Postmodernity—so we read and hear—has abolished old, comforting certainties and thrown the principles and assumptions that we have lived by into crisis. Everything in the world, including our own lives, seems to have been plunged into uncertainty. How does it feel to live in contingency? By what standards, if any, can we judge the quality of such life, and can we dare hope to make it better? The essays contained in this book—most of which appear in a new version, some published for the first time—aim to take stock of the social, cultural and political trends of recent decades, usually discussed within the ‘postmodernity’ debate. This debate has often been criticized, with some justice, for being more bizarre and baffling than the world it tries to capture. The purpose of this book is to ‘unpack’ the debate on postmodernity and, through this, to demonstrate why postmodernity is significant. The author provides one of the best guides to the philosophical antecedents of postmodernity and a shrewd evaluation of sociological responses to postmodernity. He also speculates on the role of the intellectuals in a world where old certainties have dwindled and new unsettling contingencies are recognized. Throughout the book there is a strong emphasis on demonstrating the relevance of postmodernity to our daily lives. Included here are scintillating discussions of the collapse of communism as a symptom of postmodernity and a thoughtful and invaluable account of how to live without totalizing alternatives. The book ends with a fascinating interview with Zygmunt Bauman—a piece which helps to set many of the preoccupations of the book into context. Lucid, judicious and written in an exhilarating style, this book is an outstanding contribution to the growing literature on post-modernity. It will be of interest to sociologists, philosophers, political scientists and students of culture.
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