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2005 Zygmunt Bauman lectures

Melting Modernity

The Ralph Miliband Programme was honoured to host a unique lecture series with Emeritus Professor Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman is variously described as one of the world's foremost sociologists of postmodernity. He is the author of some 25 books; most recent publications are Liquid Life (2005), Identity (2004), Community (2001), and In Search of Politics (1999). The lecture series took place as follows: 

1. The Demons of Open Society, October 20, 2005

'Open' and increasingly defenseless on both sides, nation states lose their might, now evaporating into the global space, and their political acumen and dexterity, now increasingly relegated to the sphere of individual 'life politics' and 'subsidiarised' to the individual men and women. Whatever of the might and politics remains in the charge of the state and its organs, dwindles gradually to a volume sufficient for little more than to furnish a large size police precinct. The reduced state can hardly manage to be anything else than security state.
Having leaked from the society forcefully laid open by the pressure of globalizing forces, power and politics drift ever further in opposite directions. The problem, and the awesome task that will in all probability confront the current century as its paramount challenge, is the imperative to bring power and politics together again.

2. Living in Utopia, October 27, 2005

To be born, utopian dream needed two conditions. First, the overwhelming (even if diffuse and inarticulate) feeling that the world was not functioning properly and had to be attended to and overhauled to set it right. Second, the confidence in human potency to rise to the task, belief that 'we, humans, can do it' - being armed as we are with reason able to spy out what is wrong with the world and find out with what to replace its diseased parts, and with the strength to graft such designs on human reality: in short, the potency to force the world into a shape better fit to the satisfaction of human needs whatever those needs already are or yet may become. With the second condition now by and large missing, utopia shares in the fate of faltering human bind and increasingly individualized and privatized politics.

3. Each Time Unique, November 8, 2005

Ralph Miliband's work and legacy stood for the momentous challenge confronted by the intellectuals of his time (such thinking people as went on believing that the purpose of thought is to make the world better than it found it) and for the ways and means by which they tried to respond to that challenge. The challenge in question was the slow yet relentless decomposition of the 'historical agent', hoped by the intellectuals, mindful of the 'organic' standards set by Antonio Gramsci's code of conduct, to usher, and/or be ushered into a land in which the leap towards liberty, equality and fraternity adumbrated by the thinkers of Enlightenment but later diverted into the capitalist or the communists cul-de-sacs, would finally reach its socialist destination. Must however the hopes and the jobs of emancipation follow the fate of the vanishing 'historical agent'?