A critical analysis

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.

Sociology and postmodernity If Bauman’s stance in Legislators and Interpreters is not difficult to classify as ‘postmodernist’ in a fairly strong sense, his remarks on the specificity of the postmodern condition as characterised by uncertainty and ambivalence in Modernity and Ambivalence do little to dispel that impression. I will soon explore in greater depth how Bauman’s analysis of the postmodern condition develops in a variety of works throughout the 1990s. For the time being, though, it is necessary to explore a key theoretical dilemma that confronted

in Bauman and contemporary sociology

‘Metaphoricity’ in Bauman’s sociology As I have emphasised in the Introduction and elsewhere in this book, 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’ giving it a number of strengths, and should not be judged in a conventional sociological manner. The ‘liquid’ metaphor is only one among myriad metaphors that litter Bauman’s sociology, among them being ‘vagabonds’, ‘tourists’, ‘legislators’, ‘interpreters’, ‘weeds’, ‘strangers’, ‘players’, ‘strollers

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
Art worlds and cultural production

This book explores the interface between musicological and sociological approaches to the analysis of music, and in doing so reveals the differing foundations of cultural studies and sociological perspectives more generally. Building on the arguments of his earlier book Sounds and society, the author initially contrasts text-based attempts to develop a ‘social’ analysis of music with sociological studies of musical activities in real cultural and institutional contexts. It is argued that the difficulties encountered by some of the ‘new’ musicologists in their efforts to introduce a social dimension to their work are often a result of their unfamiliarity with contemporary sociological discourse. Just as linguistic studies have moved from a concern with the meaning of words to a focus on how they are used, a sociological perspective directs our attention towards the ways in which the production and reception of music inevitably involve the collaborative activities of real people in particular times and places. The social meanings and significance of music, therefore, cannot be disclosed by analysis of the ‘texts’ alone, but only through the examination of the ways in which music is a constituent part of real social settings. This theme is developed through discussions of music in relation to processes of social stratification, the collaborative activities of improvising musicians, music as language, music as a ‘cultural object’ and music in everyday social situations.

Chap 2 10/7/06 11:49 am Page 13 2 Music and the sociological gaze Introduction ‘The history of musicology and music theory in our generation’, write Cook and Everist, ‘is one of loss of confidence: we no longer know what we know’ (1999: v). The reasons for this widely acknowledged crisis of confidence need not be rehearsed, but clearly arise from a series of challenges to the established discipline – from, for example, the critical and feminist theories of the ‘new’ musicologists, from various claims about the proper relation of musicology to

in Music and the sociological gaze
A critical commentary

Aspects of Bauman’s sociology of postmodernity: a critical commentary The consumer society In his (relatively conventional) sociology of postmodernity (rather than in his analysis of ‘sociality’ in the ‘postmodern habitat’) Bauman distinguishes his own position by identifying where the even more conventional ‘orthodox consensus’ – a term borrowed from Giddens – in sociology had gone wrong, thus ending up in crisis. Bauman could have taken a more postmodernist stance by referring to sociology’s crisis as involving in part a crisis of representation, a move that

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
On late modernity and social statehood

Populism, neoliberalism, and globalisation are just three of the many terms used to analyse the challenges facing democracies around the world. Critical Theory and Sociological Theory examines those challenges by investigating how the conditions of democratic statehood have been altered at several key historical intervals since 1945. The author explains why the formal mechanisms of democratic statehood, such as elections, have always been complemented by civic, cultural, educational, socio-economic, and, perhaps most importantly, constitutional institutions mediating between citizens and state authority. Critical theory is rearticulated with a contemporary focus in order to show how the mediations between citizens and statehood are once again rapidly changing. The book looks at the ways in which modern societies have developed mixed constitutions in several senses that go beyond the official separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. In addition to that separation, one also witnesses a complex set of conflicts, agreements, and precarious compromises that are not adequately defined by the existing conceptual vocabulary on the subject. Darrow Schecter shows why a sociological approach to critical theory is urgently needed to address prevailing conceptual deficits and to explain how the formal mechanisms of democratic statehood need to be complemented and updated in new ways today.

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8 Sociology geoffrey wood In his classic work on The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills argued that it ‘enables the possessor to understand the historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and external career of individuals’ (Mills 1959: 5). In other words, sociology seeks to explain the experience and life chances of the individual in terms of the wider historical and institutional context. Sociological accounts of the nature of democracy and democratization are thus less concerned with the formal constitution of governmental structures

in Democratization through the looking-glass
Abstract only
A sociologist of hope or a prophet of gloom?

those in the Global North than to those in the Global South, and his white, male gaze sets limits to the questions about publicly produced but privately felt troubles that his sociology illuminates. His focus on the production of suffering rather than the experience of suffering, as Outhwaite (2010: 7) has put it, has meant that it is difficult for his work to evoke empathy in his readers with the underdogs of the world, however much he thinks the care for the Other should be at the heart of moral life. In this Conclusion I will focus primarily on one final issue that

in Bauman and contemporary sociology
What is this liquid in 'liquid modernity’?

the radical novelty of postmodernity as a ‘social system’, and on its ‘sociality’ as a radically new ‘habitat’ requiring a new kind of sociology to give those who wished to see in his thinking an ‘end of modernity’ thesis enough grounds for their judgement. It is also the case that there were occasions on which Bauman could not have been clearer that in his view postmodernity was a phase within modernity, that is, that we are now living in ‘modernity without illusions’, and that that is what he meant by postmodernity. Coining the concept of ‘liquid modernity’ was a

in Bauman and contemporary sociology