|Born||19 November 1925|
|Died||9 January 2017 (aged 91)|
Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Alma mater||University of Warsaw|
London School of Economics
|School||Continental philosophy · Western Marxism|
|Ethics · Political philosophy · Sociology · Postmodernity · Postmodern art|
|Modernity's struggle with ambiguity, resulting in the Holocaust · postmodern ethics · critique of "liquid" modernity · liquid fear|
Zygmunt Bauman (//; 19 November 1925 – 9 January 2017) was a Polish sociologist and philosopher. He was driven out of the Polish People's Republic during the 1968 Polish political crisis and forced to give up his Polish citizenship. He emigrated to Israel; three years later he moved to the United Kingdom. He resided in England from 1971, where he studied at the London School of Economics and became Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds, later Emeritus. Bauman was a social theorist, writing on issues as diverse as modernity and the Holocaust, postmodern consumerism and liquid modernity.
Bauman was born to non-observant Polish Jewish family in Poznań, Second Polish Republic, in 1925. In 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, his family escaped eastwards into the USSR.
In the 1940s Bauman enlisted in the Soviet-controlled First Polish Army, working as a political instructor. He took part in the Battle of Kolberg (1945) and the Battle of Berlin. In May 1945, he was awarded the Military Cross of Valour. After World War II he became one of the Polish Army's youngest majors.
According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, from 1945 to 1953 Bauman was a political officer in the Internal Security Corps (KBW), a military intelligence formed to combat the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the remnants of the Polish Home Army. From 1945 to 1948 Bauman worked for military intelligence. However, the nature and extent of his collaboration remain unknown, as well as the exact circumstances under which it was terminated.
In an interview with The Guardian, Bauman confirmed he had been a committed communist during and after World War II and had never made a secret of it. He admitted that joining the military intelligence service at age 19 was a mistake although he had a "dull" desk-job and did not remember informing on anyone. While serving in the Internal Security Corps, Bauman first studied sociology at the Warsaw Academy of Political and Social Science. In 1953, Bauman, already in the rank of major, was suddenly dishonourably discharged, after his father had approached the Israeli embassy in Warsaw with a view to emigrating to Israel. As Bauman did not share his father's Zionist tendencies and was indeed strongly anti-Zionist, his dismissal caused a severe, though temporary estrangement from his father. During the period of unemployment that followed, he completed his M.A. and in 1954 became a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, where he remained until 1968.
While at the London School of Economics, where his supervisor was Robert McKenzie, he prepared a comprehensive study on the British socialist movement, his first major book. Published originally in Polish in 1959, a revised edition appeared in English in 1972. Bauman went on to publish other books, including Socjologia na co dzień ("Everyday Sociology", 1964), which reached a large popular audience in Poland and later formed the foundation for the English-language text-book Thinking Sociologically (1990). Initially, Bauman remained close to orthodox Marxist doctrine, but, influenced by Georg Simmel and Antonio Gramsci, he became increasingly critical of Poland's Communist government. Owing to this he was never awarded a professorship even after he completed his habilitation but, after his former teacher, Julian Hochfeld, was made vice-director of UNESCO's Department for Social Sciences in Paris in 1962, Bauman did in fact inherit Hochfeld's chair.
Faced with increasing political pressure connected with a political purge led by Mieczysław Moczar, the Chief of the Polish Communist Security Police, Bauman renounced his membership of the governing Polish United Workers' Party in January 1968. The March 1968 events culminated in a purge that drove many remaining Communist Poles of Jewish descent out of the country, including those intellectuals who had fallen from grace with the communist government. Bauman, who had lost his chair at the University of Warsaw, was among them. He had to give up Polish citizenship to be allowed to leave the country.
From 1968- 1970 he went to Israel to teach at Tel Aviv University. Thereafter he accepted the chair of sociology at the University of Leeds, where he intermittently also served as head of department. After his appointment, he published almost exclusively in English, his third language, and his reputation grew.
From the late 1990s, Bauman exerted a considerable influence on the anti- or alter-globalization movement.
In a 2011 interview in the Polish weekly, "Polityka", Bauman criticised Zionism and Israel, saying Israel was not interested in peace and that it was "taking advantage of the Holocaust to legitimize unconscionable acts". He compared the Israeli West Bank barrier to the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto where hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the Holocaust. The Israeli ambassador to Warsaw, Zvi Bar, called Bauman's comments "half truths" and "groundless generalizations."
Bauman was a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system.
Bauman was married to writer Janina Bauman, née Lewinson; 18 August 1926 – 29 December 2009. They had three daughters, painter Lydia Bauman, architect Irena Bauman, and professor Anna Sfard, a leading theorist of education at the University of Haifa. His grandson Michael Sfard is a prominent civil rights lawyer and author in Israel. Zygmunt Bauman died in Leeds on 9 January 2017.
Bauman's published work extends to 57 books and well over a hundred articles. Most of these address a number of common themes, among which are globalisation, modernity and postmodernity, consumerism, and morality.
Bauman's earliest publication in English is a study of the British labour movement and its relationship to class and social stratification, originally published in Poland in 1960. He continued to publish on the subject of class and social conflict until the early 1980s. His last book was on the subject of Memories of Class. Whilst his later books do not address issues of class directly, he continued to describe himself as a socialist, and he never rejected Marxism entirely. The Neo-Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci in particular remained one of his most profound influences, along with Neo-Kantian sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Bauman published a number of books that dealt with the relationship between modernity, bureaucracy, rationality and social exclusion. Bauman, following Freud, came to view European modernity as a trade off: European society, he argued, had agreed to forego a level of freedom to receive the benefits of increased individual security. Bauman argued that modernity, in what he later came to term its 'solid' form, involved removing unknowns and uncertainties. It involved control over nature, hierarchical bureaucracy, rules and regulations, control and categorisation — all of which attempted to remove gradually personal insecurities, making the chaotic aspects of human life appear well-ordered and familiar. Later in a number of books Bauman began to develop the position that such order-making never manages to achieve the desired results.
When life becomes organised into familiar and manageable categories, he argued, there are always social groups who cannot be administered, who cannot be separated out and controlled. In his book Modernity and Ambivalence Bauman began to theorise about such indeterminate persons in terms of an allegorical figure he called, 'the stranger.' Drawing upon Georg Simmel's sociology and the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, Bauman came to write of the stranger as the person who is present yet unfamiliar, society's undecidable. In Modernity and Ambivalence Bauman attempted to give an account of the different approaches modern society adopts toward the stranger. He argued that, on the one hand, in a consumer-oriented economy the strange and the unfamiliar is always enticing; in different styles of food, different fashions and in tourism it is possible to experience the allure of what is unfamiliar. Yet this strange-ness also has a more negative side. The stranger, because he cannot be controlled or ordered, is always the object of fear; he is the potential mugger, the person outside of society's borders who is a constant threat.
Bauman's most famous book, Modernity and the Holocaust, is an attempt to give a full account of the dangers of those kinds of fears. Drawing upon Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno's books on totalitarianism and the Enlightenment, Bauman developed the argument that the Holocaust should not simply be considered to be an event in Jewish history, nor a regression to pre-modern barbarism. Rather, he argued, the Holocaust should be seen as deeply connected to modernity and its order-making efforts. Procedural rationality, the division of labour into smaller and smaller tasks, the taxonomic categorisation of different species, and the tendency to view obedience to rules as morally good, all played their role in the Holocaust coming to pass. He argued that for this reason modern societies have not fully grasped the lessons of the Holocaust; it tends to be viewed—to use Bauman's metaphor—like a picture hanging on the wall, offering few lessons. In Bauman's analysis the Jews became 'strangers' par excellence in Europe. The Final Solution was pictured by him as an extreme example of the attempt made by society to excise the uncomfortable and indeterminate elements that exist within it. Bauman, like the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, contended that the same processes of exclusion that were at work in the Holocaust could, and to an extent do, still come into play today.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Bauman began to explore postmodernity and consumerism. He posited that a shift had taken place in modern society in the latter half of the 20th century. It had changed from a society of producers into a society of consumers. According to Bauman, this change reversed Freud's "modern" tradeoff—i.e., security was given up in exchange for more freedom, freedom to purchase, consume, and enjoy life. In his books in the 1990s Bauman wrote of this as being a shift from "modernity" to "post-modernity".
Since the turn of the millennium, his books have tried to avoid the confusion surrounding the term "postmodernity" by using the metaphors of "liquid" and "solid" modernity. In his books on modern consumerism, Bauman still writes of the same uncertainties that he portrayed in his writings on "solid" modernity; but in these books he writes of fears becoming more diffuse and harder to pin down. Indeed, they are, to use the title of one of his books, "liquid fears" – fears about paedophilia, for instance, which are amorphous and have no easily identifiable reference.
Bauman is credited with coining the term allosemitism to encompass both philo-Semitic and anti-Semitic attitudes towards Jews as the other. Bauman reportedly predicted the negative political effect that social media have on voter's choice by denouncing them as 'trap' where people only "see reflections of their own face".
One of Bauman works focuses on the concept of art as influenced by the liquidity of appreciation. The author puts forward the idea that "we desire and seek a realization that usually consists of a constant becoming, in a permanent disposition of becoming". In essence, our aim is not the object of our longing but the action of longing itself, and the worst peril is reaching complete satisfaction.
In this framework, Bauman explores how art can position itself in a world where the fleeting is the dominant paradigm. Art is substantially something that contributes to give immortality to virtually anything: hence the philosopher wonders, "can art transform the ephemeral into an eternal matter?". Bauman concludes that the current reality is characterized by individuals who do not have time nor space to relate with the everlasting, with absolute and established values. Art and the relation of people with them, both in creating it and in participating in it, is dramatically changing. Citing Hannah Arendt, he asserts that "an object is cultural if it persists; its temporary aspect, its permanence, is opposite to the functional [...] culture sees itself threatened when all the objects in the world, those produced today and those of the past, are exclusively considered from the point of view of utility for the social process of survival". Withal, the concept of culture and art can only find a sense in the liquid society if it abandons its traditional understanding and adopts the deconstructive approach.
Bauman was awarded the European Amalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences in 1992 and the Theodor W. Adorno Award of the city of Frankfurt in 1998. He was awarded in 2010, jointly with Alain Touraine, the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and the Humanities.
The University of Leeds established 'The Bauman Institute' within its School of Sociology and Social Policy in his honour in September 2010. The University of Lower Silesia, a small private higher education institution in Lower Silesia, Poland, planned to award Bauman an honorary doctorate in October 2013. However, as a reaction to a major anti-communist and what Bauman supporters allege "anti-semitic" uproar against him, he eventually rejected the award.
In 2015 the University of Salento awarded Bauman an honorary degree in Modern Languages, Literature and Literary Translation.
In 2014, Peter Walsh, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, accused Bauman of plagiarism from several websites, including Wikipedia, in his book Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All? (2013). In this book Bauman is said to have copied verbatim paragraphs from Wikipedia articles on Slow Food and steady-state economy, along with their bibliography, without attributing sources, authors or the fact that they were copied from Wikipedia. He did use a paragraph from the article on the golden handshake, but this citation was properly attributed to Wikipedia.
In a response Bauman suggested that "obedience" to "technical" rules was unnecessary, and that he "never once failed to acknowledge the authorship of the ideas or concepts that I deployed, or that inspired the ones I coined". In a detailed critique of Walsh and co-author David Lehmann, cultural critics Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux concluded: "This charge against Bauman is truly despicable. It's a reactionary ideological critique dressed up as the celebration of method and a back-door defence of a sterile empiricism and culture of positivism. This is a discourse that enshrines data, correlations, and performance, while eschewing matters of substance, social problems, and power."