Zygmunt Bauman

Zygmunt Bauman is the author of a number of other books including the extremely successful Modernity and the Holocaust (Polity, 1989) which won the 1989 European Amalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Theory, and Modernity and Ambivalence (Polity, 1991). He was also awarded the Theodor W. Adorno prize for 1998.
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With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the travelling salespeople. They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the term the market.

The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live.

In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences.

The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.

The production of 'human waste' - or more precisely, wasted lives, the 'superfluous' populations of migrants, refugees and other outcasts - is an inevitable outcome of modernization. It is an unavoidable side-effect of economic progress and the quest for order which is characteristic of modernity.





As long as large parts of the world remained wholly or partly unaffected by modernization, they were treated by modernizing societies as lands that were able to absorb the excess of population in the 'developed countries'. Global solutions were sought, and temporarily found, to locally produced overpopulation problems. But as modernization has reached the furthest lands of the planet, 'redundant population' is produced everywhere and all localities have to bear the consequences of modernity's global triumph. They are now confronted with the need to seek - in vain, it seems - local solutions to globally produced problems. The global spread of the modernity has given rise to growing quantities of human beings who are deprived of adequate means of survival, but the planet is fast running out of places to put them. Hence the new anxieties about 'immigrants' and 'asylum seekers' and the growing role played by diffuse 'security fears' on the contemporary political agenda.





With characteristic brilliance, this new book by Zygmunt Bauman unravels the impact of this transformation on our contemporary culture and politics and shows that the problem of coping with 'human waste' provides a key for understanding some otherwise baffling features of our shared life, from the strategies of global domination to the most intimate aspects of human relationships.
Evil is not confined to war or to circumstances in which people are acting under extreme duress. Today it more frequently reveals itself in the everyday insensitivity to the suffering of others, in the inability or refusal to understand them and in the casual turning away of one’s ethical gaze. Evil and moral blindness lurk in what we take as normality and in the triviality and banality of everyday life, and not just in the abnormal and exceptional cases.

The distinctive kind of moral blindness that characterizes our societies is brilliantly analysed by Zygmunt Bauman and Leonidas Donskis through the concept of adiaphora: the placing of certain acts or categories of human beings outside of the universe of moral obligations and evaluations. Adiaphora implies an attitude of indifference to what is happening in the world – a moral numbness.  In a life where rhythms are dictated by ratings wars and box-office returns, where people are preoccupied with the latest gadgets and forms of gossip, in our ‘hurried life’ where attention rarely has time to settle on any issue of importance, we are at serious risk of losing our sensitivity to the plight of the other. Only celebrities or media stars can expect to be noticed in a society stuffed with sensational, valueless information.

This probing inquiry into the fate of our moral sensibilities will be of great interest to anyone concerned with the most profound changes that are silently shaping the lives of everyone in our contemporary liquid-modern world.
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