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Postmodernity and its Discontents

  • ID: 2249293
  • Book
  • February 1997
  • 232 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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When Freud wrote his classic
Civilization and its Discontents, he was concerned with repression. Modern civilization depends upon the constraint of impulse, the limiting of self expression.

Today, in the time of modernity, Bauman argues, Freud′s analysis no longer holds good, if it ever did. The regulation of desire turns from an irritating necessity into an assault against individual freedom. In the postmodern era, the liberty of the individual is the overriding value, the criterion in terms of which all social rules and regulations are assessed. Postmodernity is governed by the ′will to happiness′: the result, however, is a sacrificing of security.

The most prominent anxieties in our society today, Bauman shows, derive from the removal of security. The world is experienced as overwhelmingly uncertain, uncontrollable and frightening. Totalitarian politics frightened by its awesome power; the new social disorder frightens by its lack of consistency and direction. The very pursuit of individual happiness corrupts and undermines those systems of authority needed for a stable life.

This book builds imaginatively upon Bauman′s earlier contributions to social theory. It consolidates his reputation as the interpreter of postmodernity. The book will appeal to second–year undergraduates and above in sociology, cultural studies, philosophy and anthropology.

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Introduction: Discontents – Modern and Postmodern.

1. The Dream of Purity.

2. Making and Unmaking of Strangers.

3. The Strangers of the Consumer Era: from the Welfare State to Prison.

4. Morality Begins at Home: or the Rocky Road to Justice.

5. Parvenu and Pariah – the Heroes and Victims of Modernity.

6. Tourists and Vagabonds – the Heroes and Victims of Postmodernity.

7. Postmodern Art, or the Impossibility of the Avant–garde.

8. On the Meaning of Art and the Art of Meaning.

9. Culture as Consumer Co–operative.

10. On the Postmodern Deployment of Sex: Foucault′s History of Sexuality Revisited.

11. Immortality, Postmodern Version.

12. Postmodern Religion?.

13. On Communitarianism and Human Freedom, or How to Square the Circle.

Afterword: The Last word – and it Belongs to Freedom.



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"For a penetrating discussion of the dilemmas which face postmodern cultural analysis, it is hard to beat."
Third Way

"This book has important things to say ... interesting and thought–provoking." The Times Higher Education Supplement

"Humane, impassioned essays." The Times Literary Supplement

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