Optimism and agency in the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman

Dawson, Matt (2012) Optimism and agency in the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman. European Journal of Social Theory. ISSN 1368-4310

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Zygmunt Bauman’s sociology has often been seen as a bleak worldview; he has been called the ‘sociologist of misery’. This article argues that assigning pessimism and misery to Bauman’s work relies on a reading which does not fully consider his sociology of morality. When this is accounted for, Bauman can be seen to have a very optimistic worldview. The significance of such an observation rests on where Bauman’s optimism lies—namely in the hands of inevitably moral individuals who can acquiesce to, reject or modify the demands of liquid modernity. This article argues, with reference to G.H. Mead’s concept of the ‘genius’, that this is where the potential for agency lies in Bauman’s conception of liquid modernity. This is given a political dimension by both Mead and Bauman’s advocacy of democratic forms to help realise this agency. Democracy operates as a ‘societal’ form of morality which builds upon Bauman’s ‘pre-societal’ discussion.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Online First Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Matt Dawson
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2012 12:57
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2016 15:14
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/37225
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