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Aesthetic and relational ethics: beyond Bauman’s postmodern ethics

Hookway, N ORCID: 0000-0002-0187-4741 and Ezzy, D ORCID: 0000-0002-5078-2288 2017 , 'Aesthetic and relational ethics: beyond Bauman’s postmodern ethics', in MH Jacobsen (ed.), Beyond Bauman: critical engagements and creative excursions , Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 29-45.

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Zygmunt Bauman's postmodern ethics as unfolded in books such as Postmodern Ethics (1993) and Life in Fragments (1995) signals an important new direction in contrast to the orthodoxy of Emile Durkheim's 'normative' morality. Following a brief overview of Zygmunt Bauman's 'moral sociology' and how it fits with his recent liquid analysis, the first part of the chapter makes a case for the importance of Bauman's postmodern ethics for grasping moral life outside decline accounts. The second part of the chapter argues that Bauman's ethics of 'infinite responsibility' needs to be grounded within particular, emotional and embodied encounter. Taking a cue from Jeffrey C. Alexander's (2010) conceptualisation of 'iconic consciousness', the chapter suggests that Bauman's relational theory can be extended to include aesthetics and symbols as integral to ethical practice and needs to provide space for the self to establish itself as a self. The approach also draws on Sara Ahmed's sociology of emotions, Luce Irigaray's analysis of embodiment, and Judith Butler's Levinasian-inspired analysis of relations with the 'other'. Bauman, Ahmed and Alexander are all concerned with human responses to systemic cruelty, suffering and trauma. We conclude that the Levinasian/Baumanesque 'infinite responsibility' to the Other can be reconceptualised through a celebration of the uncertainty in the moment of human response to suffering. The otherness of the Other is found through embracing the uncertainty associated with the possibility of trauma in the presence of the suffering Other. Butler's (2004) analysis of the US response to 9/11 carries this argument.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Hookway, N and Ezzy, D
Keywords: Zygmunt Bauman, postmodern ethics, moral sociology, infinite responsibility
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2017 selection and editorial matter, Michael Hviid Jacobsen; individual chapters, the contributors

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