Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty
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The passage from 'solid' to 'liquid' modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. They have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don't add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like 'career' and 'progress' could meaningfully be applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable - to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.
Zygmunt Bauman's brilliant writings on liquid modernity have altered the way we think about the contemporary world. In this short book he explores the sources of the endemic uncertainty which shapes our lives today and, in so doing, he provides the reader with a brief and accessible introduction to his highly original account, developed at greater length in his previous books, of life in our liquid modern times.
self-sustaining and self-reproducing ‘mini societies’, complete with miniature replicas of the wider society’s stratiﬁcation, functional divisions and the institutions required to serve the complete inventory of communal life’s needs, ‘hyperghettoes’ are anything but self-sustaining communities. They are, we may say, piles of ‘cut-off string ends’ – artiﬁcial and blatantly incomplete collections of the rejected; aggregates, but not communities; topographical condensations unable to survive on
those to whom they have been granted by the letter of law. If social rights are not assured, the poor and indolent cannot practise the political rights they formally possess. And then the poor will have only such entitlements as governments think it necessary to concede, and as is acceptable to those with the genuine political muscle to gain and keep power. As long as they remain resourceless, the poor may hope at most to be receivers of transfers, not subjects of rights. Lord Beveridge was
we tend to worry about being left behind, about falling over board from a fast accelerating vehicle, about ﬁnding no place in the next round of the game of ‘musical chairs’. When you read, for instance, that Brazil is ‘the only winter sun destination this winter’, what you learn is that in the coming winter you must avoid being seen where people with aspirations similar to yours were bound to be seen last winter. Or you might read that you must ‘lose the ponchos’ which were so much en vogue last
’, Guardian, 29 Aug. 2003, p. 11. 17Gary Younge, ‘Villagers and the damned’, Guardian, 24 June 2002. 18See Michel Foucault, ‘Of other spaces’, Diacritics, 1 (1986), p. 26. 19See Loïc Wacquant, ‘Symbole fatale. Quand ghetto et prison se ressemblent et s’assemblent’, Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales (Sept. 2001), p. 43. 20Cf. Loïc Wacquant, ‘The new urban color line: the state and fate of the ghetto in postfordist America’, in Craig J. Calhoun (ed.), Social Theory and the Politics of
the principal source of their strength, which much exceeds the power of their numbers and arms. Unlike their declared enemies, the terrorists need not feel constrained by the limited resources they themselves command. When they work out their strategic designs and tactical plans, they can include among their assets the expected and well-nigh certain reactions of the ‘enemy’, which are bound to considerably magnify the intended impact of their own atrocity. If the purpose of the terrorists is to