Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust, pt. II

Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

This is the second half of Natan Sznaider’s critique of Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. You can find the first half here. 

Multiple Modernities and the Memory of the Holocaust

We do need to talk about modernity (the concept as such makes sociologically no sense), but about multiple modernities and multiple Enlightenments.  One of the clues is Arendt’s book “On Revolution” where she compares and contrasts the French and the Anglo-Saxon traditions of Enlightenment

When we look at the Scottish Enlightenment, for instance, it is grounded on the sentiments or a moral or common sense as a kind of intuitive judgment. Capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, exercising power of judgment, anchored in religion and balancing between morality and utility in the basis of a liberty seen as granted to all. Look at Adam Smith’s exploration of virtues like compassion and benevolence. Arendt was working in this tradition when she in her “On Revolution” takes side with the legacy of the American Revolution and the Scottish Enlightenment against its French contender. Thus, in the French tradition (and we are talking caricatures) there is a strong opposition between reason and religion, while the Scots tried to reconcile reason and faith. I think these distinctions are important even though they do not play much or a role in Bauman’s text.

Continue reading “Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust, pt. II”

Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust

Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

Many of us were deeply impressed when Zygmunt Bauman published his “Modernity and the Holocaust” almost a quarter century ago. When I studied sociology in the 1970s there was not much sociological thinking going around about the Holocaust.

Zygmunt-Ramonet-Stefano-Sunsplash-Castellon_498560546_16614510_1024x683
Zygmunt Bauman

When the book came out we weren’t very aware of the consequences. The book came out when the Berlin Wall fell and one year later, Germany was reunified and I would argue that these things are connected. Bauman himself was much more aware of the context.  In his Amalfi Prize lecture Bauman was very clear about the context of his book and I quote him: “The ideas that went into the book knew of no divide; they knew only of our common European experience, of our shared history whose unity may be belied, even temporarily suppressed, but not broken. It is our joint, all European, fate that my book is addressing (p.208 of the second edition of Modernity and the Holocaust).

Continue reading “Multiple Modernities and the Nazi Genocide: A Critique of Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust”