Work, Consumerism and the New Poor

By Zygmunt Bauman | Go to book overview

6
Prospects for the new poor

There are many ways of being human, but each society makes a choice of the way it prefers or tolerates. If we call a certain assembly of people a 'society', implying that these people 'belong together' and make a 'totality', it is because of this choice. (Though seldom a 'deliberate' choice in the sense of surveying a number of possibilities and then picking the most appealing among them; once made by default rather than by design, the choice cannot easily be abandoned.)1 It is this choice, or the lasting sedi- ments of it, that makes one assembly of people look different from another; the difference to which we refer when we speak of different societies. Whether a given assembly is or is not a 'society', where its boundaries run, and who does and does not belong to the society which that assembly constitutes, all depends on the force with which the choice is made and promoted, the strength of the grip in which it holds the individuals and the compliance with which it is obeyed. The choice boils down to two impositions (or, rather, one imposition with two effects): order and a norm.

The great novelist and philosopher of our times, Milan Kundera, described in La Valse au Adieux (Galimard, 1976)2 'the longing for order' evident in all known societies as:

a desire to turn the human world into an inorganic one, where
everything would function perfectly and work on schedule, sub-
ordinated to a suprapersonal system. The longing for order is at the
same time a longing for death, because life is an incessant disruption of
order. Or to put it the other way around: the desire for order is a
virtuous pretext, an excuse for violent misanthropy.

As a matter of fact, the desire for order does not necessarily stem from misanthropy. Yet it cannot but prompt it, since it offers an excuse for

-105-

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Work, Consumerism and the New Poor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Issues in Society Series Editor: Tim May iii
  • Work, Consumerism and the New Poor iv
  • Contents vi
  • Series Editor's Foreword vii
  • Introduction to the First Edition 1
  • Part I 4
  • 1: The Meaning of Work 5
  • 2: From the Work Ethic to the Aesthetic of Consumption 23
  • Part II 44
  • 3: The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State 45
  • 4: The Work Ethic and the New Poor 63
  • 5: Work and Redundancy in the Globalized World 87
  • Part III 104
  • 6: Prospects for the New Poor 105
  • Notes 121
  • Index 129
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