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Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty [Paperback]

Zygmunt Bauman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Feb 2007
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.

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Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty + Liquid Modernity + Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds
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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press (27 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745639879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745639871
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13.6 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

" Liquid Times and Living on Borrowed Times offer deep insights into post–modern life. Specifically, it exposes the essential social and philosophical changes that lie at the heart of the conditions that led to the global financial crisis ... the ideas in these books are fascinating." Satyajit Das, Willmot.com

From the Back Cover

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Zygmunt Bauman is one of the world's leading sociologists. He is particularly interested in how the west's increasing obsession with `individualism' actually prevents the individual from being free in any meaningful sense of the word.

In `Liquid Times (2007), Bauman argues that there are a number of negative consequences of globalisation such as the generation of surplus people who have no where to go in a world that is full; of increasingly visible inequalities as the rich and the poor come to live closer together; and of a world in which it is increasingly difficult for communities and nations to provide collective security.

According to Bauman, the ultimate cause of negative globalisation is due to the fact that the owners of Capital are invisible and shifting, having the power to invest locally without making commitments, and even to ignore international law if they deem it in their interests. The global elite are globally mobile, they are not stuck in one place, and they are free to move on if there are better investment opportunities elsewhere. The elite are seen as creating an unstable world as they move from place to place, seeking to maximise their profits. Meanwhile, the experience of `negative globabalisation' for the rest of us who are `doomed to be local' is one of increasing anxiety, fear, and suspicion, which derive from living in an unstable and unpredictable world over which we have no control, and we are compelled to develop strategies to counter the unstable, unjust, unequal and `risky' and `dangerous' world that the forever shifting elite leave in their wake.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 25 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
how to look at the world from a different perspective. A truly modern concept of our society! I would highly recommend it !
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All posture and no substance 4 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback
I began this book with high expectations as it covers territory that I'm interested in from a political perspective I share. I hoped for insight and analysis but, sadly, only got bluster. This is an awful book and perhaps the most irritating I've ever read. Sentences meander endlessly in search of a point which they never find. Paragraphs billow in chapters that have no weight. Some of it sounds as if it might be trying to say something but the author spends so much time layering clauses into his writing that you can never be sure. I suspect he wasn't. I clung to the occasional quotes from other writers like a drowning man to a raft; in the context of the mush that surrounded them they shone like the beacons of clarity and rigour. It is not that the ideas are difficult but that the writing is so bad there is no way of knowing! Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said about it is that it would have benefited from a stern editor.
The author is right to insist early on that one should not expect answers from this book, but he did promise to frame a few questions and it's disappointing that he didn't even manage that. The only question that I was left with was how could such a floppy book ever have been published. Save yourself the time. Leave this one on the shelf.
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4 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Siciology is alive thanks to Baumann 11 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback
A fascinatin book accountig for the disease in society, by this I suggest the boo writtenby Freud. A must.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 27 May 2007
By Malvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Liquid Times" offers a brilliant series of thoughts about postmodern life by master philosopher/sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. This accessible book succinctly introduces the reader to Mr. Bauman's theories about the passage from the "solid" phase of welfare statism to the "liquid" phase of neoliberalism which have rightly earned the author international acclaim and recognition, particularly among activists in the anti-globalization movement. In this highly rewarding book, Mr. Bauman shares some of his knowledge gained from over eighty years of high-level scholarship and diverse life experiences, rewarding the reader with a number of unique, compelling and penetrating insights into our postmodern condition.

Mr. Bauman contends that as multinational corporations have wrested economic power from state control, individuals have born the cost of change: the evisceration of the social safety net compels individuals to sink or swim. Mr. Bauman describes how urban elites have become disconnected from the working class, residing in tightly-controlled enclaves of security while the masses have been left behind to fend for themselves in slums or crime-ridden shantytowns. As globalization depletes resources and produces prodigious amounts of human waste, the author believes that refugee camps represent only the most severe manifestation of the permanency of transience, as unwanted populations are forever stranded in a 'nowhereville' of non-citizenship.

Indeed, Mr. Bauman asserts that the state finds newfound legitimacy in law enforcement and militarization. While the reality of increasing economic insecurity has compelled many individuals to assuage their anxieties by increasing discipline over mind, body and physical environment, the state incarcerates those who are unable to adopt and attacks others who might threaten us. In this manner, the state serves the interests of the powerful by protecting property rights; meanwhile, the social rights that are most needed by the poor are almost never seriously considered.

In the final chapter, Mr. Bauman discusses how consumerism offers individuals the illusory utopia of the endless pursuit of self-realization. Mr. Bauman contrasts the "hunter" who lives within this fantasy with the "gardener" who attempts to cultivate a more humane and sustainable world for all. Discovering that the utopian concept is today most often seized upon by marketers than by idealists, the author brilliantly connects the seduction of the market economy with public passivity and a general lack of outrage within the industrialized nations for what the advent of corporate rule has come to mean for most of the world's people.

I give this masterwork the highest possible recommendation.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fearful Times 8 Jun 2009
By Juan del Valle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a quick exploration of the main causes/symptoms that make our present lives uncertain and full of fears. Fragmentation, instability, lack of structure, absence of universal projects, and individual responsibility as the only venue for our social and global problems are the main characteristics of our new reality. As a consequence, we live in fear. Politics and advertising exploit this weakness, fueling a vicious cycle from which we try--seldom successfully--to escape: the more we fear, the more we are subject to feel unstable and the more we suspect anything and anyone who might present a risk to our individual situation. We fear because we know we are not in control anymore. Consequently, we reject and protect ourselves from strangers, migrants, or the unemployed, who represent not only the disturbing presences of the uncanny, but also a symbolic abyss that opens in front of us. We react by limiting their access to our social and urban space, by withdrawing into individual isolation, and by consuming readily disposable products and symbols. Zygmunt Bauman does not believe that this is a long-term solution. The author does not elaborate on clear alternatives to this situation except when at the beginning of the book (p. 26) he mentions, almost in passing, the need to seek a planetary solution to our democracies.

The book is divided in 5 sections ("Introduction: Bravely into the Hotbed of Uncertainties," "Liquid Modern Life and its Fears," "Humanity on the Move," "State, Democracy and the Management of Fears," "Out of Touch Together," and "Utopia in the Age of Uncertainty"). I find the last section the least interesting because of its vagueness. Although the writing is engaging, not all the quotes are fully documented; for instance, many times the author's name will be included but not the work and the page numbers.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Meta-Critique of the Excesses of Globalization 10 Sep 2011
By A Certain Bibliophile - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Zygmunt Bauman is a Polish-born sociologist in the Marxist tradition mostly known for his thoroughgoing critiques of consumerism, modernity, and cultural memory (especially the Holocaust). His "liquid" books, including "Liquid Modernity" (2000), "Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds" (2003), "Liquid Life" (2005), "Liquid Fear" (2006), and the book presently considered, "Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty" (2006), for the most part seem to be shorter books whose aim is to adumbrate the arguments Bauman has made over the course of his career.

The focus of "Liquid Times" is a meta-critique of globalization and all of the problems it presents, from rootlessness to the ubiquity of the security sate, with Bauman's central thesis being that the consequences of globalization have seriously hindered attempts at international justice. The goal of globalization - to eradicate any trade barriers and therefore create "markets without frontiers" - results in the transition from a world where people are subject to the laws and protections of their home countries to one in which radical fear and lack of security are reified and the "fading of human bonds and the wilting of solidarity" reigns. This lack of security results in fear and a perceived lack of control, which in turn perpetuates and shores up the conspicuous shift toward national security that we have experienced in advanced liberal democracies. And so the pernicious cycle goes. In his comparison of cities, the globally located ones (that are able to participate in the fully integrated sphere of globalization) and locally located cities ones (those that aren't), Bauman says that the job of the city has changed from protecting its inhabitants from outsiders to housing ghettoized populations of peripatetic transnationals and strangers, the "dumping ground for globally conceived and gestated problems."

Our new liquid times have also brought about an unprecedented number of refugees, both political and economic. Wars, which Bauman thinks are essentially local attempts to solve global problems, become intractable. The result is an "excess of humanity" - humanity as waste product - completely and utterly divested of property, personal identity, or even a state that will recognize their existence.

Bauman suggests that democracy has ironically become an elitist affair, where the rich protect their interests and the poor continue to suffer from a lack of social safety nets and supportive governmental networks. He is also not terribly optimistic about the chances of gaining a pre-globalized utopia, a word which Thomas More first darkly noted could mean, homophonically, either "paradise" or "nowhere." While it is still a paradise for some, our world has become too liquid to be anything but the latter for most of us. In the end, Bauman offers in every analysis of globalization the ultimate paradox of modernity: a permanent life shot through with impermanency.

As I pointed out before, at least according to the back of the book, Bauman has taken the time to further detail his analyses in other books. However, from what I read here, I am not sure how many of his arguments are original. Books on globalization with themes of alienation and disenfranchisement are not unpopular in the field of sociology. However, Bauman's wry wit definitely has me interested in reading more of his work, which I plan on reviewing in the future.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent analysis of present times 19 Jan 2012
By Dioskuri - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down as I started reading it, and have read it twice now, and ordered others from the same author to better understand his framework. It is a very intriguing analysis of present times, that applies to multiple disciplines as a true work of sociology should. After reading the other books from Bauman, I would consider this a quick and inexpensive way to get introduced to the author, although the liquid modernity theory gets developed earlier and in more detail in his writings. Nevertheless this book is a primer to Bauman that anyone should be able to enjoy no matter what their profession is. The insight into current times and the unique perspective it provides will bring together many people regardless of their political or ideological beliefs and where they live.
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of valuable time... 13 April 2014
By Medley McClary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is an unsubstantiated rant. A "this is true because I say it" sort of thing. He uses lots of big words to show us he has a good vocabulary, but he is clearly not a scholar.

MM
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