Chapter Three: ‘Solid’ modernity and ‘liquid’ modernity

In recent years, questions related to modernity have, on occasions, dwelt on the notion that we have shifted from a period of ‘solid modernity’ to one of ‘liquid modernity’. The main sociologist associated with this theorisation is Zygmunt Bauman. He was born in Poland in 1925 but left in the late 1960s and arrived – after short stays in Israel, Canada and Australia – at the University of Leeds, where, from 1990, he was an Emeritus Professor.

Until his death, in early 2017, Bauman was an exceptionally prolific, influential and, in his final years, controversial sociologist (Tester, 2004). Attention was directed to his having worked for Poland’s intelligence services from the end of the Second World War until 1953 (Edemariam, 2007; Ramesh, 2010). Irrespective of the precise accuracy of such reports, it is impossible to comprehend Bauman’s role without locating it in the context of the civil war that erupted in Poland following liberation from Nazi rule (Tester and Jacobsen, 2005). However, he was also criticised for an alleged lack of scholarly detail in his later work. Derbyshire (2004, p 49), for example, criticised Bauman’s ‘theoretical impressionism’, maintaining that his apparent reliance on ‘nothing more substantial than articles in the Guardian and the Observer colour supplements’ was ‘objectionable’. Perhaps there is some truth in this critique, but Bauman’s ‘defence of a morally committed sociology’ was compelling and serious. Indeed, his contributions should be taken into account, albeit critically, in any book seeking to address social theory and social work (see also Smith, M., 2011).

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