Consumerist Culture in Zygmunt Bauman’s Critical Sociology: A Comparative Analysis of his Polish and English Writings
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Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences
Publication date: 2018-04-03
Polish Sociological Review 2018;201(1)
In this article I analyze Zygmunt Bauman’s oeuvre on consumerist culture, from the Polish (1953–1968) and English (1968–2017) stages of his scholarly career. I demonstrate that despite the passage of many years and the numerous changes in the way Bauman approached sociology, it is possible to see considerable overlap between the interpretations that he advanced in the two periods of his career. In the first part of the article I focus on how Bauman’s observations—dating back to the sixties and relating to the theory of culture, Marxist theory, and the method of ideal types—found their reflection in what he called the “consumerist syndrome” (seen as a set of properties permeating all planes of social life). In the second part of the article I highlight the fact that his observations were inspired by a model of critical sociology that evolved from Antonio Gramsci’s “philosophy of praxis” and utopian thinking of an iconoclastic nature. And even though my analysis focuses on the denotative and conative dimensions of Bauman’s vision of consumerist culture, I also present more general conclusions regarding the continuity and variability of his entire sixty-plus years of scholarly activity. The article offers an opportunity for English-speaking readers to become familiar with Bauman’s Polish writings and should encourage further research in this area.
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