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Zygmunt Bauman and Ignatius: Jesuit Values and Higher Education In an Age of Liquid Modernity


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Zygmunt Bauman’s critical description of liquid modernity provides those of us in Jesuit higher education a fruitful backdrop against which to consider the challenges facing us today. Liquid modernity stands in sharp contrast as a challenge to traditional Jesuit values. It is characterized by a decentering of our world, leaving us without basis for planning and pursuing truth, seeing progress as threat, and resulting in a trivializing of revolutionary movements. According to liquid modern values, money is the exclusive value by which to judge, flexibility trumps commitment, consumerism is the new messianic, and self-protection and self-gratification are the new normal—again, in contrast to Jesuit ideals and pursuits. By drawing from Bauman’s critical account of liquid modernity we can understand the essential significance of Jesuit values, as well as their radical contrast with contemporary culture and society. “I am in awe at everything Francis is doing: I believe his pontificate gives not just the Catholic Church but the entire humanity a chance.”1 Uncertainty is the natural habitat of human life—though the hope of escaping uncertainty is the engine of human life pursuits. 2 As Ignazio Ramonet has calculated, during the last thirty years more information has been produced in the world than during the previous 5,000 years, while 'a single copy of the Sunday edition of the New York Times contains more information than a cultivated person in the eighteenth century would consume during a lifetime.3