There is nothing permanent, but change. – Heraclitus (535 – 475 BC)
According to the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, we now live in a “Liquid Society” where reality keeps changing at a very fast pace and individuals need to adapt smartly to survive. By splicing together an unending series of short-term projects, the episodes do not add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like “career” and “progress” could be meaningfully applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable — to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. Social form and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organize their lives. Therefore, the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting or failing to act under conditions of endemic uncertainty.
It is a kind of chaotic continuation of modernity, where one can shift from one social position to another, in a fluid manner. Nomadism becomes a general trait of the liquid modern man, as he flows through his own life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values and sometimes even more. We are being faced with re-negotiating our identities, how we define ourselves and how we want to appear to the others. The fact that society is ‘liquid’ can be perceived both as positive and negative. On the one hand, it is exiting as individuals are given the opportunity to choose their course of life and become something different and better. On the other hand, future becomes completely unpredictable and things happen unexpectedly. This generates great insecurity. It is a struggle between freedom and security; they are two opposing aspects, both necessary in society but which need to be combined and reconciled.
The need to belong is a fundamental one for human beings. While in the past we used to belong to a community, nowadays we belong instead to a network. The two are, however, very different. In a community, individuals are offered the opportunity to belong, while in a network they have to build their own web of relations, creating their own identity and sense of belonging. In the past the community used to look after the individual offering him or her a secure place to be. This was, however, done at the expense of freedom as the individual was expected to obey strictly the community rules. With networks, individuals have much more freedom. They can choose what they want to be, shape their identity as they wish and build their network of relations accordingly. Networks are unstable and insecure, as the relationships are good as long as they last; they are not permanent bonds.
In this context, the boundaries of all types of human actions are crumbling down, which means that the age of limitless competition is now in progress. The role of management in the liquid life needs to get out from fixed paradigms. Like water flows forever without drying up or stopping, it should be mighty and simultaneously considerate that it goes wherever with great mobility. So, no matter where it goes, it can go in and out, and purify everything there.
It’s Liquid – / Not everything in the digital environments is fixed, but continuously changing. It creates a society where there are no borders. How to best navigate the complexities of modern society?
This is a post by David Report contributor Jaeuk Jung.