Zygmunt Bauman: The Sociologist who Scrutinized the Times

Francesco Occhetta, SJ

Paid Article

On January 9, 2017, Zygmunt Bauman passed away. He was a Polish sociologist of British citizenship and was one of the best-known interpreters of postmodernism. The news was given by the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Bauman was 91 years old and had lived a life “sated of days,” as Scripture says, not only for their quantity, but for the depth at which they were lived. With his death, the curtain goes down on one of the leading intellectuals of our day, who was brimming with ideas even to the end. The many wrinkles carved on his face, more than any words, spoke of many chapters from the book of a hard life.

Born in Poznan on November 19, 1925, of Jewish origin, Bauman took refuge in the USSR in 1939 so he could join the Soviet army against the Nazi invasion of Poland. Following the war, he studied sociology at the University of Warsaw. From 1944 to 1953, Bauman was an officer in the Polish army under the Soviets. In 1946 he became a member of the Communist Party. From 1953 to 1968 he taught Marxist Philosophy and Sociology. In 1968, following a wave of antisemitism instigated by the communist regime which revoked his tenure, he moved to Israel with his wife Janina and their three children.

In Tel Aviv he did not share his father’s views on Zionism, and in 1971 emigrated to Leeds, an English town about 300 km north of London, where he found a house and a professorship. He laid down roots there and brought forth the fruits of his thoughts, over which the West has debated for about half a century.

This article is reserved for paid subscribers. Please subscribe to continue reading this article