Zygmunt Bauman – Postmodernity and Religion

In modernity, ethics was simply a matter of following a set of prescribed rules already laid down by institutions such as the state. In effect, for most of modernity, individual responsibility was abolished: all one had to do to be a ‘good citizen’ was to adopt the relevant social norms according to their class/ gender/ ethnicity and obey the law.

However, postmodernity has abolished all of these external rules, and morality has become a matter of personal choice: morality has becomes privatized.

In modernity, individuals tended to have ‘life-projects’: they wanted to achieve things with their lives, to reach certain goals, which had typically been laid down by society.

In postmodernity, individuals are more concerned with a process of self-constitution: rather than achieving things, they want to ‘be somebody’. They are more concerned with getting noticed, being visible to others, but still individually responsible for every aspect of their individual identity.

According to Bauman, now that individuals find themselves responsible for their own self-identities, they increasingly turn to ‘experts in morality’ for guidance about ‘how to be’. In this context, religious leaders are in greater demand because they are one set of ‘morality’ experts who people might call upon for ethical guidance.

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