Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Defamiliarising the Familiar: The Sociology of Zygmunt Bauman SOCIO4115

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was one of the most prominent sociologists of the late 20th/21st Century. Born in Poland - but who from 1971 to his death lived in exile in Leeds, England - Bauman produced an immense collection of work which, at last count (and including only texts published in English), stands at 56 books and over 150 articles. This course looks at some of the key concerns and themes emerging from Bauman's work.

Bauman famously spoke
of the role of sociology being 'to defamiliarise the familiar'; to make the conditions under which we all live our lives, the pressures we face and the obstacles in our way, something we become conscious of. Therefore, his focus was always on trying to understand the pressures which shape the everyday life and concerns of actors; sociology is 'useful' in this sense because it aids the process of communal understanding concerning the conditions of social life we share. In doing this, we recognise that, as he put it, 'what humans have done, humans can undo'. Despite the idea that we live in a world where 'there is no alternative' our society is just one possible model among many which have existed, and could possibly exist. We will explore how Bauman attempted to do this in relation to topics such as: the nature of (liquid) modernity today, how consumerism has replaced production as the main ordering principle of capitalist society, why seemingly 'good' people do bad things, the current forms of inequality in a global society, the nature and causes of supposed 'political apathy', and the role of socialism in the past and the future. During this course we will also place Bauman in a wider sociological context. This includes not only his own life (as someone, in his own words, 'twice a refugee') but also how others have agreed, or disagreed, with his views.

Bauman was a wonderful writer who, I think, has much to tell us about the world in which we live. Fundamentally, his sociology encourages us to ask questions of our all-too-often take for granted social reality. These are often moral questions, forcing us to reckon with how, in his own words 'society manipulates morality' by making some human choices more likely than others and by removing some others form our moral concern. Hopefully taking this course will lead you to contemplate further the questions Bauman raises in his work, even if you don't agree with the answers he offers.



Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course you need to have met the requirements for entry into our Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. You also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.


One 4,000 word essay.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The overarching aim of this course is to introduce you to the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman, and the evaluations which have been offered of it. More specifically, the course aims to:

■ Investigate the basis of Bauman's sociology as emerging from structuration theory, hermeneutics and humanism

■ Examine particular areas of Bauman's sociological project including: modernity, morality, consumerism, politics and socialism

■ Introduce you to Bauman's critics and supporters

■ Suggest how Bauman may, or may not, provide a useful sociological perspective for understanding contemporary society

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Describe the key elements of Bauman's sociology

■  Apply his theoretical insights to demonstrate an ability to critically analyse contemporary society

■ Summarize and evaluate the key claims of Bauman's critics and supporters

■ Outline Bauman's thoughts in areas of sociological investigation including: modernity, morality, consumerism, politics and globalization

■ Judge the overall value of Bauman's sociological product

■ Defend OR critique the notion that Bauman is one of the most significant sociologists of the late 20th/early 21st Century

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.