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Living on Borrowed Time: Conversations with Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo



Living on Borrowed Time: Conversations with Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo

Zygmunt Bauman

ISBN: 978-0-745-64738-8 December 2009 Polity 100 Pages


The global financial crisis has shattered the illusion that all was well with capitalism and forced us to confront the great challenges we face today with a new sense of urgency. Few are better placed to do this than Zygmunt Bauman, a social thinker whose writings on liquid modernity have pioneered a new way of seeing the world in which we live at the dawn of the 21st Century.

Our liquid modern world is characterized by the transition from a society of producers to a society of consumers, the natural extension of which is the society of perpetual debtors. The ruling idea of the society of consumers is to prevent needs from being satisfied and to create demand; its natural extension is to enable consumers to consume more by borrowing. Debt was transformed into a crucial profit-earning asset of capitalism in liquid modern times. The present-day 'credit crunch' is not the outcome of the banks' failure but rather the fruit of their success in transforming the majority of men and women, young and old, into a race of debtors. They got what they were looking for: a society of debtors whose condition of being in debt was made self-perpetuating, with more debts being offered, and more undertaken, as the only way of escaping from the debts already incurred.

Starting from this reflection on the current global financial crisis and prompted by the probing questions of his interlocutor, Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo, Bauman examines in an historical perspective some of the most pressing moral and political issues of our time, from international terrorism and the rise of religious and secular fundamentalism to the decline of the nation-state and the threats posed by global warming, issues whose seriousness and urgency attest to the fact that we are living today not only on borrowed money but also on borrowed time.

Introduction by Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo 1

Part One 13

Conversation I
The credit crunch: an outcome of the Bank's failure, or a fruit of its outstanding success? Capitalism is not dead 15

Conversation II
The welfare state in the age of economic globalization: the last remaining vestiges of Bentham's Panopticon. Policing or helping the poor? 34

Conversation III
This thing called 'the state': revisiting democracy, sovereignty and human rights 45

Part Two 97

Conversation IV
Modernity, postmodernity and genocide: from decimation and annexation to 'collateral damage' 99

Conversation V
Population, production and re-production of human waste: from contingency and indeterminacy to the inexorability of biotechnology (beyond Wall Street) 108

Conversation VI
Secular fundamentalism versus religious fundamentalism: the race of dogmas or the battle for power in the twenty-first century 127

Conversation VII
DNA inscription: a new grammatology for a new economy. From homines mortales to DIY 'post-humans' in the advent of genetocracy 141

Conversation VIII
Utopia, love, or the lost generation 157

Notes 172

Index 191

"Liquid Times and Living on Borrowed Times offer deep insights into post-modern life. Specifically, it exposes the essential social and philosophical changes that lie at the heart of the conditions that led to the global financial crisis ... the ideas in these books are fascinating."
Satyajit Das, Willmot
  • A brilliant analysis of the global financial crisis by one of the world's leading social thinkers
  • Bauman applies his highly original and influential theory of liquid modernity to shed new light on the origins of the global financial crisis, showing that the mushrooming of credit and debt is a predictable outcome of the transition from the society of producers to the society of consumers
  • This book also addresses many other current and pressing issues, from international terrorism and the rise of fundamentalism to the threats posed by global warming
  • This very topical and political book will be of interest to a wide range of general readers