Liquid modernity

The concept of liquid modernity was developed by the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and concerns a new era in which social, economic and production relations are fragile, fleeting and malleable , like liquids. The concept is opposed, in the work of Bauman, to the concept of solid modernity, when relations were solidly established, tending to be stronger and more lasting.

Read also: Cave myth – Platonic dialogue that overlaps rational knowledge over vulgar

What is liquid modernity?

Bauman defined as liquid modernity a period that started after the Second World War and became more noticeable after the 1960s. This sociologist called the previous period solid modernity.

The modern solid was characterized by rigidity and solidification of human relations, social relations, science and thought. The search for truth was a serious commitment for thinkers of solid modernity. Social and family relations were rigid and long-lasting, and what was wanted was a care for tradition. Despite the negative aspects recognized by Bauman of solid modernity, the positive aspect was the confidence in the rigidity of institutions and the solidification of human relations.

Personal contact and relationships were trivialized, being intermediated by electronic devices and the internet in liquid modernity.

The liquid modernity is totally opposed to solid modernity and was evident in the 1960s, but its seed was at the beginning of industrial capitalism during the industrial revolution . Economic relations were superimposed on social and human relations, and this opened space so that there was an ever more fragile bond between people and people with institutions .

The logic of consumption took the place of the logic of morality , so people started to be strongly analyzed not for what they are, but for what they buy. The idea of ​​buying also entered social relations, and people started to buy affection and attention.

Don’t stop now … There’s more after the publicity;)

In this context, the institutions were shaken. Employment became a completely individual enterprise at the time that the individual became an “entrepreneur” of himself. If someone does not succeed in this logic of liquid modernity, the responsibility is completely individual.

Therefore, liquid modernity has liquid institutions, because each person is an institution . Capitalist exploitation has ceased to be seen as exploitation and has come to be seen as a natural relationship in which the subject, entrepreneur of himself, sells his labor power to the entrepreneurial subject who owns the capital.

The liquid modernity is agile , as it follows the fashion and the thought of that time. Science, technique, education, health, human relations and everything else that was created by human beings to compose society are subjected to the capitalist logic of consumption .

See also: Social institutions – social bodies that aim at integrating members of society

Liquid modernity and human relations

Human relations were extremely shaken by the rise of liquid modernity. Bauman uses the term “ connection ” to name relationships in liquid modernity instead of relationships, since what is desired from then on is something that can be accumulated in greater numbers, but with sufficient superficiality to disconnect at any time . Friendship and love relationships are replaced by connections, which can be broken at any time .

Social networks have completely changed human relationships.

Social networks and the internet served as an instrument for the intensification of what Bauman called liquid love : the pseudo-amorous relationship of liquid modernity. We do not seek, as in solid modernity, an affective and loving company as it was in solid modernity, but we look for a connection (which may be sexual or not, the non-sexual substituting what was friendship) that results in pleasure for the individual. The imperative of liquid modernity is the search for pleasure at any cost , even when using people as objects. In fact, in liquid modernity, the subject becomes an object.

The connections established between people are banal and casual ties. People are looking for a large number of connections, as this has become a cause for ostentation. More partners and sexual partners, more “friends” (who, in fact, are, in most cases, colleagues or acquaintances), because the more connections, the more famous the person is considered. Just make a brief analysis of social relationships on social networks like Facebook: the more “friends” (which, in fact, are just virtual contacts) the person has, the more requested he becomes.

The sex was also reduced to a mere object of pleasure. It is true that, as a physiological impulse of the body, the animal side of the human being seeks sex for pleasure, and not for reproduction itself. Pleasure is nature’s bait to attract the animal to sexual intercourse, because, thus, nature gets the animals to reproduce and the species are maintained.

Sex, for human societies and in solid modernity, is no longer just an instrument of pleasure and has been considered more than just a means of reproduction. Sex came to be seen as a sharing of emotions, of love, a symbol of trust between two people. In liquid modernity, the sex is mere instrument of pleasure and should not be measured qualitatively, but quantitatively: the more frequent and with the greatest possible number of people, the better. The smaller the bond between sexual partners, the better.

Liquid modernity and consumerism

The consumer has become an imperative in liquid modernity. A whole apparatus has been created so that capitalism can progress uncheckedly through irrational consumption . In addition to what the German philosopher and sociologist Karl Marx observed in his time, a fetish for consumption, a fetish for brands was created, no longer importing the product itself, but its manufacturer and its price.

Consumption has always been synonymous with status , but in liquid modernity, consumption and status are expressively endowed with a much more intense symbolic charge than they were in solid modernity. The subject is objectified by capitalism, becoming only what he consumes, and no longer what he is. In the logic of liquid modernity, the subject is what he consumes .

In liquid modernity, having is more important than being. The trivialization of friendship and dating are reflections of this way of life that prioritizes consumption and objectifies people.

The way in which capitalism manages to effect this change in perspective is by the promise of happiness : subjects are increasingly anxious, sad and overwhelmed. Then, the momentary pleasure offered by consumption is associated with happiness. As this pleasure is quickly transient, the subject feels the need to constantly seek it, in an attempt to achieve happiness.

Also read: Mass culture – a showcase that encourages consumerism

Zygmunt Bauman and liquid modernity

Bauman was born in Poland , in 1925, to a Jewish family . In 1939, his family fled Poland for the Soviet Union because of the invasion and annexation of Polish territory by the Nazis . Throughout the Second World War , Bauman lived in Poland and came to work for the Polish secret service, controlled by the Soviet army.

He remained a member of the Polish army until 1954, when he was dismissed because of his father’s approach to the Israeli embassy with a view to obtaining a visa for Israel. As there was a restriction by the Communists on Jewish Zionism, the Polish army dismissed Bauman . The Polish government was Soviet-oriented after the end of the war.

In 1954, Bauman decided to pursue his master’s degree in Sociology, continuing his graduation. In the same year, he became an assistant professor at the University of Warsaw . At this institution, the sociologist began a career that would later be promising in the field of contemporary intellectual production.

In 1968, political pressure driven by an act called a “purge” led to the departure of several Communist Jews from Poland. At that time, Bauman was fired from the University of Warsaw and was exiled from Poland . For a while, the sociologist lived in Israel and taught at Tel Aviv University.

In 1971, his academic career grew exponentially, as Bauman received an invitation to teach at the University of Leeds, England. His social and political research began to produce great fruits, which resulted in books that started to be spread around the world.

It was also during this period that Bauman began to analyze the effects of globalization and the modification of social and political relations after the end of World War II. The germ of what would become the concept of liquid modernity was planted here, which would emerge with strength and distinction in Bauman’s work in 1990.

Zygmunt Bauman, the Polish sociologist who developed the concept of liquid modernity. [1]

Bauman was a scholar of the so  called postmodernity. The Philosophy and Sociology contemporary have agreed to call the contemporary period, which began in the 1960s, post-modernism or postmodernism.

A group of thinkers and philosophers intellectually affiliated with an intellectual current called post-structuralism saw thought differently from traditional philosophies of modern tradition. Among these thinkers were the French philosophers Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Guy Debord and Jean-François Lyiotard. The general public and traditional European intellectual circles began to see Bauman’s work as a “postmodern” work, and what Bauman did was to present a critical perspective on postmodernity.

In the first place, Bauman realized that the new era lived was not a split with modernity, so it was not something that came after modernity, but a continuation of modernity traced differently. For this reason, the sociologist at that time gave the title of liquid modernity. Second, the term came about so that Bauman was not associated with something he wanted to criticize, that is, so that he was no longer called postmodern, but was recognized as a critic of postmodernity .


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