In a time of reflection on the pre-pandemic past and post-Covid future, the mutual exchange between Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis emerges as one of the most fruitful dialogues in contemporary social thought. Bauman’s analyses on liquid modernity and Francis’s warnings on a “globalization of indifference” together with his global vision of constructing human fraternity constitute a dialogue-at-a-distance on liquidity and concreteness. This meeting of two very different minds, culminating in a personal encounter in the city of Assisi, now provides us with rich sociological and theological perspectives on the challenges that believers of various religions and non-believers share while navigating the complexities of a liquid modern world in global disorder. In Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis in Dialogue: The Labyrinth of Liquid Modernity, Zeger Polhuijs recounts and analyzes the development of the thought of Bauman and Francis and the role their mutual exchange played in each other’s development. He offers no blueprints for the future, but tools for thought and action to initiate processes of change, dialogue, and concrete solidarity in the face of global disorder.
Zeger Polhuijs is a Catholic priest of the Community of Sant’Egidio and currently studies fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Introduction: Bauman and Francis: Navigating the Labyrinth of Liquid Modernity
Part One: Zygmunt Bauman: Dialogue and the Future of Liquid Society
1. The Sociologist of Liquid Modernity (2000‒2012)
2. A Chance for Humanity (2013‒2015)
3. The Future of Europe (2016)
4. A Light at the End of the Tunnel (2016‒2017)
5. To Turn the Word into Flesh (2016‒2017)
Part Two: Pope Francis: Transforming Liquidity into Concreteness
6. To Reconcile and Depolarize (1958‒2015)
7. Pope Francis and Liquid Society (2016‒2020)
Appendix: Interview with Aleksandra Jasińska-Kania
Zeger Polhuijs's book helps us understand how Bauman and Francis are two figures who - in different ways and according to their public roles - have perceived humanity inside a tunnel. They did not let themselves be taken by a state of confusion, but sought solutions, sometimes even in the dark. They understood that dialogue is the only remedy to the dialectic of "us" against "them". The "we" must become inclusive, without destroying the "I". The negative globalization that levels diversity can be overcome. This volume is precious because it makes us understand how the thought of these two great figures are of an extraordinary actuality. And it sends a message to the reader: we must work to make humanity a more hospitable place.
What happens when one of the leading sociologists of postmodernity, an agnostic Jewish intellectual, sees in the words and actions of the pope the way forward for the future of humanity? The result is fascinating and fertile. While telling the story of how Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis met and influenced each other, Zeger Polhuijs’s study of their complementary thinking brings them together in a creative, enriching dialogue which points beyond itself, showing what both great men urged with ever greater insistency to bethe salvation of our dangerously liquid age.
Called to deal with problems that have far-reaching consequences for society and nature, and for which we do not have any ready-made solutions, humanity’s greatest cause for hope today is to engage in and so preserve the art of real dialogue: that is, speaking with and learning from those who do not believe the same things as you. In his masterful analysis of the unique relationship between Pope Francis and Zygmunt Bauman, Zeger Polhuijs shows us that only through that hardest of human arts, listening, may we finally find our way beyond the labyrinth and into a world of peace and solidarity with each other and the planet. This book is an essential companion to that journey.
Two authors who come from different backgrounds, Zygmunt Bauman and Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), show many points in common in the face of the liquid world. Zeger Polhuijs's book analyzes, with precision, their judgment on the era of globalization together with their proposals to address the individualism that is at the root of the contemporary crisis. It is a precious contribution that allows us to understand the relevance of Bauman's thought and the richness of Francis's social vision.
This fine book provides us with a thorough analysis of the relations between pope Francis and Zygmunt Bauman, the one who coined the expression “liquid modernity.” Zeger Polhuijs reconstructs a very significant part of the intellectual biography of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and of this pontificate, even more important as it shows the range of the points of reference for the pope’s social thought - geographically even very far from Latin America.
Sociology and theology, science and faith—normally we automatically separate these two different realms of knowledge and experience, regarding them as if they were utterly irreconcilable and irrelevant to each other. However, as Zeger Polhuijs shows in this book, there are not only interesting but intersecting and mutually supportive inroads from these two realms of knowledge into an understanding of our contemporary liquid-modern world—with all its problems and possibilities. By analyzing the work of renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (himself of Jewish background) and the Catholic writings of Pope Francis, Polhuijs in exemplary manner illustrates how there exists several significant overlaps and a creative dialogue between the sociological thought of Bauman and the theological teachings of Pope Francis.aThe Professor and the Pope were, in many ways, kindred spirits. Moreover, Polhuijs, on a more general level, allows us to consider how we should always be careful not to compartmentalize our understanding of the human world into isolated or introverted realms of knowledge, but rather allow them to fertilize and impregnate each other, allowing us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the way we live.
Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis may seem an odd couple. Maybe not. How do they meet up? Where does their thinking intersect? Is it a tunnel? Is it a labyrinth? Maybe an intersection, a crossroads. Bauman and Francis shared a hope for a new European humanism. Here it is: a splinter in the eye through which to see, a dialogue in which to join. This is an important document, and a gift from old to young, south to north.
Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis in Dialogue is an excellent bridge between believers and non-believers. Polhuijs offers both categories of readers the insight and the adapted tools for understanding each other’s intellectual and spiritual universe.
There was a strong conviction in Zygmunt Bauman’s entourage that a dialogical book with Pope Francis would be published one day. This project (if it was a project and not a dream) was not implemented. However, this book by Zeger Polhuijs fills that space. The author reconstructs a dialogue between one of the most popular intellectuals and the head of the Catholic Church, and explains the context of this unique exchange.
In Zygmunt Bauman and Pope Francis in Dialogue, the spirit and reason are in conversation, imagined by Zeger Polhuijs who, based on the works and words of these two well-known figures of the first decades of the 21st century, invites us to understand the “other side.” We should hope that this approach, in creating a solid bridge between two sides of polarized societies, will open a new space for conversation. Today we have no other possibility if we wish to fix our world. Tikkun Olam.