Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Task of the Translator in Times of Dismantling the Social. Zygmunt Bauman and Active Utopia

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Task of the Translator in Times of Dismantling the Social. Zygmunt Bauman and Active Utopia

Article excerpt

After Death (Towards Life)

After the death of Zygmunt Bauman, which took me by surprise, I did my work of mourning to try answer one simple question: when I think "Zygmunt Bauman" what do I actually think? The following text is a record of this moment of reflection on the meaning and on the stake of Zygmunt Bauman's writing. It is an attempt to conjecture its non-obvious meaning. Perhaps, the benevolence of death in the course of human life is that it gives us time to think over finite time. Time infinite would effectively prevent subjectivity from occurring. Living beyond time constraint is not human. Human dreams of immortality and eternal life are not human dreams and immortality is not a strategy for human life. Only the vision of finite time allows one to "see" human life as a mission and the finitude of the undertaking equips it with important meaning. Therefore, I care to ask: what mission marked the life of Zygmunt Bauman?

Perhaps, Bauman's life compels us to think over life and death, to look for the subjectivity of death and for a new way of thinking about the subjectivity of life. Certainly, Bauman's life compels us to think of death as a once-in-a-lifetime event. Personally, Bauman's life compels me to conceive of a notion of death departing from the two concepts found in culture, i.e., one recognizing in the trivial fact of death the destruction of life, and the second negating the reality of death and seeking escape from death in visions of immortality and fantasies of the eternal world. For me, Bauman's life teaches "positive finiteness," i.e. it is a lesson in becoming finite without a neurotic fear of perishing or a phantasmatic desire for something more than life itself. Life, in this perspective, is no longer about permanent deferment of one's death, nor it is about an audacious search for it, instead, it is an attempt to give meaning to the finite time of one's own passing. Death always reveals itself as a loss, but it is a loss experienced by the survivors.

What Bauman teaches us is that the fear of death is merely a fear of a righteous life. The banality of life resolves itself claiming that life plays out in being "between" birth and death. The hardship of life is, however, the struggle to constantly undertake the search for new possibilities of existence, for the possibility of being such as one has never been. In this sense, human life is social and always depends on others, both because it never guarantees exclusive "ownership" of one's own life, and because man remains always non self-sufficient. My life is never truly mine, yet mine is always death.

My essay consists of three sections. First, I discuss the language used by the author of Liquid Modernity. This is an attempt to identify the set of instruments that allow thinking and the set of tools determining what the subject of thinking should be. In the second part I discuss the social world which preoccupied Bauman and which he was constantly diagnosing. Here, I am considering the conditions of Bauman's thinking and the environment anchoring it. Finally, in the third part, I reflect on the effect of Bauman's thinking, i.e., I question the following: what is the result of juxtaposing the instruments (vocabulary) and the social conditions (world), the "thinking of Bauman" and "Baumanian thinking"? What picture of Bauman emerges from this juxtaposition and from such an arrangement? Is it not the picture of a much more conflicted a sociologist than we often thought him to be? Was Bauman not-to some degree-a tragic thinker who never reconciled with the world and society which blew hot and cold on his thinking, endorsing it and suppressing it time after time? What, therefore, do I think when I think "Zygmunt Bauman"?

Active Utopia (Eliminating Unhappiness)

When I think "Zygmunt Bauman," I think above all about „active utopia." It is not a chimera of a search for islands of happiness, of other worlds, or fictitious prosperous societies. …

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