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Zygmunt Bauman's writings on liquid modernity have altered the way we think about the contemporary world. In this book, he explores the sources of the endemic uncertainty which shapes our lives and, in so doing, he provides the reader with a brief introduction to his original account, developed at greater length in his previous books.
In this new book, Bauman examines how we have moved away from a 'heavy' and 'solid', hardware-focused modernity to a 'light' and 'liquid', software-based modernity. This passage, he argues, has brought profound change to all aspects of the human condition. The new remoteness and un-reachability of global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life-politics and human togetherness, call for the rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history. This book is dedicated to this task. Bauman selects five of the basic concepts which have served to make sense of shared human life - emancipation, individuality, time/space, work and community - and traces their successive incarnations and changes of meaning. Liquid Modernity concludes the analysis undertaken in Bauman's two previous books Globalization: The Human Consequences and In Search of Politics. Together these volumes form a brilliant analysis of the changing conditions of social and political life by one of the most original thinkers writing today.
Modernity was supposed to be the period in human history when the fears that pervaded social life in the past could be left behind and human beings could at last take control of their lives and tame the uncontrolled forces of the social and natural worlds. And yet, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we live again in a time of fear. Whether its the fear of natural disasters, the fear of environmental catastrophes or the fear of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, we live today in a state of constant anxiety about the dangers that could strike unannounced and at any moment. Fear is the name we give to our uncertainty in the face of the dangers that characterize our liquid modern age, to our ignorance of what the threat is and our incapacity to determine what can and can't be done to counter it. This new book by Zygmunt Bauman one of the foremost social thinkers of our time is an inventory of liquid modern fears. It is also an attempt to uncover their common sources, to analyse the obstacles that pile up on the road to their discovery and to examine the ways of putting them out of action or rendering them harmless. Through his brilliant account of the fears and anxieties that weigh on us today, Bauman alerts us to the scale of the task which we shall have to confront through most of the current century if we wish our fellow humans to emerge at its end feeling more secure and self-confident than we feel at its beginning.
In its original formulation, ‘culture’ was intended to be an agent for change, a mission undertaken with the aim of educating ‘the people’ by bringing the best of human thought and creativity to them. But in our contemporary liquid-modern world, culture has lost its missionary role and has become a means of seduction: it seeks no longer to enlighten the people but to seduce them. The function of culture today is not to satisfy existing needs but to create new ones, while simultaneously ensuring that existing needs remain permanently unfulfilled. Culture today likens itself to a giant department store where the shelves are overflowing with desirable goods that are changed on a daily basis - just long enough to stimulate desires whose gratification is perpetually postponed. In this new book Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most brilliant and influential social thinkers of our time - retraces the peregrinations of the concept of culture and examines its fate in a world marked by the powerful new forces of globalization, migration and the intermingling of populations. He argues that Europe has a particularly important role to play in revitalizing our understanding of culture precisely because Europe, with its great diversity of peoples, languages and histories, is the space where the Other is always one’s neighbour and where each is constantly called upon to learn from everyone else.
‘Today the smallest details of our daily lives are tracked and traced more closely than ever before, and those who are monitored often cooperate willingly with the monitors. From London and New York to New Delhi, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro, video cameras are a familiar and accepted sight in public places. Air travel now commonly involves devices such as body-scanners and biometric checks that have proliferated in the wake of 9/11. And every day Google and credit-card issuers note the details of our habits, concerns and preferences, quietly prompting customized marketing strategies with our active, all too often zealous cooperation. In today’s liquid modern world, the paths of daily life are mobile and flexible. Crossing national borders is a commonplace activity and immersion in social media increasingly ubiquitous. Today’s citizens, workers, consumers and travellers are always on the move but often lacking certainty and lasting bonds. But in this world where spaces may not be fixed and time is boundless, our perpetual motion does not go unnoticed. Surveillance spreads in hitherto unimaginable ways, responding to and reproducing the slippery nature of modern life, seeping into areas where it once had only marginal sway. In this book the surveillance analysis of David Lyon meets the liquid modern world so insightfully dissected by Zygmunt Bauman. Is a dismal future of moment-by-moment monitoring closing in, or are there still spaces of freedom and hope? How do we realize our responsibility for the human beings before us, often lost in discussions of data and categorization? Dealing with questions of power, technology and morality, this book is a brilliant analysis of what it means to be watched – and watching – today.
'Liquid life' is the kind of life commonly lived in our contemporary, liquid-modern society. Liquid life cannot stay on course, as liquid-modern society cannot keep its shape for long. Liquid life is a precarious life, lived under conditions of constant uncertainty. The most acute and stubborn worries that haunt this liquid life are the fears of being caught napping, of failing to catch up with fast moving events, of overlooking the 'use by' dates and being saddled with worthless possessions, of missing the moment calling for a change of tack and being left behind. Liquid life is also shot through by a contradiction: it ought to be a (possibly unending) series of new beginnings, yet precisely for that reason it is full of worries about swift and painless endings, without which new beginnings would be unthinkable. Among the arts of liquid-modern living and the skills needed to practice them, getting rid of things takes precedence over their acquisition. This and other challenges of life in a liquid-modern society are traced and unravelled in the successive chapters of this new book by one of the most brilliant and original social thinkers of our time.

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