Today I went to hear the “grand old” sociologist Zygmunt Bauman speak in Lancaster. He’s got a new book out: Liquid Love. Personally for me it was amazing to see Bauman IRL, with his crazy white hair and the characteristic pipe (if I’m not mistaken he’s now 78).
– He argued that social bonds are the most perplexing question of our time. They are necessary enablers but simultaneously limiting: “Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; the higher the fence the greener the grass.”
– With technology, especially the mobile phone, people are networked, meaning they can make an initiative towards anyone and also discontinue a relationship without actually encountering the other person. The essence of a network is that you can connect to many points and also disconnect from them at will.
– Electronic communication increases travel because it’s safer to move from one set of local relationships to another when one can stay networked to all places in principle.
– He spoke of SDCs (semi-detached couples) who share the fun moments but stay detached enough to avoid complex emotional matters. Only with texting and email has such kind of togetherness become practical to handle.
– Top-pocket relationships are carried along like a handkerchief in the top pocket, taken out when required and put away whenever it’s not proper to display them.
– Nowadays it’s possible to choose how one behaves with others (does one adopt a traditional approach or the top-pocket approach) but if children lose the skills and ability to relate to others in the traditional way, top-pocket may become the expected way to manage relationships.
I walked home thinking there’s got to be room in this world for relationships that are neither modeled on the postwar marriage nor on semi-detachment…

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