Bauman Forever 🙌
This week Professor Zygmunt Bauman passed away. A giant of social thought, he has inspired much of the work we do at IAM and was due to join us in Barcelona in April for IAM Weekend 17. As a tribute to his incisive commentary, this week we’ve picked seven quotes/interviews/articles that show his extraordinary brilliance.
Read on to hear how he “paints with a broad brush on a large canvas, provoking debates and injecting discussions with new hypotheses” about uncertainty, the fluidity (“liquidity”) of modern social forces, personal and virtual relationships, the worrying move towards selfish ‘utopias’ and the social state.
True to the utopian spirit, retrotopia derives its stimulus from the urge to rectify the failings of the present human condition though now by resurrecting the failed and forgotten potentials of the past. Imagined aspects of the past, genuine or putative, serve as the main landmarks today in drawing the road–map to a better world
Most of all, Bauman sought to improve life by acknowledging the complexity, diversity and imperfection of humanity and society, and in April, we’ll be sure to make him proud.
Professor Bauman, we salute you.
1. Zygmunt Bauman: LOVE. FEAR. And the NETWORK.
Interview by Peter Haffner for 032C (2015)
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” the Greek poet Archilochus once said. In this famous categorization of writers and thinkers elaborated by Isaiah Berlin, Bauman is both a “hedgehog” and “fox.” He is not a man of details, statistics, surveys, facts, and extrapolations. He paints with a broad brush on a large canvas, provoking debates and injecting discussions with new hypotheses. Yet there is very little in the humanities and social sciences that would leave him with nothing to say. “My life is spent recycling information,” Bauman once said.
2. Zygmunt Bauman: Behind the world’s ‘crisis of humanity’
Video interview by Felicity Barr for Al-Jazeera (July, 2016)
We are walking…as if on a minefield. We are aware that the field is full of explosives, but we can’t tell where there will be an explosion and when. There are no solid structures around us all on which we can rely, in which we can invest our hopes and expectations.
There are two crucial values without which human life is simple inconceivable. One is security, a measure of security, feeling safe. The other is freedom, ability to self-assert, to do what you really would like to do and so on. They are both necessary. Security without freedom is slavery. Freedom without security is complete chaos where you are lost, abandoned, you don’t know what to do.
👉 Watch the full interview (25 min)
3. Disconnecting Acts: An Interview with Zygmunt Bauman Part I
Part I of an interview for Los Angeles Review of Books (September, 2014)
What is truly a novel feature of the social world and makes it sensible to call the current kind of modernity “liquid” in opposition to the other, earlier forms of the modern world, is the continuous and irreparable fluidity of things which modernity in its initial shape was bent, on the contrary, on solidifying and fixing: of human locations in the social world and interhuman bonds — and particularly the latter, since their liquidity conditions (though not determines on its own) the fluidity of the first
4. Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap”
Interview for El País (January, 2016)
The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate.
5. Far Away From “solid Modernity” — Interview With Zygmunt Bauman
Interview for R/evolutions (June, 2013)
I can think of a close connection between the emergence and growth in number and significance of the “precarious condition” and the transition from “gardeners’ utopia” to “hunters’ utopia”. The first type of utopia, guiding human intentions and actions, was the vision of “good society,” which similarly to the vision of an ideal garden, prompting the gardeners to work on bringing the imperfect reality of their cultivated plots closer to their vision of a perfect harmony as well as to accept responsibility for the success of the undertaking (“without us, chaos and decay”), directed attention towards the shape of society: both the contemporary shape, a faulty one — and the one just being designed, cleared of faults.
The hunters’ utopia does not care about the welfare of prospective game on the hunting grounds; if a hunter, guided by the vision of his hunting bag filled to the brim, is free from concerns about its disastrous consequences (decimating the potential objects of future hunters’ hunting), likewise the “hunters’ utopia” does not care about the welfare of the whole of society and its hospitality to human habitation — focusing instead attention on finding a relatively safe and comfortable, or at least tolerable, nice for oneself that would enable one to survive amidst a world irreparably condemned to stay inhospitable, if not downright hostile to human habitation.
👉 Read the full interview (PDF)
6. The unwinnable war: an interview with Zygmunt Bauman
Interview for OpenDemocracy.net (December, 2005)
The very project of modernity is born out of the desire for a world without surprises, a safe world, a world without fear. The crowning of this 200-year effort, and the achievement of the project-ambition-dream, was the social state — which has always been falsely named the “welfare” state. The whole project was not about welfare so much as it was about a society taking responsibility for each citizen, offering him or her a life free of fear and full of dignity and meaning.
7. How to survive death by Zygmunt Bauman
Preview for an unreleased documentary on the subject of death and the ideas of Zygmunt Bauman. (2007)
It is because of the concept of mortality that we count days, and days count.