Un essai incisif du grand sociologue Zygmunt Bauman, père du concept de société liquide, sur la crise des réfugiés.
Depuis toujours, des réfugiés, emmenés par la guerre et la faim, toquent à la porte de mieux lotis. Pour ceux qui se trouvent derrière ces portes, ces importuns ont toujours d'abord été des étrangers, des étrangers porteurs de peur et d'angoisse.
Nous sommes, aujourd'hui, confrontés à une forme extrême de ce motif historique. Alors que les médias sont obsédés par une " crise migratoire " qui menacerait notre mode de vie, on voit naître une véritable panique morale. L'idée que le bien-être de nos sociétés est menacée est désormais largement répandue.
C'est cette panique morale que dissèque Zygmunt Bauman dans ce petit essai incisif paru en 2016.
Il revient sur la manière dont hommes et femmes politiques ont exploité la peur pour la répandre d'abord chez les plus déshérités d'entre nous. À ceux-là, on promet d'ériger des murs, non des ponts. Mais si cette promesse rassure à court terme, elle est condamnée à l'échec sur le long terme.
Car la crise à laquelle nous sommes confrontés concerne l'humanité dans son ensemble. Nous sommes, plus que jamais, dépendants les uns des autres. Raison pour laquelle il nous faut inventer de nouvelles manières de vivre ensemble.
" Un ouvrage bref et passionné. "
Le livre testament de Zygmunt Bauman, l'un des plus penseurs les plus importants de notre modernité. Une alerte nécessaire sur la tentative de repli et d'idéalisation du passé qui caractérise notre époque.
À la mort de Zygmunt Bauman, en janvier 2017, Roger Pol- Droit soulignait dans le Monde que le lire, c'est toujours " rencontrer une éthique contemporaine sans dogme ni concession ". Philosophe et sociologue aussi érudit qu'inclassable, né en Pologne mais ayant vécu l'essentiel de son existence en Grande-Bretagne, cet intellectuel européen par excellence éclaire notre temps à l'instar d'un Norbert Elias ou d'un Georg Simmel. Rétrotopie, publié à titre posthume quelques mois après sa disparition, peut être considéré comme une manière de testament – et comme une mise en garde de poids.
C'est que Bauman, avant de disparaître, constatait partout un refus général de se confronter véritablement aux grands défis de ce xxie siècle naissant – et, notamment, aux questions soulevées par des flux migratoires. Partout, on observe l'avènement d'une forme d'aspiration rétrograde, la volonté d'en revenir à un passé plus ou moins mythifié : soit le meilleur moyen d'éluder les questions les plus brûlantes tout en entamant un processus de régression possiblement catastrophique. " Le défi de la modernité, nous rappelle Bauman, est de vivre sans illusion et sans être désillusionné. "
Il reste à relever et ce livre nous y aide puissamment.
LA PRESSE EN PARLE
" Avec Retrotopia que Bauman écrivit juste avant de mourir à l'âge de 91 ans, cette grande voix alerte une nouvelle fois sur les mécanismes et les dangers des replis identitaires, rappelle que le sort funeste des migrants est scellé au nôtre, et invite à dépasser la peur pour créer d'urgence de nouvelles utopies. "
" Court, dense, inattendu, voilà un livre qui s'impose comme le testament d'un grand intellectuel européen. "
" Le livre testament du sociologue décédé en 2017, [...][qui] y met en garde contre une "épidémie de nostalgie". "
" On y constate que le fameux sociologue polonais, exilé en Grande-Bretagne, n'avait rien perdu de son étonnante sagacité. ", Brice Couturier,
" Quand nous constatons la liquéfaction des institutions sociales, c'est du Bauman. Quand nous ne savons plus où sont les pouvoirs mais que nous pouvons certifier qu'ils ne sont plus là où nous sommes, c'est du Bauman. " Jean Lebrun,
" Cet ouvrage éclaire brillamment les périls auxquels sont confrontées nos sociétés modernes. Sociétés rongées par une "épidémie de nostalgie". "
" À la fin de sa vie, Bauman s'inquiétait du refus général de se confronter véritablement à un grand défi du nouveau siècle [...]. Retrotopia, [...] essai publié quelques mois après sa mort, [...] peut être tenu pour son testament intellectuel. "
" Sociologue, philosophe, penseur agile et inclassable, Bauman a achevé juste avant de mourir l'essai intitulé Retrotopia. Cette publication posthume confirme, si besoin était, l'extrême acuité de son regard. [...] Quels que soient les prises de distance et les désaccords que ce livre peut susciter, il faut s'y plonger sans hésitation. " Roger-Pol Droit,
" Ni optimisme béat façon " croissante verte ", ni collapsologie paralysante, mais de la lucidité exigeante face aux défis de notre temps. "
Usbek et Rica
" Ce dernier essai du grand sociologue ne se limite pas à offrir des clés de compréhension : il constitue une mise en garde troublante dont on on pourra tirer de nombreux enseignements. Volume refermé, on reste sidéré par l'incroyable lucidité du penseur. "
Notre monde n'a jamais été aussi riche ni si inégalitaire. N'en déplaise aux fondamentalistes de la croissance économique, le fossé continue de se creuser entre les uns, de plus en plus riches, et les autres, de plus en plus pauvres. À l'heure actuelle, une infime minorité de la population mondiale concentre près de la moitié des richesses totales. La « main invisible » des marchés opère pour une petite caste, étranglant tous les autres.
Dans cet essai incisif, Zygmunt Bauman condamne les mirages de la société de consommation, du toujours plus. Il poursuit sa réflexion sur les ravages de la mondialisation, en attaquant les systèmes élitistes. Il montre leur inefficacité économique et sociale, ainsi que les dangers qui pèsent désormais sur la démocratie.
Zygmunt Bauman's new book is a brilliant exploration, from a sociological point of view, of the 'taboo' subject in modern societies: death and dying. The book develops a new theory of the ways in which human mortality is reacted to, and dealt with, in social institutions and culture. The hypothesis explored in the book is that the necessity of human beings to live with the constant awareness of death accounts for crucial aspects of the social organization of all known societies. Two different 'life strategies' are distinguished in respect of reactions to mortality. One, 'the modern strategy', deconstructs mortality by translating the insoluble issue of death into many specific problems of health and disease which are 'soluble in principle'. The 'post-modern strategy' is one of deconstructing immortality: life is transformed into a constant rehearsal of 'reversible death', a substitution of 'temporary disappearance' for the irrevocable termination of life. This profound and provocative book will appeal to a wide audience. It will also be of particular interest to students and professionals in the areas of sociology, anthropology, theology and philosophy.
'Liquid life' is the kind of life commonly lived in our contemporary, liquid-modern society. Liquid life cannot stay on course, as liquid-modern society cannot keep its shape for long. Liquid life is a precarious life, lived under conditions of constant uncertainty. The most acute and stubborn worries that haunt this liquid life are the fears of being caught napping, of failing to catch up with fast moving events, of overlooking the `use by' dates and being saddled with worthless possessions, of missing the moment calling for a change of tack and being left behind. Liquid life is also shot through by a contradiction: it ought to be a (possibly unending) series of new beginnings, yet precisely for that reason it is full of worries about swift and painless endings, without which new beginnings would be unthinkable. Among the arts of liquid-modern living and the skills needed to practice them, getting rid of things takes precedence over their acquisition. This and other challenges of life in a liquid-modern society are traced and unravelled in the successive chapters of this new book by one of the most brilliant and original social thinkers of our time.
Modern civilization, Bauman argues, promised to make our lives understandable and open to our control. This has not happened and today we no longer believe it ever will. In this book, now available in paperback, Bauman argues that our postmodern age is the time for reconciliation with ambivalence, we must learn how to live in an incurably ambiguous world.
It is commonly assumed that the best way to help the poor out of their misery is to allow the rich to get richer, that if the rich pay less taxes then all the rest of us will be better off, and that in the final analysis the richness of the few benefits us all. And yet these commonly held beliefs are flatly contradicted by our daily experience, an abundance of research findings and, indeed, logic. Such bizarre discrepancy between hard facts and popular opinions makes one pause and ask: why are these opinions so widespread and resistant to accumulated and fast-growing evidence to the contrary?
This short book is by one of the world's leading social thinkers is an attempt to answer this question. Bauman lists and scrutinizes the tacit assumptions and unreflected-upon convictions upon which such opinions are grounded, finding them one by one to be false, deceitful and misleading. Their persistence could be hardly sustainable were it not for the role they play in defending - indeed, promoting and reinforcing - the current, unprecedented, indefensible and still accelerating growth in social inequality and the rapidly widening gap between the elite of the rich and the rest of society.
Society is under siege - under attack on two fronts: from the global frontier-land where old structures and rules do not hold and new ones are slow to take shape, and from the fluid, undefined domain of life politics. The space between these two fronts, until recently ruled by the sovereign nation-state and identified by social scientists as `society' is ever more difficult to conceive of as a self-enclosed entity. And this confronts the established wisdom of the social sciences with a new challenge: sovereignty and power are becoming separated from the politics of the territorial nation-state but are not becoming institutionalized in a new space. What are the consequences of this profound transformation of social life? What kind of world will it create for the twenty-first century?
This remarkable book - by one of the most original social thinkers writing today - attempts to trace this transformation and to assess its consequences for the life conditions of ordinary individuals. The first part of the book is devoted to the new global arena in which, thanks to the powerful forces of globalization, there is no 'outside', no secluded place to which one can retreat and hide away, and where the territorial wars of the past have given way to a new breed of 'reconnaissance wars'. The second part deals with settings in which life politics has taken hold and flourished. Bauman argues that the great challenge facing us today is whether we can find new ways to reforge the human diversity that is our fate into the vocation of human solidarity.
Sociology is concerned with modern society, but has never come to terms with one of the most distinctive and horrific aspects of modernity - the Holocaust. The book examines what sociology can teach us about the Holocaust, but more particularly concentrates upon the lessons which the Holocaust has for sociology. Bauman's work demonstrates that the Holocaust has to be understood as deeply involved with the nature of modernity. There is nothing comparable to this work available in the sociological literature.
Modernity was supposed to be the period in human history when the fears that pervaded social life in the past could be left behind and human beings could at last take control of their lives and tame the uncontrolled forces of the social and natural worlds. And yet, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we live again in a time of fear. Whether its the fear of natural disasters, the fear of environmental catastrophes or the fear of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, we live today in a state of constant anxiety about the dangers that could strike unannounced and at any moment. Fear is the name we give to our uncertainty in the face of the dangers that characterize our liquid modern age, to our ignorance of what the threat is and our incapacity to determine what can and can't be done to counter it.
This new book by Zygmunt Bauman one of the foremost social thinkers of our time is an inventory of liquid modern fears. It is also an attempt to uncover their common sources, to analyse the obstacles that pile up on the road to their discovery and to examine the ways of putting them out of action or rendering them harmless.
Through his brilliant account of the fears and anxieties that weigh on us today, Bauman alerts us to the scale of the task which we shall have to confront through most of the current century if we wish our fellow humans to emerge at its end feeling more secure and self-confident than we feel at its beginning.
This topical new book by Zygmunt Bauman explores the notion of identity in the modern world.
As we grapple with the insecurity and uncertainty of liquid modernity, Bauman argues that our socio-political, cultural, professional, religious and sexual identities are undergoing a process of continual transformation. Identities the world over have become more precarious than ever: we live in an era of constant change and disposability - whether it's last season's outfit, or car, or even partner - and our identities as a result have become transient and deeply elusive. In a world of rapid global change where national borders are increasingly eroded, our identities are in a state of continuous flux.
Identity - a notion that by its very nature is elusive and ambivalent - has become a key concept for understanding the changing nature of social life and personal experience in our contemporary, liquid modern age. In this brief book, Zygmunt Bauman explains compellingly why this is so.
Refugees from the violence of wars and the brutality of famished lives have knocked on other people's doors since the beginning of time. For the people behind the doors, these uninvited guests were always strangers, and strangers tend to generate fear and anxiety precisely because they are unknown. Today we find ourselves confronted with an extreme form of this historical dynamic, as our TV screens and newspapers are filled with accounts of a 'migration crisis', ostensibly overwhelming Europe and portending the collapse of our way of life. This anxious debate has given rise to a veritable 'moral panic' - a feeling of fear spreading among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.
In this short book Zygmunt Bauman analyses the origins, contours and impact of this moral panic - he dissects, in short, the present-day migration panic. He shows how politicians have exploited fears and anxieties that have become widespread, especially among those who have already lost so much - the disinherited and the poor. But he argues that the policy of mutual separation, of building walls rather than bridges, is misguided. It may bring some short-term reassurance but it is doomed to fail in the long run. We are faced with a crisis of humanity, and the only exit from this crisis is to recognize our growing interdependence as a species and to find new ways to live together in solidarity and cooperation, amidst strangers who may hold opinions and preferences different from our own.
'Globalization' is a word that is currently much in use. This book is an attempt to show that there is far more to globalization than its surface manifestations. Unpacking the social roots and social consequences of globalizing processes, this book disperses some of the mist that surrounds the term.
Alongside the emerging planetary dimensions of business, finance, trade and information flow, a 'localizing', space-fixing process is set in motion. What appears as globalization for some, means localization for many others; signalling new freedom for some, globalizing processes appear as uninvited and cruel fate for many others. Freedom to move, a scarce and unequally distributed commodity, quickly becomes the main stratifying factor of our times.
Neo-tribal and fundamentalist tendencies are as legitimate offspring of globalization as the widely acclaimed 'hybridization' of top culture - the culture at the globalized top. A particular reason to worry is the progressive breakdown in communication between the increasingly global and extra- territorial elites and ever more 'localized' majority. The bulk of the population, the 'new middle class', bears the brunt of these problems, and suffers uncertainty, anxiety and fear as a result.
This book is a major contribution to the unfolding debate about globalization, and as such will be of interest to students and professionals in sociology, human geography and cultural issues.
The term `collateral damage' has recently been added to the vocabulary of military forces to refer to the unintended consequences of armed interventions, consequences that are unplanned but nevertheless damaging and often very costly in human and personal terms. But collateral damage is not unique to the world of armed intervention - it is also one of the most salient and striking dimensions of contemporary social inequality. The inflammable mixture of growing social inequality and the rising volume of human suffering marginalized as `collateral' is becoming one of most cataclysmic problems of our time. For the political class, poverty is commonly seen as a problem of law and order - a matter of how to deal with individuals, such as unemployed youths, who fall foul of the law. But treating poverty as a criminal problem obscures the social roots of inequality, which lie in the combination of a consumerist life philosophy propagated and instilled by a consumer-oriented economy, on the one hand, and the rapid shrinking of life chances available to the poor, on the other. In our contemporary, liquid-modern world, the poor are the collateral damage of a profit-driven, consumer-oriented society - `aliens inside' who are deprived of the rights enjoyed by other members of the social order. In this new book Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original and influential social thinkers of our time - examines the selective affinity between the growth of social inequality and the rise in the volume of `collateral damage' and considers its implications and its costs.
The passage from `solid' to `liquid' modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. They have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don't add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like `career' and `progress' could meaningfully be applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable - to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty. Zygmunt Bauman's brilliant writings on liquid modernity have altered the way we think about the contemporary world. In this short book he explores the sources of the endemic uncertainty which shapes our lives today and, in so doing, he provides the reader with a brief and accessible introduction to his highly original account, developed at greater length in his previous books, of life in our liquid modern times.
'Community' is one of those words that feels good: it is good 'to have a community', 'to be in a community'. And 'community' feels good because of the meanings which the word conveys, all of them promising pleasures, and more often than not the kind of pleasures which we would like to experience but seem to miss.
'Community' conveys the image of a warm and comfortable place, like a fireplace at which we warm our hands on a frosty day. Out there, in the street, all sorts of dangers lie in ambush; in here, in the community, we can relax and feel safe. 'Community' stands for the kind of world which we long to inhabit but which is not, regrettably, available to us. Today 'community' is another name for paradise lost - but for a paradise which we still hope to find, as we feverishly search for the roads that may lead us there.
But there is a price to be paid for the privilege of being in a community. Community promises security but seems to deprive us of freedom, of the right to be ourselves. Security and freedom are two equally precious and coveted values which could be balanced to some degree, but hardly ever fully reconciled. The tension between security and freedom, and between community and individuality, is unlikely ever to be resolved. We cannot escape the dilemma but we can take stock of the opportunities and the dangers, and at least try to avoid repeating past errors.
In this important new book, Zygmunt Bauman takes stock of these opportunities and dangers and, in his distinctive and brilliant fashion, offers a much-needed reappraisal of a concept that has become central to current debates about the nature and future of our societies.
In this new book, Bauman examines how we have moved away from a 'heavy' and 'solid', hardware-focused modernity to a 'light' and 'liquid', software-based modernity. This passage, he argues, has brought profound change to all aspects of the human condition. The new remoteness and un-reachability of global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life-politics and human togetherness, call for the rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history.
This book is dedicated to this task. Bauman selects five of the basic concepts which have served to make sense of shared human life - emancipation, individuality, time/space, work and community - and traces their successive incarnations and changes of meaning.
Liquid Modernity concludes the analysis undertaken in Bauman's two previous books Globalization: The Human Consequences and In Search of Politics. Together these volumes form a brilliant analysis of the changing conditions of social and political life by one of the most original thinkers writing today.
With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the travelling salespeople. They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the term the market.
The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live. In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences.
The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.
The production of `human waste' - or more precisely, wasted lives, the `superfluous' populations of migrants, refugees and other outcasts - is an inevitable outcome of modernization. It is an unavoidable side-effect of economic progress and the quest for order which is characteristic of modernity.
As long as large parts of the world remained wholly or partly unaffected by modernization, they were treated by modernizing societies as lands that were able to absorb the excess of population in the `developed countries'. Global solutions were sought, and temporarily found, to locally produced overpopulation problems. But as modernization has reached the furthest lands of the planet, `redundant population' is produced everywhere and all localities have to bear the consequences of modernity's global triumph. They are now confronted with the need to seek - in vain, it seems - local solutions to globally produced problems. The global spread of the modernity has given rise to growing quantities of human beings who are deprived of adequate means of survival, but the planet is fast running out of places to put them. Hence the new anxieties about `immigrants' and `asylum seekers' and the growing role played by diffuse `security fears' on the contemporary political agenda.
With characteristic brilliance, this new book by Zygmunt Bauman unravels the impact of this transformation on our contemporary culture and politics and shows that the problem of coping with `human waste' provides a key for understanding some otherwise baffling features of our shared life, from the strategies of global domination to the most intimate aspects of human relationships.
We live in a world which no longer questions itself, which lives from one day to another managing successive crises and struggling to brace itself for new ones, without knowing where it is going and without trying to plan the itinerary. And everything important in our lives - livelihood, human bonds, partnerships, neighbourhood, goals worth pursuing and dangers to avoid - feels transient, precarious, vulnerable, insecure, uncertain, risky. Is there a connection between the shape of the world we inhabit and the way we live our lives? Exploring that connection, and finding out just how close it is, is the main concern of this book.
What is at stake in this inquiry is the possibility of re-building the"'private/public" space, where private troubles and public issues meet and where citizens engage in dialogue in order to govern themselves. Individual liberty can only be a product of collective work, it can only be collectively secured and guaranteed. And yet today we are moving towards a privatization of the means to secure individual liberty. If seen as a therapy for the present ills, this is bound to produce effects of a most sinister kind. The act of translating private troubles into public issues is in danger of falling into disuse and being forgotten. The argument of this book is that making the translation possible again is an urgent and vital imperative for the renewal of politics today. This new book by Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original and creative thinkers of our time - will be of particular interest to students of sociology, politics and social and political theory.
This liquid modern world of ours, like all liquids, cannot stand still and keep its shape for long. Everything keeps changing - the fashions we follow, the events that intermittently catch our attention, the things we dream of and things we fear. And we, the inhabitants of this world in flux, feel the need to adjust to its tempo by being `flexible' and constantly ready to change. We want to know what is going on and what is likely to happen, but what we get is an avalanche of information that threatens to overwhelm us. How are we to sift the information that really matters from the heaps of useless and irrelevant rubbish? How are we to derive meaningful messages from senseless noise?
We face the daunting task of trying to distinguish the important from the insubstantial, distil the things that matter from false alarms and flashes in the pan.
Nothing escapes scrutiny so stubbornly as the ordinary things of everyday life, hiding in the light of deceptive and misleading familiarity. To turn them into objects of attention and scrutiny, they must first be torn out from that daily routine: the apparently familiar must be made strange. This is precisely what Zygmunt Bauman seeks to do in these 44 letters: each tells a story drawn from ordinary lives, but tells it in order to reveal an extraordinariness that we might otherwise overlook. Arresting, revealing, disconcerting, these snapshots of life by the most brilliant analyst of our liquid modern world will appeal to a wide readership.
More than ever before, our conflict-ridden, drifting planet needs the qualities that Europe, unique among the continents, has developed in more than two millennia of history: its self-criticism, its urge to self-transcendence, exploration and experiment, its conviction that alternative and better forms of human togetherness can be achieved, as well as its dedication to the cause of seeking and promoting this improvement in practice. But today Europe is unsure of itself and its place in a fast-changing world; it is devoid of vision, limited in resources and lacking the will to pursue its vocation. It is also struggling with the consequences of a one-sided process of globalization which is divorcing power from politics, inciting the shift from the social state to security-focused governance and piling up the casualties of uncontrolled market expansion and the ethically blind commercialization of human life.
Bauman argues that despite the odds Europe still has much to offer in dealing with the great challenges that face us in the twenty-first century. Through sharing its own hard-won historical lessons, Europe can play a vital role in moving from the Hobbesian-like world in which we find ourselves today towards the kind of peaceful unification of humanity that was once envisioned by Kant.
Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a remarkable work by all measures. Written by Zygmunt Bauman when he was still a professor in Poland, and originally intended for publication in 1968, it was suppressed by the Polish government in the wave of repression following the protests in March of that year. For decades, it was thought to be lost. Astonishingly, it survived in the form of an uncorrected set of proofs which was recently discovered, and is the basis of this edition.
Now published in English for the first time, this book sheds new light on Bauman's work prior to his emigration and illuminates the intellectual climate of Poland in the late 1960s. Bauman's pursuit of a semiotic theory of culture includes a discussion of processes of individualization and the intensification of global ties, anticipating themes that became central to his later work. Though this book stands as a testament to a historical moment, it also transcends it. `[W]e live in an age that seems, for the first time in human history, to acknowledge cultural multiplicity as an innate and fixed feature of the world, one which gives rise to new forms of identity that are at ease with plurality, like a fish in water', writes Bauman - a statement that is as true today as it was when he penned it in the 1960s.
Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a strikingly prescient reflection on culture and society by one of the most influential social thinkers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It will appeal to students and scholars across the social sciences and humanities and to the many readers of Bauman's work.
The global financial crisis has shattered the illusion that all was well with capitalism and forced us to confront the great challenges we face today with a new sense of urgency. Few are better placed to do this than Zygmunt Bauman, a social thinker whose writings on liquid modernity have pioneered a new way of seeing the world in which we live at the dawn of the 21st Century. Our liquid modern world is characterized by the transition from a society of producers to a society of consumers, the natural extension of which is the society of perpetual debtors. The ruling idea of the society of consumers is to prevent needs from being satisfied and to create demand; its natural extension is to enable consumers to consume more by borrowing. Debt was transformed into a crucial profit-earning asset of capitalism in liquid modern times. The present-day 'credit crunch' is not the outcome of the banks' failure but rather the fruit of their success in transforming the majority of men and women, young and old, into a race of debtors. They got what they were looking for: a society of debtors whose condition of being in debt was made self-perpetuating, with more debts being offered, and more undertaken, as the only way of escaping from the debts already incurred. Starting from this reflection on the current global financial crisis and prompted by the probing questions of his interlocutor, Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo, Bauman examines in an historical perspective some of the most pressing moral and political issues of our time, from international terrorism and the rise of religious and secular fundamentalism to the decline of the nation-state and the threats posed by global warming, issues whose seriousness and urgency attest to the fact that we are living today not only on borrowed money but also on borrowed time.