From 'Solid' Producers and Consumers
to 'Liquid' Prosumers
George Ritzer and PJ Rey
Liquid Sociology: Metaphor in Zygmunt Bauman’s Analysis of Modernity
Ed. Mark Davis
Publication Date: 2014
In this essay, we examine the economic dimensions of the increasingly fluid post-Modern world that Zygmunt Bauman has so famously chronicled over the past decade. We argue that fluidity is not completely unique to post-Modern society, and that, in fact, our social reality has always been far more fluid than is conveyed by the concepts used to describe them. What distinguishes post-Modernity is that many aspects of the social world are now characterized by such intense and rapid flows that conventional static binaries no longer appear tenable to even a casual observer. This is particularly true in the economic sphere which has experienced profound globalization in the post-War era. The emergence of the Internet intensified economic exchange to such an extraordinary degree that attempts to distinguish producer from consumer and production from consumption, prove utterly futile. While Bauman’s acknowledged legacy is a language and logic that compellingly describes the post-Modern condition, we demonstrate that Bauman’s vocabulary of liquidity and ambiguity is also useful in critiquing the concepts that we have traditionally relied upon to makes sense of the social world. We conclude that fluid and hybridic concepts like prosumption (which makes the explicit assumption that production and consumption always co-exist) admit a significant degree of ambiguity, making them far better suited toward interpreting a post-Modern world than their binary predecessors.