Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age by Zygmunt Bauman

By Zygmunt Bauman

During this new publication Zygmunt Bauman - the most unique and influential social thinkers of our time - examines the selective affinity among the expansion of social inequality and the increase within the quantity of 'collateral harm' and considers its implications and its bills.

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The marriage of power and politics (or rather their cohabitation inside the nation-state) is now ending in a separation verging on divorce, with power partly evaporating upwards into the cyberspace, partly flowing sideways to militantly and ruggedly apolitical markets, and partly ‘subsidiarized’ (forcibly, ‘by decree’) to the area of ‘life politics’ of newly ‘enfranchised’ (again by decree) individuals. From the agora to the marketplace 23 The outcomes are very much the same as in the case of the original secession; only this time on an incomparably grander scale.

In its Marxian form, socialism was anticipated to arrive as a result of the proletarian revolution. Increasingly angry with their continuing impoverishment and indignity, workers would sooner or later rebel, forcing a change in the rules of the game in their (well-earned and deserved) favour . . As the years went by, the prospects of a ‘proletarian revolution’ seemed to recede, however, and looked increasingly remote. The spectre of revolution together with the rise and development of effective self-defence organizations among factory labour nudged the state (viewed as a political representation of the class of factory owners) to impose limitations on the appetites of profit-seekers Requiem for communism 33 and on the inhumanity of labour conditions, and the process thereby turned into a ‘self-refuting prophecy’: the predicted ‘proletarian pauperization’ failed to materialize.

The task of melting and recasting extant realities has turned, accordingly, from a one-off and once-andfor-all undertaking into a continuous, presumably permanent, human condition – just as the interplay of connecting and disconnecting turned into the permanent existential modality of ‘social networking’ that replaced ‘social structuring’. For the tasks of servicing the liquid modern form of life the whole concept of communist society was, however, ill-prepared and eminently ill-suited, just as the institutions developed to service the order-building preoccupations of ‘solid modernity’ were singularly unsuitable for servicing modernity’s ‘liquid’ incarnation.

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