Conference Paper: The Death of Utopian Realism? Our Understanding of Politics in Late Modernity

Dawson, Matt (2009) Conference Paper: The Death of Utopian Realism? Our Understanding of Politics in Late Modernity. In: BSA Annual Conference 2009 - The Challenge of Global Social Inquiry, 16-18th April, Cardiff, UK.

Full text not available from this repository.


This paper will discuss the understandings of the role of politics offered by three key sociological writers, Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens. Despite some differences the paper argues these three share key sociological components in their understanding of modernity, which combined can be treated as an elaboration of 'late modernity'. Among this common understanding are factors such as; the 'reflexive biography'/life story, the prevalence of 'expert systems', uncertainty and unintended consequences of modernity, as well as the importance of risk, ecology and the effects of globalisation. Along with these theoretical similarities, it will be argued that the political observations of these writers' work have been detached from their more critical and comprehensive sociological work. Whilst Giddens' political viewpoint found its manifestation in 'The Third Way' and Beck's in writings on 'sub-politics' and 'cosmopolitanism'. By examining their previous and concurrent sociological writings this paper will argue that instead the form of politics suggested is a more pluralistic, decentralised form of democracy focused towards new goals, these can not be realised in the formations they offer. The writings of Bauman will be used to develop this point, since he has used this common understanding of 'late modernity' to form different political arguments. However whilst showing more theoretical consistency, he still doesn't develop a complete political framework. This paper concludes by using the sociological and political observations drawn therein as the beginning for a different understanding of the role of politics in late modernity.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Matt Dawson
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2012 16:55
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2012 12:39
📧 Request an update