Cover: Culture and Art, by Zygmunt Bauman

Culture and Art

Selected Writings, Volume 1

Zygmunt Bauman

Edited and with an Introduction by

Dariusz Brzeziński, Mark Davis, Jack Palmer and Tom Campbell

Translated by

Katarzyna Bartoszyńska


Series Introduction
Mark Davis, Dariusz Brzeziński, Jack Palmer, Tom Campbell

The author of over seventy books and several hundred articles across a career spanning sixty-three years, Zygmunt Bauman (1925–2017) was one of the world’s most original and influential sociologists. In both his native Poland and his adopted home of England, Bauman produced an astonishing body of work that continues to inspire generations of students and scholars, as well as an engaged and global public. Their encounter with Bauman is shaped above all by two books that have acquired the status of modern classics: Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) and Liquid Modernity (2000). While this is understandable, it also means that many readers will be unfamiliar with the great range and diversity of Bauman’s work and with the course of its development over time. Moreover, as Keith Tester argued, an in-depth understanding of Bauman’s contribution must engage seriously with his foundational work of the 1970s, which builds upon his earlier writings in Poland, before his enforced exile in 1968. The importance of this broader and longer-term perspective on Bauman’s work has shaped the thinking behind this series, which makes available for the first time some of Bauman’s previously unpublished or lesser-known papers from the full range of his career.

The series has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Bauman family, especially his three daughters Anna, Irena and Lydia. Following Bauman’s death on 9 January 2017, they kindly donated 156 large boxes of papers and almost 500 digital storage devices as a gift to the University of Leeds. Anyone privileged enough to have visited Bauman at his home in Leeds, perhaps arguing with him long into the night whilst surrounded by looming towers of dusty books and folders, will appreciate the magnitude of their task. With the support of the University of Leeds, the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Polity, and the Bauman Estate, we have studied this material and selected texts with a view to making them available to a wide readership through the volumes of this series. In partnership with professional archivists and data management experts, we have read, collated and indexed this vast and unique body of material written in both Polish and English since the 1950s. Through this research, we discovered many unpublished or lesser-known articles and essays, lecture notes and module summaries, contributions to obscure publications no longer in print, and partially completed drafts of papers. It quickly became clear that no commentary on Bauman’s life and work to date has been able to grasp fully the multi-faceted and multi-lingual character of his writings.

This series begins to correct that. As well as including many of his lesser-known English-language papers, we have started to tackle the multi-lingual dimension of Bauman’s sociology by working with the translator Katarzyna Bartoszyńska to ensure each of the volumes in this series includes Polish-language material previously unknown to English-speaking readers. This includes more contemporary Polish-language material, with a view to emphasizing Bauman’s continued engagement in European intellectual life following exile.

Each volume in the series is organized thematically, in order to provide some necessary structure for the reader. In seeking to respect both the form and content of Bauman’s documents, we have kept editorial changes to a minimum, only making grammatical or typographical corrections where necessary to make the meaning of his words clear. A substantial introduction by the editors offers a guide through the material, developing connections to Bauman’s other works, and helping to paint a picture of the entanglement between his biographical and intellectual trajectories. This series will facilitate a far richer understanding of the breadth and depth of Bauman’s legacy and provide a vital reference point for students and scholars across the arts, humanities and social sciences, and for his wider global readership.

Translator’s Note
Katarzyna Bartoszyńska

As I have once again found myself translating the work of Zygmunt Bauman, having already translated two shorter works (Of God and Man and Bauman/Bałka) during his lifetime, and one earlier book (Sketches in the Theory of Culture) after his death, I thought I might, at last, allow myself to say something about the way I have approached my task.

Translator’s Notes are relatively uncommon in academic writing, and when they do exist, it is usually to clarify a particular term that is not quite translatable – Heidegger’s Dasein, or Freud’s unheimlich – rather than to defend stylistic choices. But, like so many of the great theorists of culture, Zygmunt Bauman cared deeply about the style of his prose. Although a prolific writer, he was also a careful one, who devoted a lot of attention to crafting his sentences in a particular way. Thus, the work of rendering some texts of his into English is an intimidating prospect, no less so because he wrote the majority of his work in English, and had developed his own approach to the language. I have attempted, in my translation, to cleave as closely to this style as possible – even, occasionally, at the cost of clarity, and thus, some explanation is in order (and a big thank-you to Leigh Mueller, our copy-editor, for helping me to find the right balance).

One of the curious features of the Polish language is that it is grammatically structured in such a way that word order does not determine meaning. Because nouns and verbs are both marked, you can move the words around without creating confusion: pies zjadł kota, kota zjadł pies, zjadł pies kota, zjadł kota pies, kota pies zjadł, pies kota zjadł – though some of these sentences sound distinctly odd, they all clearly state that a dog ate a cat. English is not so permissive, and convention restricts the choices even further, rendering the passive voice, for instance, less common. One of the distinctive features of Bauman’s writing, even in English, is a word order that may seem slightly unfamiliar to English-language readers. Often, this is a consequence of his proclivity for lengthy sentences with multiple subordinate clauses. I have tried to keep these sentences as they are, breaking them into smaller ones only when it seemed absolutely necessary to avoid confusion. I believe that he felt that readers should expend some effort in making their way through longer sentences – that to do so was to participate in a process of unfolding meaning that contributed to understanding it.

I have also chosen to make sentences mostly gender-neutral, using ‘they’ instead of the more cumbersome ‘she or he’. In Polish, human, person and similar such words are gendered masculine, which leads to a de facto use of male pronouns. In his later, English-language writings, Bauman tended to use gender-neutral terms, and I believe he would appreciate that I did the same in this translation. Occasionally, however, the sentence was simply too convoluted without a singular pronoun, so I flipped a coin. And I did preserve some moments when he specifically used female pronouns – a sign that gender inclusivity was on his mind even in the 1960s.

On a more personal note, I translated these texts while living under quarantine during the beginnings of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was the perfect task for such an occasion, and I appreciated the opportunity to work on something that engaged a very specific part of my brain at a time when certain kinds of focus seemed impossible. But, especially, I relished being able to spend time with Zygmunt during this uncertain moment of history, to witness the brilliant creativity and agility of his thought as he returned to various questions throughout the years, and to observe the shifts in his prose style over time. When I hit upon an English phrase that seemed like an especially felicitous rendering of his words, it gave me pleasure to think how he would have enjoyed it. It is hard to believe that it has been over three years since his passing. I miss him. I am glad that this book will give readers an opportunity to get to know him better.