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Zygmunt Bauman: Prophet of Postmodernity




Zygmunt Bauman: Prophet of Postmodernity

Dennis Smith

ISBN: 978-0-745-66884-0 May 2013 Polity 262 Pages

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In this major new assessment of Zygmunt Bauman's work, Smith gives a clear introduction to this controversial and challenging sociologist.

Preface x

Part I Setting the Agenda

1 Living Without a Guidebook 3

Introduction 3

Critical perspectives 3

Sociology plus 5

What is modernity? 6

What is postmodernity? 9

Why Bauman is worth reading 14

The myth of the cage-dwellers 16

The rest of this book 18

2 No Easy Choices 20

Culture, choice and sociology 20

Bauman’s vision 23

Bauman’s career and intellectual influences: a brief overview 27

3 Who is Zygmunt Bauman? 33

Faith, hope and charity 33

The roots of wisdom 34

Bauman’s agenda 35

A brief biography 38

Transitions 41

Puzzles 43

Anti-Semitism and Bauman 43

Neither insider nor outsider 44

Marx and the art of motorcycle maintenance 45

4 The Power of the Past 48

Discovering postmodernity 48

From priest to prophet 50

Out of Poland 52

A sociology for strangers 56

Part II The Road to Postmodernity

5 The Road to the West 61

Keeping on the road 61

An unexpected discovery 62

Intellectuals and innovation 64

Bauman, Galbraith and Mill 66

Modern times, modern Marxism 67

Between Class and Elite 69

Polish peasants and politics 71

Conclusion 75

6 The Road to Utopia 77

Mechanisms of social change 77

Culture as Praxis 77

Towards a Critical Sociology 80

Socialism: the active utopia 85

Hermeneutics and Social Science 89

Conclusion 94

7 The Road to the Berlin Wall 98

Switching routes 98

Solidarity 99

Memories of Class 101

Freedom 105

After communism 109

Conclusion 110

8 The Trilogy 113

Three narratives 113

Legislators and Interpreters 114

Cruelty, dehumanization and estrangement 120

Modernity and the Holocaust 122

Modernity and Ambivalence 130

Conclusion 134

9 Bauman’s Vision of Modernity and Postmodernity 136

Elaborating the vision 136

Tending the garden 136

Discipline and sacrifice 138

The costs of modernity 142

Contradictions of modernity 143

The postmodern perspective 147

The postmodern habitat 150

The broader context 152

Three aspects of postmodernity 153

Postmodernization 155

Globalization 156

Seduction and repression 156

Cognitive, aesthetic and moral space 158

The stranger 161

I and the Other 163

The role of the sociologist 165

Part III Dialogue

10 Between Critical Theory and Poststructuralism 169

The ambivalence of criticism 169

The journey from modernity to postmodernity 170

Adorno and Habermas 171

Foucault and Lyotard 178

Enlightenment values 184

11 A Correspondence between Zygmunt Bauman and Dennis Smith 188

First letter 188

Second letter 191

Third letter 198

Fourth letter 203

Fifth letter 213

Notes 221

Bibliography 231

Index 239

"A very accessible introduction."

"This book is both an introduction to the main themes of Bauman's work and an intellectual biography. Smith is clear, unpretentious, and unfailingly accurate, with a remarkably sound eye for what is significant and what is not, and for what will maintain the book's narrative drive. As a guide for the perplexed or just plain curious it could hardly be bettered."
British Journal of Sociology

"Dennis Smith's book is part of Polity's series of Key Contemporary Thinkers, and on this evidence it is shaping up to be a worthwhile set of texts. He has not written a 'Beginner's Guide to Bauman', but rather an in-depth piece of work which includes some lengthy correspondence with Bauman."
—Contemporary Politics

* The first book-length introduction to the work of Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most influential authors in the postmodernity debate.
* Offers a comprehensive overview and assessment of Bauman's work linking his current thinking with his early writings.
* Includes a series of letters in which the author and his subject exchange views on a number of topics key to Bauman's work.