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Liquid Times: Living in an Age of…
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Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty

by Zygmunt Bauman

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This book is an eminently readable critique of life in the twenty-first century as a westerner. His section upon 'Humanity on the Move', is particularly well argued and should be given to every 'little Englander', who wishes to keep 'them' out.

The book manages to avoid the usual error of this type of work: it is neither irreversibly positive, or a totally negative rant. This opus is a record of where we are and how we got there; the verdict is drawn by the reader. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Aug 1, 2017 |
Zygmunt Bauman is a Polish-born sociologist in the Marxist tradition mostly known for his thoroughgoing critiques of consumerism, modernity, and cultural memory (especially the Holocaust). His "liquid" books, including "Liquid Modernity" (2000), "Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds" (2003), "Liquid Life" (2005), "Liquid Fear" (2006), and the book presently considered, "Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty" (2006), for the most part seem to be shorter books whose aim is to adumbrate the arguments Bauman has made over the course of his career.

The focus of "Liquid Times" is a meta-critique of globalization and all of the problems it presents, from rootlessness to the ubiquity of the security sate, with Bauman's central thesis being that the consequences of globalization have seriously hindered attempts at international justice. The goal of globalization - to eradicate any trade barriers and therefore create "markets without frontiers" - results in the transition from a world where people are subject to the laws and protections of their home countries to one in which radical fear and lack of security are reified and the "fading of human bonds and the wilting of solidarity" reigns. This lack of security results in fear and a perceived lack of control, which in turn perpetuates and shores up the conspicuous shift toward national security that we have experienced in advanced liberal democracies. And so the pernicious cycle goes. In his comparison of cities, the globally located ones (that are able to participate in the fully integrated sphere of globalization) and locally located cities ones (those that aren't), Bauman says that the job of the city has changed from protecting its inhabitants from outsiders to housing ghettoized populations of peripatetic transnationals and strangers, the "dumping ground for globally conceived and gestated problems."

Our new liquid times have also brought about an unprecedented number of refugees, both political and economic. Wars, which Bauman thinks are essentially local attempts to solve global problems, become intractable. The result is an "excess of humanity" - humanity as waste product - completely and utterly divested of property, personal identity, or even a state that will recognize their existence.

Bauman suggests that democracy has ironically become an elitist affair, where the rich protect their interests and the poor continue to suffer from a lack of social safety nets and supportive governmental networks. He is also not terribly optimistic about the chances of gaining a pre-globalized utopia, a word which Thomas More first darkly noted could mean, homophonically, either "paradise" or "nowhere." While it is still a paradise for some, our world has become too liquid to be anything but the latter for most of us. In the end, Bauman offers in every analysis of globalization the ultimate paradox of modernity: a permanent life shot through with impermanency.

As I pointed out before, at least according to the back of the book, Bauman has taken the time to further detail his analyses in other books. However, from what I read here, I am not sure how many of his arguments are original. Books on globalization with themes of alienation and disenfranchisement are not unpopular in the field of sociology. However, Bauman's wry wit definitely has me interested in reading more of his work, which I plan on reviewing in the future. ( )
  kant1066 | Oct 14, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zygmunt Baumanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Šolcová, HelenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bury, LaurentTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Amico, SavinoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garrigasait, RaülTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0745639879, Paperback)

The passage from 'solid' to 'liquid' modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. They have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don't add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like 'career' and 'progress' could meaningfully be applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable - to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.

Zygmunt Bauman's brilliant writings on liquid modernity have altered the way we think about the contemporary world. In this short book he explores the sources of the endemic uncertainty which shapes our lives today and, in so doing, he provides the reader with a brief and accessible introduction to his highly original account, developed at greater length in his previous books, of life in our liquid modern times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:44 -0400)

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