University of Sussex
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A libertarian socialist critique of the political sociology of late modernity

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:10 authored by Matt Paul Dawson
This thesis argues that despite the proclamations within the sociological field of 'late modernity', socialism is still of great relevance as both a form of critique, and as an alternative political model. Nevertheless, such an argument requires a refinement of both of the key terms. Firstly, via discussing the work of the three most prominent sociologists of late modernity (Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens), this thesis argues that there have been significant changes with the shift to 'late' modernity, most notably the, contested, emergence of 'individualization'. I discuss how the 'disembedded individualization' favoured by Beck and Giddens is flawed empirically. However the 'embedded individualization' developed by Bauman and other researchers is a much more faithful depiction of the continued inequalities and privatisation of previously collective political concerns within late modernity. Using such a distinction can demonstrate the flawed nature of the political alternatives offered by Beck and Giddens and can, potentially, open the door to an alternative socialist conception. This socialist alternative also has to be reconsidered. To do this I draw upon a tradition of 'libertarian' socialism, best elaborated in the work of Emile Durkheim and G.D.H. Cole. This focuses upon the development of internally democratic associational groups as forum for individuals to express their functionally differentiated desires. I argue that this model has great potential for a period of individualized late modernity. It is also my claim that elaboration of such a project can be a criticism against the suggestion that there is a natural 'fit' between neoliberal capitalism and late modernity. In short, socialism, when defined as a libertarian form has the potential to be both a form of critique concerning the role of the state and market under late modernity, as well as providing a possible alternative.


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University of Sussex

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