Zygmunt Bauman

Leben als Konsum

[Consuming Life]

Translated from English by Richard Barth
204 pages
ISBN 978-3-86854-211-0
September 2009

About the Book

»I consume, therefore I am …«. This is Zygmunt Bauman’s succinct summary of the transformation of our society; once a society of producers, it has now been transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become commodities and must promote and sell themselves on the market like consumer goods. They are, at one the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the traveling salespeople. This new book by the eminent sociologist addresses a transformation based on the shift from the dominance of production to the dominance of consumption—and the re-definition of human life that results from it.

Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various seemingly 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. As moral integration in groups and families declines, both the commitment to assuming responsibility for others in social relations and the willingness to demand a state that secures its citizens’ social welfare wane. The poor are no longer perceived as potential employees or individuals for whom the state must provide social benefits. Instead, they are failed consumers and useless goods; because they therefore have no function in the new consumer society, they are human »waste« and in an era of deregulation, no one is takes on the responsibility for them.

The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by worldviews and behavioral patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, on the one hand, and the sources of resentment, dissent, and occasional resistance to these occupying forces, on the other—these are the central themes of this new book by one of the world’s most original and insightful social thinkers.

Author / Editor

Zygmunt Bauman

Original Consuming Life: Polity Press, Cambridge