Zigmunt Baumann - Liquid Modernity

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Liquid Modernity is a way of describing contemporary culture, as opposed to the “solid culture” of the past. Previously, the idea of “culture” signified a certain elite or stratification of society; it was used to separate the classes, and to give a model to which “cultured” people would conform – culture meant high culture, it was Beethoven and Mozart, not folk music. The contemporary cultral ethos is, by contrast, one of eclecticism – being “cultured” means selecting from and enjoying cultural artefacts regardless of their source.

Bauman links this to three periods of global migration in modern times. The first was the colonial expansion of European powers; Westerners moved to the colonies and brought their culture with them, working to rebuild London or Berlin wherever they may be on the globe, and filling the “unoccupied” lands with (their) culture.

The secone is the reverse – the colonized moving to the West. Arriving in European metropolses, the only cultural trajectory open to them was that of assimilation; culture was still solidly “rooted” to place.

The third period is that of the diaspora – people from everywhere, migrating to and living everywhere, in global cultural archipellagos. Culture is no longer rooted to where you are, but is rather anchored to where you consider to be “home”. The expectation to assimilate has been replaced by the right to be different.

Solid modernity is further melted through consumerism; cultural curators are no longer seeking to create permanent cultural fixtures, but to create ever new needs and desires to drive consumption of cultural products that are ment to have a short lifespan and be quickly replaced.

So the overall idea of liquid modernity is the movement from stability to constant change. <small>source: Zigmunt Bauman, « Liquid-modern adventures of an idea  », dans Handbook of Cultural Sociology, Paperback ed., Routledge International Handbooks, London, Routledge, 2012, p. 326-334.</small>

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