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.
Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds
1 On writing letters from a liquid modern world 1 2 Crowded solitude 6 3 Parents and children conversing 10 4 Offline, online 14 5 As the birds do 18 6 Virtual sex 22 7 Strange adventures of privacy (1) 26 8 Strange adventures of privacy (2) 30 9 Strange adventures of privacy (3) 34 10 Parents and children 38 11 Teenager spending 42 12 Stalking the Y generation 46 13 Freedom's false dawn 50 14 The arrival of child-women 54 15 It is the eyelash's turn 58 16 Fashion, or being on the move 62 17 Consumerism is not just about consumption 67 18 Whatever happened to the cultural elite 71 19 Drugs and diseases 75 20 Swine flu and other reasons to panic 79 21 Health and inequality 83 22 Be warned 87 23 The world inhospitable to education? (part one) 91 24 The world inhospitable to education? (part two) 95 25 The world inhospitable to education? (part three) 99 26 Ghosts of New Years past and New Years to come 102 27 Predicting the unpredictable 106 28 Calculating the incalculable 111 29 Phobia s twisted trajectories 115 30 Interregnum 119 31 Whence the superhuman force and what for? 123 32 Back home, you men? 128 33 Escape from crisis 132 34 Is there an end to depression? 136 35 Who says you have to live by the rules? 141 36 The phenomenon of Barack Obama 146 37 Culture in a globalized city 149 38 The voice of Lorna s silence 153 39 Strangers are dangers . . . Are they, indeed? 157 40 Tribes and skies 163 41 Drawing boundaries 167 42 How good people turn evil 172 43 Fate and character 178 44 Albert Camus, or: I rebel, therefore we exist . . . 182 Notes 186