Zygmunt Bauman

Zygmunt Bauman ( Poznan , 19 of November of 1925 – Leeds , 9 of January of 2017 ) 1 was a sociologist , philosopher and essayist Polish origin Jew . His work, which began in the 1950s , deals, among other things, with issues such as social classes , socialism , holocaust , hermeneutics , modernity and postmodernism , consumerism , globalization and new poverty . He developed the concept of ” liquid modernity ,” and coined the term. 2 Along with the also sociologist Alain Touraine , Bauman received the Prize Prince of Asturias of Communication and Humanities 2010. 3


He was born into a humble family, Polish Jews not practicing his religion. When Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1939 his family escaped to the east in his flight from Nazism , he moved to the Soviet Union where he enlisted in the first Soviet-controlled Polish army, working as an instructor in political education. Participated in the battle of Kolberg and Berlin. In May 1945 he received the Military Cross of Valor.

According to the Polish National Memory Institute, from 1945 to 1953 he was a political officer of the Internal Security Corps ( Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego , Polish: KBW), a military unit formed to combat the nationalist insurgency of Ukraine and part of the remains Of Armia Krajowa . 4 Later he worked for military intelligence from 1945 to 1948. However, the nature and breadth of his collaboration remained hidden, as well as the exact circumstances under which they ended. 4

He later returned to Poland, where he was active in the Communist Party in May and was professor of philosophy and sociology at the University of Warsaw before being forced to leave Poland in 1968 because of political anti – Semitism developed by the communist government after the event March 1968 . Subsequently to his purge of the University of Warsaw, he taught sociology in countries like Israel , United States and Canada . Since 1971 he lived in England , where he was a professor at the University of Leeds , and since 1990, professor emeritus .

In an interview with the English newspaper ” The Guardian, ” he confirmed that he had been a Communist committed during and after World War II and never kept it a secret. He admitted that it was a mistake to join the military intelligence service at age 19, where he had a “boring” office job, not remembering to have followed anyone. 6 7 While serving in the KBW , studied sociology at the Academy of Social and Political Sciences in Warsaw. Within KBW he had the rank of major, but was suddenly disgraced in 1953, after his father went to the Israeli embassy in Warsaw to see if he could emigrate to Israel. As Bauman did not share his father’s Zionist tendencies and was in fact strongly anti-Zionist, his dismissal caused a severe though temporary estrangement from his father. During the period of unemployment that followed, he completed his master’s and in 1954 began to teach at the University of Warsaw , where he remained until 1968. [ citation needed ]

Faced with increased political pressure linked to a political purge led by Mieczysław Moczar , head of the Służba Bezpieczeństwa , he resigned his membership in the Polish Unified Workers Party in January 1968. In March of that year, the purge that expelled out Of the country to many Polish Communists of Jewish descent, including those intellectuals who had fallen out of favor with the Communist government. [ Citation needed ] Bauman, who had lost his post at the University of Warsaw, was one of them. He had to give up his Polish citizenship to allow him to leave the country. He first went to Israel, where he taught at Tel Aviv University, then accepted a chair of sociology at the University of Leeds , where he was head of department. From that moment, he published his works almost exclusively in English, his third language and his reputation grew exponentially. Since the late 1990s, Bauman exerted considerable influence on the anti-globalization movement. [ Citation needed ]

In 2011 in an interview with leading Polish weekly Polityka he criticized Zionism and Israel, mentioning that he was not interested in peace and this was “taking advantage of the Holocaust to legitimize inconceivable acts”. He compared the Israeli West Bank Barrier as a wall comparable to the walls of the Warsaw ghetto where hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the Holocaust. The Israeli ambassador in Warsaw, Zvi Bar, said of Bauman’s comments that they were “half false” and “exaggerated generalizations”.

Private life

Bauman was married to writer Janina Bauman , (Lewinson’s maiden), (died 29 December 2009 in Leeds) had three daughters, the painter Lydia Bauman, the architect Irena Bauman and the educator Anna Sfard. Bauman died on January 9, 2017 at age 91.

Work and thought

The interest of Zygmunt Bauman’s research focused on social stratification and the labor movement , before becoming interested in more global issues such as the nature of modernity . The most prolific period of his career began after he left teaching in Leeds, when he became more important beyond the circles of professional sociologists with a book he published about the alleged connection between the ideology of modernity and the Holocaust . Referring to Fig.

Bauman’s work comprises 57 books and more than 100 essays. Very it was influenced by Gramsci , never renege on Marxist principles . His works from the 1980s and early 1990s analyze the relationships between modernity, bureaucracy , prevailing rationality, and social exclusion . Following Sigmund Freud , he conceives European modernity as the product of a compromise between the transfer of freedoms and comfort to enjoy a level of benefits and security . Referring to Fig.

The Holocaust

His most famous book, Modernity and the Holocaust, is a wake-up call about the dangers of the types of fears. The drawing on the books of Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno on totalitarianism and enlightenment, where he developed his central thesis where the holocaust should not simply be considered as an accidental event in the history of the Jewish race but a regression to barbarism Precivilized Moreover, the Holocaust must be seen as a (if not inevitable) logical consequence of modern civilization and this belief in social engineering on a large scale. Rational procedures, the division of labor, the taxonomic categorization of the different species and the tendency to see obedience and good morality, all playing together a role in the Holocaust coming from the past. He argued that modern societies for this reason have not grasped these lessons of the Holocaust. This tends to be seen as Bauman’s metaphor from his point of view, like a painting on the wall offering few lessons.

Bauman’s analysis of the Jews sounds strange for European excellence. The Final Solution was painted by him as a strange example of what society did. It looks like the philosopher Giorgio Agamben containing the same process of exclusion where work on the Holocaust could not be extended but plays a role today.

Modernity and postmodernity versus solid and liquid modernity

Bauman’s early works were projects based on modernity within the design of a better society. By the 1970s and early 1980s , his attention shifted to more general and theoretical issues regarding the role of the social sciences and how they could help society. The biggest change in the work of Bauman occurred in the late 1980s, with the publication of a trilogy of books ( Legislators and interpreters , Modernity and the Holocaust and Modernity and Ambivalence ) criticizing modernity and proposed a vision Dystopian postmodern society. Since then, Bauman has edited an unchanging line of additional books, where he has been exploring his new perspective.

Bauman Although it is considered a ‘postmodern’ thinker, will not be the end of postmodernist because it uses the concepts solid modernity and liquid modernity to characterize what he considers two sides of the same coin.

Bauman caused some controversy within sociology with his assertion that human behavior can not be explained primarily by social determination or rational discussion, but rather rests on some innate, presocial impulse in individuals.

Since the late 1990s , Bauman exerted considerable influence on the alter-world movement .

Waste Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts

In his book Lives wasted: Modernity and its outcasts , Bauman addresses the consequence of modernity, which results in waste, but in this case are “human waste” product of migration and globalization, the flow of populations is not Can be reabsorbed and is beginning to be a serious problem for different parts of the world, especially in first world countries such as the United States and the European Union. The problem of migration has become one of the main issues on the agenda within the group hegemony of the planet. Bauman claims that the production of “human waste” is an inevitable consequence of modernity. 10

The coexistence with the others

See also: Gardener metaphor

Living with others has been a pervasive problem of Western society , and Bauman presents the main strategies used: the separation of the other excluding it ( emic strategy ), the assimilation of other stripping him of his otherness ( Phage strategy ) and invisibilización other So that it disappears from the mental map itself.

Sociology of change: reflexive sociology

Bauman is one of the sociologists who proposes a new way of understanding modern society, not necessarily based on the conformists and nonconformists, but a third way, according to the logic of reflexive sociology , which develops and aims to change modern society. Bauman’s hypothesis states that social change has to be a necessary and dynamic product. Once understood the relationship between solid society (security, content, values) and liquid society (mobility, uncertainty, value relativity), the second necessary step is to change reality and understand that the path of change is the only possible and The only necessary, in addition to the fact that it is timely, to avoid social conflicts and improve living conditions. eleven

Labor, consumerism and new poor

For Bauman, “the crusade for the work ethic was the battle to impose control and subordination. It was a struggle for power in everything except the name; A battle to force the workers to accept, in homage to the ethics and nobility of work, a life that was neither noble nor conformed to their own moral principles. ” The work ethic was an aberrant rudeness; Making the poor responsible for their poverty through their lack of willingness to work and, therefore, their immorality and personal degradation (which causes their punishment in the face of sin) is one of the last services of the work ethic to society Of consumers . 12

In the new aesthetics of consumption , classes that concentrate wealth become objects of worship, and the “new poor” are those who are unable to access consumption and novelty of the capitalist system. It should be clarified that this analogy is made because in the book the author points out that in the past the disabled were discriminated against, that is to say, those who could not work because of their advanced age or some deficiency or physical disability ; These people could not work due to their condition and therefore were considered “immoral”, since it was conceived to work as a sign of “morality”, and these characters did not have it. To achieve the pleasures of a “normal” life, money is needed, and the poor are faced with a rapacious consumption scenario and the inability to meet consumption standards: “Nothing will quell the pain of obvious inferiority.” 13

Identity in liquid modernity

In Bauman’s approach, the search for identity is the task and the vital responsibility of the subject, and this enterprise of building itself is at the same time the ultimate source of attachment. Bauman points out that in liquid modernity the identities are similar to a volcanic crust that hardens, melts and constantly changes in shape. The author states that these seem stable from an external point of view, but that when looked at by the subject itself appears the fragility and constant tear. 14

According to his ideas, in liquid modernity the only heteroreferenced value is the need to have a flexible and versatile identity that faces the different mutations that the subject has to face throughout his life. Identity is configured as a reflexive responsibility that seeks the autonomy of the rest and constant self- realization and which, in addition, is due to constant inconclusion due to the lack of a telos in late modernity. 14

He understands that happiness has been transformed from an enlightened aspiration for the whole of the human race into individual desire. And in an active search rather than a stable circumstance, because if happiness can be a state, it can only be a state of excitement spurred by dissatisfaction. The excess in consumer goods will never be enough.

Bauman, in proposing liquid modernity, refers to the process by which the individual has to pass in order to be able to integrate into an increasingly global society, but without a fixed identity, and if malleable, voluble. Identity has to be invented, created, it has to mold survival masks. Reaches this conclusion based on the historical analysis of the major changes experienced by society, especially from the class struggle between the proletariat and the owners of the production processes in the late nineteenth century , the desintegramiento of the partnerships , to give way to individuality in terms of citizenship, the rapid changes that resulted globalization and imperialism trade of monopolies in cahoots with governments neoliberal , the resurgence of otherness ( indigenous movements ), the feminism , The archaic struggle in the Middle East , the exponential growth of the world population, until reaching the era of ICT , where the problem of identity in liquid modernity is most observed. If before, in the eighteenth century , society was characterized by the ownership of the very marked individual among the different social, now, with the rise of the strata social networks and ICT, global, voluble, permeable and properly fragile identities , Oscillate according to the trend that marks consumerism . However, this elusive identity makes us increasingly dependent on the other, and this is where we hope to create conditions of growth in terms of humanity, collective consciousness for the individual good from the common, coupled with nature. fifteen

Bibliography in Spanish

  • Thinking sociologically . New vision. Buenos Aires, 1994.
  • Freedom . Madrid. Alliance. 1992. ISBN 978-84-206-0587-6
  • Modernity and ambivalence . In Beriain, Josetxo (comp.), The perverse consequences of modernity . Barcelona. Anthropos. nineteen ninety six.
  • Legislators and interpreters: On modernity, postmodernity and intellectuals. Buenos Aires. National University of Quilmes. 1997.
  • Modernity and Holocaust . Madrid. Sequitur. 1998. ISBN 978-84-95363-24-4 . 4a. Ed., 2008: ISBN 978-84-95363-43-5 .
  • Work, consumerism and new poor . Barcelona. Gedisa. 2000. ISBN 978-84-7432-750-2
  • Postmodernity and its discontented Madrid. Akal. 2001. ISBN 978-84-460-1285-6
  • Globalization: Human Consequences . Mexico. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 1999. (Includes the text “Tourists and vagabonds” [no. IV])
  • Liquid modernity . Buenos Aires. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 1999.
  • In search of politics . Buenos Aires. Fund of Economic Culture. 2001.
  • The individualized society Madrid. Chair. 2001. ISBN 978-84-376-1936-1
  • Community. Looking for security in a hostile world . Madrid. XXI century. 2006. ISBN 978-84-323-1272-4
  • The besieged society . Buenos Aires. Fund of Economic Culture of Argentina. 2004.
  • Postmodern ethics: Sociology and politics . Madrid. XXI century. 2004.
  • Confidence and fear in the city . Barcelona. Arcadia. 2006. ISBN 978-84-934096-3-0
  • Net love: About the fragility of human bonds . ( [1] ). Mexico. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2005. ISBN 978-84-375-0588-6
  • Wasted lives: Modernity and its outcasts . Barcelona. Paidós Ibérica. 2005. ISBN 978-84-493-1671-5
  • Identity . Madrid. Losada. 2005. ISBN 978-84-96375-20-8
  • Liquid life . Barcelona. Paidós Ibérica. 2006. ISBN 978-84-493-1936-5
  • Europe: An unfinished adventure . Losada. 2006. ISBN 84-96375-32-3
  • Liquid Fear: Contemporary society and its fears . Barcelona. Paidós Ibérica. 2007. ISBN 978-84-493-1984-6
  • Consumer life . Fondo de Cultura Económica. Madrid, 2007. ISBN 978-950-557-725-5
  • Liquid times . Barcelona. Tusquets. 2007. ISBN 978-84-8383-029-1
  • Art, liquid? . Madrid. Sequitur. 2007. ISBN 978-84-95363-36-7
  • Archipelago of exceptions . Buenos Aires and Madrid, Katz Barpal Publishers. 2008. ISBN 978-84-96859-35-7
  • Multiple cultures, one humanity . Buenos Aires / Madrid. Katz Barpal. 2008. ISBN 978-84-96859-50-0
  • The challenges of education in liquid modernity . Barcelona. Gedisa. 2008. ISBN 978-84-9784-229-7
  • The art of life. Of life as a work of art . Paidós. 2009. ISBN  978-84-493-2201-3 .
  • Time is pressing ( Living on Borrowd Time , 2009, Zygmunt Bauman & Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo). Barcelona. Arcadia, 2010. ISBN 978-84-937025-8-8
  • World Consumption . Barcelona. Paidós. 2010. ISBN 978-84-493-2339-3
  • Collateral damage. Social inequalities in the global era Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011. ISBN 9786071608154
  • 44 cards from the liquid world . Paidos State and Society. 2011.
  • Socialism. The active utopia . New vision. Buenos Aires, 2012.
  • Culture in the world of liquid modernity . Fondo de Cultura Económica, Buenos Aires, 2013.
  • Does the wealth of a few benefit us all? . Paidós, Barcelona, ​​2014.
  • Moral blindness. The loss of sensitivity in liquid modernity . Editorial Paidós. 2015. ISBN  9788449331039 .


Bauman has been awarded the following prizes:

  • 1989 , Amalfi European Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences ( Italy )
  • 1998 , Theodor W. Award Adorno of the city of Frankfurt ( Germany )
  • 2010 , Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 3

See also

  • Portal: Sociology . Content related to Sociology .
  • Liquid love
  • Consumerism
  • Holocaust
  • Identity (social sciences)
  • Identity (philosophy)
  • Modernity
  • Late modernity
  • Postmodernity


  1. Back to top↑ Country, Editions The (2017-01-09). “The thinker Zygmunt Bauman dies, ‘father’ of ‘liquid modernity'” . The Country . Retrieved on January 10, 2017 .
  2. Back to top↑ «’Liquid society’» The Basque Journal . Retrieved on October 11, 2011.
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b «Sociologists Touraine and Bauman win the Prince of Asturias Communication.» May 27, 2010. 20 minutes . Consulted the same day.
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b Piotr Gontarczyk: Towarzysz “Semjon”. Nieznany życiorys Zygmunta Baumana «BIULETYN – INSTYTUTU PAMIĘCI NARODOWEJ» . August 29, 2013. “Biuletyn IPN,” 6/2006. S. 74-83
  5. Back to top↑ Clarín.com: «Zygmunt Bauman:” Yes, I was a spy of communism. “»
  6. Back to top↑ Aida Edemariam, “Professor with a past” , The Guardian , April 28, 2007.
  7. Back to top↑ The article by The Guardian erroneously it states that the article Brickhouse , which mentions, was written by Bogdan Musiał , a conservative Polish historian working in Germany. In fact, it was written by Piotr Gontarczyk, an employee of the Institute of National Memory; Musiał only repeated the findings published by Gontarczyk in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung .
  8. Back to top^ Bauman, Zygmunt (January 1, 1998). Modernity and holocaust . Sequitur. ISBN  9788492311200 . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  9. Back to top↑ Biography of Zygmunt Bauman . Www.biografiasyvidas.com . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  10. Back to top↑ Bauman, Zygmunt (January 1, 2005). Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts . Paidós. ISBN  9788449316715 . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  11. Back to top↑ Bauman and the society of change Video in Transnational Justice Center
  12. Back to top^ Bauman, Zigmunt (January 1, 2000). Work, consumerism and new poor . Editorial GEDISA. ISBN  9788416572144 . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  13. Back to top^ Bauman, Zigmunt (January 1, 2000). Work, consumerism and new poor . Editorial GEDISA. P. 67. ISBN  9788416572144 . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  14. ↑ Jump to:a b Bauman, Zygmunt (January 1, 2002). Liquid modernity . Fondo de Cultura Económica. ISBN  9789505575138 . Retrieved on July 11, 2016 .
  15. Back to top↑ Palomar Verea, Cristina (January-April 2007). «Sygmunt Bauman’s” Identity “Review» . Spiral XIII (38): 205-214.