Culture in a Liquid Modern World
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In its original formulation, ‘culture’ was intended to be an agent for change, a mission undertaken with the aim of educating ‘the people’ by bringing the best of human thought and creativity to them. But in our contemporary liquid-modern world, culture has lost its missionary role and has become a means of seduction: it seeks no longer to enlighten the people but to seduce them. The function of culture today is not to satisfy existing needs but to create new ones, while simultaneously ensuring that existing needs remain permanently unfulfilled. Culture today likens itself to a giant department store where the shelves are overflowing with desirable goods that are changed on a daily basis - just long enough to stimulate desires whose gratification is perpetually postponed.
In this new book Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most brilliant and influential social thinkers of our time - retraces the peregrinations of the concept of culture and examines its fate in a world marked by the powerful new forces of globalization, migration and the intermingling of populations. He argues that Europe has a particularly important role to play in revitalizing our understanding of culture precisely because Europe, with its great diversity of peoples, languages and histories, is the space where the Other is always one’s neighbour and where each is constantly called upon to learn from everyone else.
brought. Even if the recent arrivals wanted to follow the boom and move on, the self-same complications of migration law which brought them to the country without so much as a hitch would now prove impossible to overcome. Immigrants have no choice in practice but to accept the fate of being yet another ‘ethnic minority’ in the country to which they have come; for natives, there is nothing left but to prepare themselves for a lifetime spent surrounded by diasporas. Both are expected to find ways
‘with his own will and judgement’, he can prove its worth and defend it from advocates of other arguments. There is no point in deferring to the judgement of society (the last of the great authorities which the modern ear is still deemed to listen to reverently) for support of one’s own choices made on one’s own responsibility. First of all, not many will trust such judgements, considering that the veracity of this kind of judgement – if passed, and if there is anyone to pass them – is unknown by
it is possible to safeguard one’s national identity as effectively on one of the diaspora islands as it is at home. Maybe even more effectively, since that identity, as Martin Heidegger would say, shifts in foreign lands from the domain of that which is ‘given’ and obvious, requiring no special care or maintenance (zuhanden), to the domain of that which is ‘set’, hence demanding action (vorhanden). And neighbouring, or intermixed diasporas can also mutually enrich themselves during negotiations
social separation, a breakdown in communications, self-fulfilling and mutually inciting antagonisms) from the sting of demands for recognition. Since they are made in the name of equality, demands for redistribution are tools of integration, while demands for recognition reduced to the promotion of cultural differences may encourage divisions, separation and, in the end, a breakdown of dialogue. Last, but not least, the association of ‘wars of recognition’ with a demand for equality may also
the ‘transformation of the idea into domination’.6 This history lesson needs to be assiduously studied, says Adorno, in order for it, to be assimilated and impressed upon the practices of professional artists, who carry the main burden of the ‘transgressive’ function of culture, and consciously accept responsibility for it, thereby making criticism and transgression into a way of life: The appeal to the creators of culture to withdraw from the process of administration and keep distant from it