Liquid Modernity

Liquid Modernity, Zygmunt Bauman

On Being Light and Liquid

  • While solids have clear spatial dimensions but neutralize the impact, and thus downgrade the significance, of time (effectively resist its flow or render it irrelevant), fluids do not keep to any shape for long and are constantly ready (and prone) to change it; and so for them it is the flow of time that counts, more than the space they happen to occupy: that space, after all, they fill but ‘for a moment’.
  • In a sense, solids cancel time; for liquids, on the contrary, it is mostly time that matters.
  • The extraordinary mobility of fluids is what associates them with the idea of ‘lightness’
  • We associate ‘lightness’ or ‘weightlessness’ with mobility and inconstancy: we know from practice that the lighter we travel the easier and faster we move.

  • has modernity not been ‘fluid’ since its inception?
  • Let us remember, however, that all this was to be done not in order to do away with the solids once and for all and make the brave new world free of them forever, but to clear the site for new and improved solids; to replace the inherited set of deficient and defective solids with another set, which was much improved and preferably perfect, and for that reason no longer alterable.
  • Modern times found the pre-modern solids in a fairly advanced state of disintegration; and one of the most powerful motives behind the urge to melt them was the wish to discover or invent solids of – for a change – lasting solidity, a solidity which one could trust and rely upon and which would make the world predictable and therefore manageable.
  • The first solids to be melted and the first sacreds to be profaned were traditional loyalties, customary rights and obligations which bound hands and feet, hindered moves and cramped the enterprise
  • no mould was broken without being replaced with another; people were let out from their old cages only to be admonished and censured in case they failed to relocate themselves, through their own, dedicated and continuous, truly life-long efforts, in the ready-made niches of the new order: in the classes, the frames which (as uncompromisingly as the already dissolved estates) encapsulated the totality of life conditions and life prospects and determined the range of realistic life projects and life strategies.
  • The task confronting free individuals was to use their new freedom to find the appropriate niche and to settle there through conformity: by faithfully following the rules and modes of conduct identified as right and proper for the location.
  • Modernity starts when space and time are separated from living practice and from each other and so become ready to be theorized as distinct and mutually independent categories of strategy and action, when they cease to be, as they used to be in long premodern centuries, the intertwined and so barely distinguishable aspects of living experience, locked in a stable and apparently invulnerable one-to-one correspondence

Liquid Times, Zygmunt Bauman

Bravely into the Hotbed of Uncertainties

  • the passage from the ‘solid’ to a ‘liquid’ phase of modernity: that is, into a condition in which social forms (structures that limit individual choices, institutions that guard repetitions of routines, patterns of acceptable behavior) can no longer (and are not expected) to keep their j shape for long, because they decompose and melt faster the time it takes to cast them, and once they are cast for them to set.
  • Much of the power to act effectively that was previously available to the modern state is now moving away to the politically uncontrolled global (and in many ways extraterritorial) space; while politics, the ability to decide the direction and purpose of action, is unable to operate effectively at the planetary level since it remains, as before, local.
  • The virtue proclaimed to serve the individual’s interests best is not conformity to rules (which at any rate are few and far between, and often mutually contradictory) but flexibility, a readiness to change tactics and style at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret – and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability, rather than following one’s own established preferences.

Liquid Modern Life and its Fears

  • on a planet criss-crossed by ‘information high ways’, nothing that happens in any part of the planet can actually, or at least potentially, stay in an intellectual ‘outside’.
  • on a planet open to the free circulation of capital and commodities, whatever happens in one place has a bearing on how people in all other places live, hope or expect to live.
  • No well-being of one place is innocent of the misery of another.
  • On a negatively globalized planet, security cannot be obtained, let alone assured, within just one country or in a selected group of countries: not by their own means alone, and not independently of what happens in the rest of the world.
  • As Arundhati Roy puts it, ‘when the elite, somewhere at the top of the world, pursue their travels to imagined destinations, the poor stay caught in a spiral of crime and chaos.
  • ‘Markets without frontiers’ is a recipe for injustice, and for the new world disorder in which the famed formula of Clausewitz has been reversed so that it is the turn of politics to become a continuation of war by other means.
  • Fear prompt us to take defensive action. When it is taken, defensive action gives immediacy and tangibility to fear.
  • By definition Tate’ strikes without warning and is indifferent to what its victims might do or might abstain from doing in order to escape its blows, ‘Fate’ stands for human ignorance and helplessness, and owes its awesome* frightening power to those very weaknesses of its victims.
  • The ground on which our life prospects are presumed to rest is admittedly shaky – as are our jobs and the companies that offer them, our partners and networks of friends, the standing we enjoy in wider society and the self-esteem and self-confidence that come with it.
  • Instead of great expectations and sweet dreams, ‘progress’ evokes an Insomnia full of nightmares of ‘being left behind’ – of missing the train, or falling out of the window of a fast accelerating vehicle.
  • Like liquid cash ready for any kind of investment, the capital of fear can be turned to any kind of profit, commercial, or political. And it is. And so it is personal safety that has become a major, perhaps even the major selling point in all sorts of marketing strategies
  • The new individualism, the fading of human bonds and the wilting of solidarity are engraved on one side of a coin whose other side shows the misty contours of ‘negative globalization’. In its present, purely negative form, globalization is a parasitic and predatory process, feeding on the potency sucked out of the bodies of nation-states and their subjects
  • No longer can democracy and freedom be fully and truly secure in one country, or even in a group of countries; their defence in a world saturated with injustice and inhabited by billions of humans denied human dignity will inevitably corrupt the very values they are meant to defend. The future of democracy and freedom may be made secure on a planetary scale – or not at all.
  • Fear is arguably the most sinister of the demons nesting in the open societies of our time. But it is the insecurity of the present and uncertainty about the future that hatch and breed the most awesome and least bearable of our fears.

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