- Paperback: 168 pages
- Publisher: Polity Press; 1st edition (November 19, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0745640028
- ISBN-13: 978-0745640020
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Consuming Life 1st Edition
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"[An] engaged and important antidote to the platitudes of the times ... encourages the very human virtues [Bauman seeks] to recover from a world otherwise only concerned with the easy, the simple and the fast."
Times Higher Education
"A masterful account and critique of consumerism and the social consequences of its ubiquity ... another worthy contribution to the urgent task of social critique amid unprecedented and unfettered consumerism."
"A timely intervention in helping sociologists think about what the sociology of consumption has achieved."
"Consuming Life provides a fiery, stimulating and sharp diagnosis, with much to tell us about where and who we are in a market-led society."
"Bauman's message calls for awakening from the slumber we are in."
Essays in Philosophy
With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the travelling salespersons. They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the term lsquo;the marketrsquo;. The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live. In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life ndash; politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences. The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the world-views and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worldrsquo;s most original and insightful social thinkers.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Bauman brilliantly compares and contrasts the "society of producers" of what he calls the "solid modern" era with the "society of consumers" of today. Mr. Bauman explains that the values of mass conformity, durability and permanence associated with 20th century Fordist production has been displaced by an individuated 21st century society that is characterized by a continuous search for instant gratification. The author posits that linear progress has given way to a "pointillist" conception of time where the promise of perpetual happiness requires a continuous process of self-reinvention, forgetting and waste disposal. As the marketer's creed of dissatisfaction conditions consumers to keep the treadmill of production in motion, the social skills required to maintain long-lasting interpersonal relationships decline. In fact, the author contends that Internet dating helps to satisfy the growing expectation that relationships can be consumed like packaged commodities and disposed of when desirability has waned.
Mr. Bauman finds that whereas sovereign power was once expressed as an obligation to dutifully serve the nation state it is now exemplified by the coercive seductions of the market. Neoliberal ideology encourages individuals to improve themselves for entry into the job market where their subsequent busyness and acquisitiveness provides a false sense of living full and satisfying lives. In this manner, Mr. Bauman explains that individuals are at once both commodities and the consumers of commodities. The illusion of freedom offered by the marketplace to choose from among the latest styles obscures the loss of working class political power. Indeed, the author shows how the state is no longer concerned with ensuring the welfare of all citizens and is instead preoccupied with law enforcement, and especially with the disposition of the criminally defective underclass who comprise the "collateral casualties" of consumer society.
Mr. Bauman goes on to explore these and related concepts with consummate skill and erudition throughout all 150 pages of this fascinating text. I highly recommend this noteworthy book to all readers who are interested in a thought-provoking and unique perspective on contemporary society.
An example: in the first several pages, Bauman takes on the ubiquitous social media and its concomitant electronic devices. He discusses only the ways in which these technologies create shallow dependent consumers. There are other opinions, really! A few years later, Clay Shirky, for example, carefully developed an analysis suggesting that the internet and its related media are changing consumers of information into producers of information, exactly the opposite of Bauman's stance. Bauman describes the same phenomena not with analysis, but with bias.
As the parent of four children, it's been interesting to note their relative enmeshment in social media. However, the child who eschewed social media entirely has by no means experienced "social death," as Bauman posits. Bauman seems to be confusing the popular crowd as the only possible satisfying social unit. These points are overly detailed, but such objections sprang to my mind on every page, from start to finish. If you're looking for a name-dropping rant, buy this book. For more reasoned reporting and analysis, look elsewhere.