Agency and structure in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust.

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Abstract

The article explores how in Modernity and the Holocaust to his liquid turnwritings Zygmunt Bauman’s work assumes that people live in a deterministicworld. Bauman fails to distinguish agency as an analytical category in its ownright and as such fails to capture self-determination, agential control and moral responsibility. All of Bauman’s work is based upon the assumption that theindividual loses their autonomy and the ability to judge the moral content of theiractions because of adiaphortic processes external to themselves as individualsgiving rise to agentic state in which the individual is unable to exercise theiragency. In contrast to the argument in Modernity and the Holocaust this articlesuggests that the Nazis developed a distinct communitarian ethical code rootedin self-control that encouraged individuals to overcome their personal feelingstates, enabling them to engage in acts of cruelty to people defined as outsideof the community. In his post-2000 work where the emphasis is on the processof liquefaction there is the same undervaluing of human agency in the face ofexternal forces reflected in Bauman’s concepts of ambivalence, fate and swarm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-87
JournalIrish Journal of Sociology
Volume22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2014

Keywords

  • Zygmunt Bauman
  • Adiaphoric
  • Agentic state
  • Holocaust
  • Agency

Cite this

Best, Shaun. / Agency and structure in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. In: Irish Journal of Sociology. 2014 ; Vol. 22, No. 1. pp. 67-87.
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Best, S 2014, 'Agency and structure in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust.', Irish Journal of Sociology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 67-87.

Agency and structure in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. / Best, Shaun.

In: Irish Journal of Sociology, Vol. 22, No. 1, 31.05.2014, p. 67-87.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AB - The article explores how in Modernity and the Holocaust to his liquid turnwritings Zygmunt Bauman’s work assumes that people live in a deterministicworld. Bauman fails to distinguish agency as an analytical category in its ownright and as such fails to capture self-determination, agential control and moral responsibility. All of Bauman’s work is based upon the assumption that theindividual loses their autonomy and the ability to judge the moral content of theiractions because of adiaphortic processes external to themselves as individualsgiving rise to agentic state in which the individual is unable to exercise theiragency. In contrast to the argument in Modernity and the Holocaust this articlesuggests that the Nazis developed a distinct communitarian ethical code rootedin self-control that encouraged individuals to overcome their personal feelingstates, enabling them to engage in acts of cruelty to people defined as outsideof the community. In his post-2000 work where the emphasis is on the processof liquefaction there is the same undervaluing of human agency in the face ofexternal forces reflected in Bauman’s concepts of ambivalence, fate and swarm.

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Best S. Agency and structure in Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. Irish Journal of Sociology. 2014 May 31;22(1):67-87.