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Culture in a Liquid Modern World

Zygmunt Bauman, Lydia Bauman (Translated by)
ISBN: 978-0-7456-5354-9
144 pages
July 2011, Polity
Culture in a Liquid Modern World (0745653545) cover image
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.


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1 Some notes on the historical peregrinations of the concept of 'Culture' 1

2 On fashion, liquid identity and utopia for today – some cultural tendencies in the twenty-first century 18

3 Culture from nation-building to globalization 32

4 Culture in a world of diasporas 51

5 Culture in a uniting Europe 71

6 Culture between state and market 96

Notes 118

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Zygmunt Bauman is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University of Leeds.
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  • Zygmunt Bauman is one of the most original and influential social thinkers of our time.
  • In this new book Bauman argues that, in our contemporary liquid-modern world, culture 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.
  • Bauman retraces the history of the concept of culture and explores its fate in a world marked by the powerful new forces of globalization, migration and the intermingling of populations.
  • This will appeal to all undergraduate students and scholars of sociology, politics and cultural studies, as well as general readers interested in the changing nature and role of culture in contemporary societies.
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"Some acerbic interpretations of a long-contested word."
Steven Poole, The Guardian
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