Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Bauman on Modernity and the Holocaust

The Holocaust, argues sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, poses a challenge that cannot be ignored for our conception of modernity and of human history as a whole. In his book Modernity and the Holocaust, Bauman developed the argument that the Holocaust should not be seen only as an event in Jewish history or as a regression to pre-modern barbarism. Similar to Theodore Adorno, Bauman's claim that the Holocaust breaks the assumption that humanity is evolving towards better and better versions of itself. The Holocaust should not be understood as a retreat in the process of human development but, and it is much more frightening, as a result of it. It must be seen that the Holocaust is deeply connected with modernity and its orderly efforts. Procedural rationality, the division of labor into smaller and smaller tasks, the sorting classification of different species and the tendency to see obedience to rules as something morally good, all played a role in carrying out the Holocaust. Bauman noted that for this reason modern societies have not fully understood the lessons of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, according to Bauman, looks like a painting hanging on the wall of human history without learning anything from it.