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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.

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 critical commentary
Ali Rattansi

In his (relatively conventional) sociology of postmodernity Zygmunt Bauman distinguishes his own position by identifying where the even more conventional 'orthodox consensus' in sociology had gone wrong, thus ending up in crisis. Work, Consumerism and the New Poor is a particularly useful text with which to begin, for in it Bauman provides a succinct overview, sketching out the key elements in his analysis of postmodernity. In Life in Fragments Bauman has much to say about the corrosive effect of consumerism, individualism, the privatisation of everyday life and market domination on postmodern identities and comments on a form of postmodern racism. This is one of the few occasions in which he addresses racism outside his study of the Holocaust, although he also provides further thoughts on anti-Semitism.

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Abstract only
A sociologist of hope or a prophet of gloom?
Ali Rattansi

This chapter focuses primarily on one final issue, was Zygmunt Bauman an optimist or a pessimist. Bauman's views constantly vacillated between optimism and pessimism. Despite the pessimism of so much of his work, Bauman remained hopeful. While the totalitarianism that Bauman had experienced and suffered from, Nazism and Soviet-style Communism, do not now exist, Bauman was always on the look-out for new dangers to personal and collective freedoms. He is a worthy disciple of the Critical Theory tradition. As long as sociologists keep 'sounding the alarm', sociology's critical message will always find an audience and a better world will always be a possibility, a 'chance' as he often put it. Bauman came to believe that Popperian-style piecemeal, pragmatic social engineering was the only possibility in the face of the failure of the modern 'gardening' utopias of Communism and Nazism.

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
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

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
Abstract only
Bauman’s Levinasian turn
Ali Rattansi

Bauman described his delighted discovery of Levinas's work as a 'Eureka' moment. Levinas's work was postmodern in the same sense that pervaded Bauman's sense of the postmodern. Levinas's ethical thinking attempted to go beyond the rationalism of Enlightenment and especially Kantian moral discourse. For Levinas, as for Bauman, modern, Enlightenment-derived morality was a matter of duty, of finding the right rules which could then be universally binding on ethical human behaviour; this was a deontological conception of morality. Levinasian thinking had another theme that undoubtedly attracted Bauman. Levinas was insistent that in properly ethical self-Other relations the Other should never be reduced to the Same; the Other's difference must always be respected. In Bauman an additional, Levinas-derived puzzlement is caused by his assertion that morality is not rationally deduced or socially produced, but is immanent in human co-existence.

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