The epochal theorising of Zygmunt Bauman

I thought this was a great account of Zygmunt Bauman’s style by David Beer in his newsletter. It’s the same quality which can be found in the trilogy of books by Giddens in the early 1990s which, along with Bauman’s oeuvre, facilitated my transition from philosophy to sociology. These works excited me because they provided big answers, even if it wasn’t always completely clear what the questions were and how the answers to them had been derived.

I always found Bauman to be an engaging and thought provoking writer. His books were usually panoramic, mixing observation with sweeping reflection. There was an ambition to them. It also seemed like he just kept continually writing, pausing occasionally to release the most recent pages as a book. Really it was like a continuous flow that had to be almost artificially separated out into volumes. It’s easy to pull on the threads, but the point, it seemed to me, was that the rumbling ideas were there to be responded to and reflected on.

It often makes me think about Sellars remark that philosophy is a matter of how things, in the broadest sense of the term, hang together in the broadest sense of the term. The same could be said of epochal theorising, albeit in a more sociological register. Where are these changes going? What do they mean for how we live? We need a sociology which can ask these questions, even if we should be sceptical about the capacity of epochal theorists to answer them.

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