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44 Letters From the Liquid Modern World



44 Letters From the Liquid Modern World

Zygmunt Bauman

ISBN: 978-0-745-65963-3 April 2013 Polity 208 Pages

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This liquid modern world of ours, like all liquids, cannot stand still and keep its shape for long. Everything keeps changing - the fashions we follow, the events that intermittently catch our attention, the things we dream of and things we fear. And we, the inhabitants of this world in flux, feel the need to adjust to its tempo by being ‘flexible' and constantly ready to change. We want to know what is going on and what is likely to happen, but what we get is an avalanche of information that threatens to overwhelm us.

How are we to sift the information that really matters from the heaps of useless and irrelevant rubbish? How are we to derive meaningful messages from senseless noise?
We face the daunting task of trying to distinguish the important from the insubstantial, distil the things that matter from false alarms and flashes in the pan.

Nothing escapes scrutiny so stubbornly as the ordinary things of everyday life, hiding in the light of deceptive and misleading familiarity. To turn them into objects of attention and scrutiny, they must first be torn out from that daily routine: the apparently familiar must be made strange. This is precisely what Zygmunt Bauman seeks to do in these 44 letters: each tells a story drawn from ordinary lives, but tells it in order to reveal an extraordinariness that we might otherwise overlook.

Arresting, revealing, disconcerting, these snapshots of life by the most brilliant analyst of our liquid modern world will appeal to a wide readership.

1 On writing letters – from a liquid modern world 1

2 Crowded solitude 6

3 Parents and children conversing 10

4 Offline, online 14

5 As the birds do 18

6 Virtual sex 22

7 Strange adventures of privacy (1) 26

8 Strange adventures of privacy (2) 30

9 Strange adventures of privacy (3) 34

10 Parents and children 38

11 Teenager spending 42

12 Stalking the Y generation 46

13 Freedom's false dawn 50

14 The arrival of child-women 54

15 It is the eyelash's turn 58

16 Fashion, or being on the move 62

17 Consumerism is not just about consumption 67

18 Whatever happened to the cultural elite 71

19 Drugs and diseases 75

20 Swine flu and other reasons to panic 79

21 Health and inequality 83

22 Be warned 87

23 The world inhospitable to education? (part one) 91

24 The world inhospitable to education? (part two) 95

25 The world inhospitable to education? (part three) 99

26 Ghosts of New Years past and New Years to come 102

27 Predicting the unpredictable 106

28 Calculating the incalculable 111

29 Phobia’s twisted trajectories 115

30 Interregnum 119

31 Whence the superhuman force – and what for? 123

32 Back home, you men? 128

33 Escape from crisis 132

34 Is there an end to depression? 136

35 Who says you have to live by the rules? 141

36 The phenomenon of Barack Obama 146

37 Culture in a globalized city 149

38 The voice of Lorna’s silence 153

39 Strangers are dangers . . . Are they, indeed? 157

40 Tribes and skies 163

41 Drawing boundaries 167

42 How good people turn evil 172

43 Fate and character 178

44 Albert Camus, or: I rebel, therefore we exist . . . 182

Notes 186

"Bauman is geniunely interested in changing attitudes between generations (about parenting, privacy, shopping, risk and the like), and the evolution of mores in fashion, culture, and education, never resorting to the boo-hurrah dichotomies employed by true professionals of this genre. Sympathy for the young is ever-present: there is much about the ambiguous goods of texting, Facebook and the like, and Bauman already saw modern existence as 'a life of continuous emergency' even before the financial crisis struck. Overall: magnificently untweetable."
Steven Poole, The Guardian
• An accessible selection of letters from one of the world's leading social thinkers.
• Bauman discusses topical issues such as Twitter, swine flu and the influence of Barack Obama.
• These letters are interesting and insightful on their own and always connected in some way to Bauman's general argument about liquid modernity.
• This selection should appeal to students of sociology as well as a wide general readership.