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A critical analysis
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This book is a critical engagement with Zygmunt Bauman's ideas and arguments as found in selected texts and interviews of his postmodern and liquid modern phases. In Part I of the book, the focus is on Bauman's analysis of modernity, and his interpretation of the relationship between modernity and the Enlightenment as presented in Legislators and Interpreters. For Bauman, the deepest reason for sociology's failure to deal adequately with the Holocaust is to be found in sociology's being too much a part of modernity. Part II explores how Bauman's analysis of the postmodern condition develops in a variety of works throughout the 1990s. Questions of ethics and morality were central to Bauman's concerns, and Emmanuel Levinas's work was postmodern in the same sense that pervaded Bauman's sense of the postmodern. In the third part, the book deals with metaphoricity, liquid metaphor, and solid and liquid modernity. Bauman's deployment of metaphors is a defining feature of his sociology, and most commentators have argued that Bauman's sociology has a 'literary edge'. But 'liquid' metaphor throws up several questions, as liquids come in various degrees of viscosity, but Bauman assumes that 'liquid' simply implies the opposite of 'solid'. Bauman says, in Marx's time, and throughout the phase of 'solid modernity', socio-economic change, although rapid and ubiquitous, was always only a temporary state of affairs. There have been enough significant fluidities, varying between historical periods and across territories, to cast serious doubt on the appropriateness of the 'solid' metaphor.

Abstract only
Ali Rattansi

Zygmunt Bauman is one of that generation of Central and European intellectuals who literally lived through the disasters of the twentieth century. He experienced what others only write about. By the time he was twenty, Bauman had confronted anti-Semitism, Stalinism, Nazism and warfare. Bauman's recent writings travel light, burdened neither by research nor theoretical analytics, but borne up by an unusual life wisdom, a trained observer's eye and a fluent pen. Bauman himself cited the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci as a strong formative influence. Bauman absorbed from Gramsci the importance of 'culture' and in principle a non-deterministic Marxism. However, Bauman failed to do justice to the manner in which Gramsci saw cultural hegemony as a legitimating but always unstable process that shored up the power of the elites and upper classes in the Western European social order.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi
in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi

Zygmunt Bauman analyzed the Enlightenment and indeed the whole of Western modernity and postmodernity from a perspective that focused on the changing status of intellectuals in relation to the state. Indeed, the very emergence of intellectuals as a separate and special social category is said by Bauman to be inextricably tied to the Enlightenment. Modernity and intellectuals were part and parcel of two major new phenomena that began to flourish during the eighteenth century. The term 'intellectual', Bauman points out, is a twentieth-century French invention. Bauman self-consciously presents an 'ideal-typical' version of the Enlightenment, but soon slips into a mode of argument which ignores the internal diversity of viewpoints. This argument begins to treat his deliberately selective portrayal of the Enlightenment as synonymous with the Enlightenment tout court.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi

Hannah Arendt was one of the first intellectuals to confront, in 1945, the enormity of what had happened to six million Jews and millions of Roma, Poles and others in the Holocaust. Zygmunt Bauman's own thesis of the Holocaust's modernity, he argues, is impossible to formulate within conventional sociological frameworks. Without anti-Semitism the Holocaust, aimed first and foremost at Jews, would obviously not have been possible. Bauman's reflections on racism are marked by constant attempts to tie racism to social engineering and modernity, rather than seeing it as a broader phenomenon. Bauman's inspiration for his understanding of the nature and role of bureaucracy was Max Weber. Weber had analyzed bureaucratic authority as one ideal typical form of rule, which contrasted with traditional, charismatic and value-laden forms of authority.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
A preliminary interrogation of Bauman’s Eurocentric, white, male gaze
Ali Rattansi

Zygmunt Bauman published Modernity and Ambivalence a mere two years after Modernity and the Holocaust. The book Modernity and Ambivalence reveals all too clearly Bauman's own deeply ambivalent perception of modernity. Bauman identifies modernity with the modern nation-state, and states that its origins lie in the period beginning with the seventeenth century, followed by the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution. In Modernity and Ambivalence Bauman argues that the uncertainty and contingency which Jewish intellectuals experienced foreshadowed an existential condition and experience that was to be the lot of large sections of the population in a later, postmodern period. Discourses of liberalism are central to understanding the formation of the West and its governing institutions, although Bauman, despite borrowing extensively from Foucault, fails to incorporate Foucault's more acute understanding of liberalism into his own analysis.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi
in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi

Modernism' is a term usually reserved for a set of movements in the arts that gained a particular momentum in the early years of the twentieth century and continued to flourish until at least the middle of the twentieth century, the periodisation being dependent on when one believes that a new set of aesthetic strategies and products, dubbed postmodernist, began. This chapter discusses that for many commentators postmodernism in the arts was, by and large, a continuation of modernism, hence the doubts and debates about the periodisation of modernism. It describes Bauman's Legislators and Interpreters, which positions itself in a very specific manner in relation to these debates. The chapter talks about these debates from a serious exploration of Bauman's first text on the question of 'modernity', from a postmodernist perspective, which inaugurated a prolific period of publications by him on the subject.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Extending the critique of Bauman’s first exposition of postmodernity and postmodernism
Ali Rattansi

Zygmunt Bauman's first foray into a postmodernist evaluation of Western modernity is undoubtedly a tour de force. For Bauman, modernism was all of a piece with modernity's guiding assumptions of rationalism and the cultivation of order. The contradictoriness of modernity and modernism, and the blurring of boundaries between what is to count as modernist and what as postmodernist, are indicative of a notable oversimplification by Bauman in his descriptions of both. Bauman was only one among many who erroneously regarded the concept of postmodernism as having its origins in architecture rather than literary criticism. Bauman's pluralism and relativism in Legislators derive from both Gadamer's hermeneutical Truth and Method and Rorty's neo-pragmatist critique of the universalist philosophical pre-suppositions underlying the Western tradition of philosophy, especially what Rorty variously calls the 'Cartesian-Kantian' tradition and the 'Descartes-Locke-Kant' tradition.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Ali Rattansi

Zygmunt Bauman argues that the very notion of 'society', theorised within orthodox sociology as identical to a nation-state, needs to be rethought. For in a postmodern world of globalisation the sovereignty of the nation-state is being undermined, and a strict differentiation between what is 'inside' and what is 'outside' a society is increasingly implausible. Bauman calls the 'postmodern habitat' a complex system which is radically unpredictable and one which defies any kind of statistical analysis of regular patterns of behaviour. Social actors have agency, they have autonomy, such that they are 'only partly, if at all constrained, in their pursuit of whatever they have institutionalized as their purpose'. Bauman's 'sociology of postmodernity' remains within a conventional paradigm; nothing in Intimations leads to a rethinking of the methods of sociological research, and indeed Bauman explicitly rules out new ways of doing sociology.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology