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Culture in a Liquid Modern World Paperback – July 25, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0745653556 ISBN-10: 0745653553 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (July 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745653553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745653556
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Some acerbic interpretations of a long-contested word."
Steven Poole, The Guardian

From the Back Cover

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Diziet on October 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking book. It is not long - only about 117 pages plus notes - but in each short chapter, Bauman explores some aspect of culture as it now appears in our 'liquid world' in such concentrated detail that it keeps you thinking long after putting the book down.

By 'liquid world' Bauman refers to what other writers have termed 'postmodernity':

"I use the term 'liquid modernity' here for the currently existing shape of the modern condition, described by other authors as 'postmodernity', 'late modernity', 'second' or 'hyper' modernity." (P11)

For Bauman, what makes our current time 'liquid' is:

"...its self-propelling, self-intensifying, compulsive and obsessive 'modernization', as a result of which, like liquid, none of the consecutive forms of social life is able to maintain its shape for long." (P11)

Whereas Modernism saw the world progressing towards something - hopefully a 'better, brighter future' - this 'liquid modernity' progresses purely for the sake of progression - it is not going anywhere, it simply is, in a permanent state of renewal. In this sense, Fukuyama is perhaps correct. History has ended and it seems There Is No Alternative. Or, to put it another way, there is no destination, only the journey - "For 'gardeners' utopia was the end of the road, while for 'hunters' the road itself is the utopia." (P29) And we are again hunters.

The first essay 'Historical peregrinations of the concept' places Bauman's idea of 'culture' pretty much squarely within a European tradition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ironically, the author of this book attempts to preserve continuity with his earlier books and themes on what he has termed the "liquid" nature of modern life, which, in analogy with how physicists use this term, is supposed to exemplify the inability of contemporary institutions and ideologies to "solidify" for any sustained length of time. His purely rhetorical characterization in this regard is not scientific but believable, and is a source of anxiety for some but exhilirating to others. Rapid change, extreme economic volatility, and both political and conceptual instability exemplify the current situation, and planning and expectations are therefore for all practical purposes impotent.

The emphasis in this book is on "culture" which following somewhat the analysis of this term by the Frankfurt school ala Adorno and Horkheimer, the author's use is vague in some places and clear in others. In the prolegomena to the book he gives a highly interesting historical overview of what it means to be "cultured" and how elites have used this adjective to separate themselves from the common rabble and create for themselves (a purely imaginary) self-esteem. To be cultured, i.e. to be part of the collection of individuals who are (self) marked as different from everyone else, requires "identity papers" that are only obtained by sustained cultivation from birth or some other vague or irrational christening process. Following somewhat the commentary of the writer and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu, and again relying on analogies to physics, culture is a tool of the status quo, whose goal is the "monotonous reproduction of society" and "maintenance of system equilibrium" to quote the author.
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By Robert L. Bonn on August 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A most interesting way to look at today's culture of global capitalism. Original ideas, nicely put, well thought out. Will look at more of Bauman's work at some point.
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By Faber on October 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though he is a sociologist, he uses liquid state as a metaphor for the world today. It is a brilliant stroke for at once, solid to liquid state reveals several truths. It took a very long time to get here and the solutions will take a very long time to work out politically. Identity is a perishable commodity in a liquid state. Rebuilding it is necessary and the subject of headlines for the next three or four generations.
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