Adiaphorization and austerity: from Garden State to social murder? Bauman's legacy in the era of Grenfell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper will evaluate austerity politics and the Grenfell Tower fire within the context of Zygmunt Bauman’s writings on poverty, society, and morality. Bauman’s continued theoretical and social relevance will be argued, and his major works, Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) and Work, Consumerism and the New Poor (1998) will provide a framework to interrogate the contemporary social and political production of indifference, and the human suffering that can be tolerated in an era where adiaphorization has become state policy in many polities across the globe. Bauman’s observation that indifference and psychological distance could be produced socially, and used to override the compassion thought naturally to occur when human beings are proximate to one another, led to a radical reinterpretation of the Holocaust and its implementation. I will seek to demonstrate that Bauman’s critique of the characterisation of human beings as ‘flawed consumers’ and ‘superfluous waste’, when viewed from the point of view of global capitalism and the market place, becomes more relevant and urgent in the contemporary period. Media demonization of poverty and benefits-dependence, the criminalisation of homelessness, and the housing crisis will be considered as factors proving that the ‘garden state’ mentality of solid modernity permeates our liquid modern life; where social ‘weeds’ are contained and eliminated through state policies and public indifference. The tragedy of Grenfell will be evaluated as a consequence of the very glocalization, marginalisation, and disparities of wealth and opportunity, which Bauman identified as potentially lethal trends in liquid modern society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018
EventBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference: Identity, Community and Social Solidarity - Northumbria University , Newcastle
Duration: 10 Apr 201812 Apr 2018


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference


  • Grenfell
  • Bauman
  • Adiaphorization


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