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Bauman, Zygmunt

Page history last edited by Linnea 15 years, 2 months ago

In his book “Liquid Modernity,” Zygmunt Bauman uses an extended metaphor of “solids” and “liquids” to describe his conception of modern society.  He argues that society began as a solid, with relatively unchanging economic and political systems.  People in this society valued dependability and stability over change.  The wealthy were able to root themselves in the land they owned, because of their wealth.  With little solidity in their lives, the lower classes were more nomadic.


Eventually people began to feel constrained by such rigid systems and wanted change, so old “solids” (e.g. traditional loyalties, familial institutions, feudal systems, and religious solidarity) began to be dissolved and society became much more individualized.


The goal of this liquidation was to eventually create a new “solid” that would be immune to the challenges of non-economic action (e.g. religion).  The cultivation of individualism discouraged the formation of groups that could be a threat to the newly established system.  Bauman argues that the ultimate goal is to create a system that does not need to be changed anymore.


Bauman goes on to argue that in modernity, time and space have become independent from our every day lives.  He states, “Modernity starts when space and time are separated from living practice and from each other” (589).  Time is accelerating due to the liquidity of our modern society. The independence of time and space allows them to have history and consequence that they didn't have prior to the more fluid and flexible times of modernity. Before, solids (social hierarcies) were tied to time and space because nothing within the solids changed and, therefore, time and space had no meaning. Everything that came before was the same as the present, and everything that would come after would be the same as the present. Now though, not only is time accelerating, but there has also been a resurgence of nomadism.  While in earlier societies, the wealthy rooted themselves to the ground (a “solid”), in modernity it is the only the lower classes that do so.  In our society, we value the ability to remain mobile and prize objects that are highly portable.


Bauman ends his argument with an apt illustration of how society has changed and become more "liquid": while Rockefeller made his railroads with the intention of them lasting forever (thus, very solid objects), Bill Gates creates new products every year and has little problem discarding old products and ideas.

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