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On Redundancy 

I’ve become ever more critical of Zygmunt Bauman in recent years. However I continue to see some value in his work and this passage, from his Wasted Lives pg 11-12, illustrates what I shall always like about his writing: 

How different is the idea of ‘redundancy’ that has shot into prominence during the lifetime of Generation X! Where the prefix ‘un’ in ‘unemployment’ used to suggest a departure from the norm –as in ‘unhealthy’ or ‘unwell’ –there is no such suggestion in the notion of ‘redundancy’. No inkling of abnormality, anomaly, spell of ill-health or a momentary slip. ‘Redundancy’ whispers permanence and hints at the ordinariness of the condition. It names a condition without offering a ready-to-use antonym. It suggests a new shape of current normality and the shape of things that are imminent and bound to stay as they are. 

To be ‘redundant’ means to be supernumerary, unneeded, of no use –whatever the needs and uses are that set the standard of usefulness and indispensability. The others do not need you; they can do as well, and better, without you. There is no self-evident reason for your being around and no obvious justification for your claim to the right to stay around. To be declared redundant means to have been disposed of because of being disposable –just like the empty and non-refundable plastic bottle or once-used syringe, an unattractive commodity with no buyers, or a substandard or stained product without use thrown off the assembly line by the quality inspectors. ‘Redundancy’ shares its semantic space with ‘rejects’, ‘wastrels’, ‘garbage’, ‘refuse’ –with waste. The destination of the unemployed, of the ‘reserve army of labour’, was to be called back into active service. The destination of waste is the waste-yard, the rubbish heap.

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