particular he stresses how Metzger’s concept of ‘auto-destructive art’ anticipates his own argument on the ways in which contemporary consumerism demands constant novelty, and hence a relentless flow of waste and dissipation - ‘disposal is already contained in the original design’. He develops his insights (...) with reference to the work of Villeglé, Valdes and Braun-Vega who each exemplify key aspects of the liquid modern; creation and destruction, the hopeless and desperate battle for attention, the directionless march of time. It is a sequence of incessant new beginnings, but each new start also contains the seeds of its own destruction and disappearance. (shrink)
Sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s of the last century, Antonio Gramsci recorded in one of the many notebooks he filled during his long incarceration in the Turi prison1: ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear’. The term ‘interregnum’ was originally used to denote a time-lag separating the death of one royal sovereign from the enthronement of the (...) successor. These used to be the main occasions on which the past generations experienced a rupture in the otherwise monotonous continuity of government, law, and social order. (shrink)
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.
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)