Bauman and contemporary sociology

A critical analysis

Author: Ali Rattansi

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.

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‘Rattansi offers a remarkably comprehensive survey… readers come to understand what Bauman was: not a systematic theorist, not an empirical sociologist, but a social philosopher who left enduring insights.'
P. Kivisto, Augustana College (IL)
May 2018

‘This is a beautifully written book that engages in depth with the key writings and ideas of Zygmunt Bauman from the past 30 years.'
Nicholas Gane, University of Warwick

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