Zygmunt Bauman (born 19 November 1925) is a Polish sociologist. Since 1971, he has resided in England after being driven out of Poland by an anti-Semitic[dubious ] campaign, engineered by the Communist government he had previously supported. Professor of sociology at the University of Leeds (and since 1990 emeritus professor), Bauman has become best known for his analyses of the links between modernity and the Holocaust, and of postmodern consumerism.
Zygmunt Bauman was born to non-practising Polish-Jewish parents in Poznań, Poland, in 1925. When Poland was invaded by the Nazis in 1939 his family escaped eastwards into the Soviet Union. Bauman went on to serve in the Soviet-controlled Polish First Army, working as a political education instructor. He took part in the battles of Kolberg (now Kołobrzeg) and Berlin. In May 1945 he was awarded the Military Cross of Valour.
According to semi-official statements of a historian with the Polish Institute of National Remembrance made in the conservative magazine Ozon in May 2006, from 1945 to 1953 Bauman held a similar function in the Internal Security Corps (KBW), a military unit formed to combat Ukrainian nationalist insurgents and part of the remnants of the Polish Home Army.
Modernity and rationality
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Bauman published a number of books that dealt with the relationship between modernity, bureaucracy, rationality and social exclusion. Bauman, following Freud, came to view European modernity as a trade off; European society, he argued, had agreed to forego a level of freedom in order to receive the benefits of increased individual security. Bauman argued that modernity, in what he later came to term its 'solid' form, involved removing unknowns and uncertainties; it involved control over nature, hierarchical bureaucracy, rules and regulations, control and categorisation — all of which attempted to gradually remove personal insecurities, making the chaotic aspects of human life appear well-ordered and familiar. However, Bauman over a number of books began to develop the position that such order-making efforts never manage to achieve the desired results. When life becomes organised into familiar and manageable categories, he argued, there are always social groups who cannot be administered, who cannot be separated out and controlled. In his book Modernity and Ambivalence Bauman began to theorise such indeterminate persons by introducing the allegorical figure of 'the stranger.' Drawing upon the sociology of Georg Simmel and the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, Bauman came to write of the stranger as the person who is present yet unfamiliar, society's undecidable.