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On Education: Conversations with Riccardo Mazzeo

ISBN: 978-0-7456-6155-1
100 pages
June 2012, Polity
On Education: Conversations with Riccardo Mazzeo (0745661556) cover image
What is the role of education in a world where we no longer have a clear vision of the future and where the idea of a single, universal model of humanity seems like the residue of a bygone age? What role should educators play in a world where young people find themselves faced with deep uncertainty about their future, where the prospects of securing a stable, long-term career seem increasingly remote and where intensified population movements have created more diverse communities in which different cultures find themselves living side by side, no longer bound together by the belief that the other would eventually be assimilated into ‘our' culture?

Faced with the bewildering features of our liquid modern world, many young people are inclined to withdraw - in some cases into the online world of games and virtual relationships, in other cases into anorexia, depression, alcohol or even drug abuse, hoping to find shelter from a world perceived as more and more dangerous. Others launch into more violent forms of behaviour, like street gangs and the looting carried out by young people who have been excluded from the temples of consumption but are eager to participate in the ceremony. And all this happens while our politicians look on, uncomprehending and indifferent.

In this short book Zygmunt Bauman - the leading social theorist of our liquid modern world, here in conversation with Riccardo Mazzeo - reflects on the predicament of young people today and on the role of education and the educator in a world where the certainties of our predecessors can no longer be taken for granted.

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1 Between mixophilia and mixophobia 1

2 José Saramago: ways of being happy 7

3 Gregory Bateson and his third level of education 11

4 From closure of mind to ‘permanent revolution’ 15

5 Oak trees and ridiculously minute acorns 24

6 Looking for a genuine ‘cultural revolution’ 27

7 Depravation is the cleverest strategy of deprivation 31

8 Minutes to destroy, years to build 40

9 The young as a tip for the consumer industry 54

10 The effort to improve mutual understanding is a prolific source of human creativity 60

11 The unemployed can always play lotto, can’t they? 65

12 Disability, abnormality, minority as a political problem 74

13 Indignation and swarm- like political groupings 80

14 Defective consumers and never- ending minefields 86

15 Richard Sennett on difference 100

16 From Lacan’s ‘capitalist’ to Bauman’s ‘consumerist’ 112

17 Žižek and Morin on monotheism 121

18 Proust’s petite madeleine and consumerism 126

19 On fuels, sparks and fires 130

20 On glocalization coming of age 136

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Zygmunt Bauman is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leeds

Riccardo Mazzeo is editor at the Italian publisher Edizioni Erickson


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  • This is an engaging new book from one of the most influential and widely read sociologists in the world today.
  • Bauman, in conversation with Riccardo Mazzeo, reflects on nature and role of education and on the predicament of young people in our contemporary, liquid-modern world.
  • What role should educators play in a world where young people find themselves faced with deep uncertainty about their future, where the prospects of securing a stable, long-term career seem increasingly remote and where intensified population movements have created more diverse communities in which different cultures find themselves living side by side?
  • This book will appeal to anyone involved in teaching and education and to a a wide audience of general readers interested in current affairs.
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"Bauman's knack for placing things in context and accounting for that uneasy feeling you get from this or that current development makes [On Education] stimulating."
Inside Higher Ed

"When graduates can't find jobs, the bargain of commercialised education – take out enormous student loans that will be repaid by your supposedly high salary later on – breaks down. So worries the sociologist Bauman, in a perky and colourful written interview with the Italian publisher Mazzeo. Even so, Bauman remains hopeful about the 'openness' of mind ideally encouraged by schooling – indeed, as he points out sharply, it is not 'practical' otherwise."
Steven Poole, The Guardian
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