Intimacy in postmodern times

A friendship with Zygmunt Bauman

By Peter Beilharz

Intimacy in postmodern times


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3215-4
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: September 2020
  • BIC Category: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Social Theory, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Philosophers, Society & social sciences / Cultural studies, Society & social sciences / History of ideas, Biography & True Stories / Biography: general, Society & social sciences / Social theory, PHILOSOPHY / Individual Philosophers, Sociology


Zygmunt Bauman was one of the most important social theorists of recent decades. He did major work on the Holocaust, the postmodern and much else, up to fifty-eight books in English on almost as many topics. In this book, Australian sociologist Peter Beilharz, Bauman's collaborator for thirty years, recounts the details of their relationship, simultaneously charting the changes that have occurred in academic life from the 1980s to today. Friendship was one of the bonds that made Bauman and Beilharz's intellectual collaboration possible. Though the two were worlds apart in terms of biography and place, their work together was defined by a certain kind of intimacy. Separated by a generation, they collaborated for a generation together. This book follows their story in touching detail while puzzling over Bauman's rich yet contested legacy.


'As sociological data - as a record of how academic intellectuals at the turn of the century spent their time - Peter Beilharz's memoir is valuable enough; but it is also a searching exploration of his debt to one of the great social theorists of our age, Zygmunt Bauman.'
J. M. Coetzee

'This is a book about intellectual love, and less about Zygmunt Bauman, the object of love, than about the intellectual offering it, the author himself. Peter Beilharz is one of the most cosmopolitan, self-reflexive and generous social theorists in the world today. He is also the best writer. Beilharz mixes prose of sinewy subtlety with history, irony and cultural traffic. His memoir takes us backstage, to the emotional matrix within which social theory is made.'
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University

'With Beilharz and Bauman as central performers, the tale told within these pages concerns how academic relationships are made and sustained either side of the internet revolution. It matters little, however, whether we know anything of our performers before the curtain raises - for upon this stage awaits a story of intellectual life fuelled by far more universal ideas of inspiration, admiration, labour, friendship, gain and loss.'
Mark Davis, Director of the Bauman Institute for Critical Sociology, University of Leeds

'This book tells the story of an almost thirty-year relationship between two intellectuals who, despite their antipodal positions in Britain and Australia, fell in friendship just as people fall in love at first sight. Peter Beilharz takes the reader on an intimate journey through his friendship with Zygmunt Bauman, recounting their annual get-togethers and quoting extensively (and humorously) from his correspondence with both Bauman and his wife, Janina. Recalling their long and passionate discussions on sociology, culture, society, theory, politics and life, Beilharz opens the door to the personal lives of two thinkers, inviting the reader to get acquainted with the backstage of the intellectual world, where the greatest ideas are born. The result is a must-read, passionate book celebrating intellectual exchanges, powerful friendship and love.'
Izabela Wagner, Associate Professor of Sociology at Collegium Civitas, Warsaw and author of Bauman: A Biography


Part I: Itineraries and archives
1 First decade
2 Second decade
3 Third decade
Part II: Ways of going on
4 Entanglements
5 Heads up from giants
Part III: Talking the days
6 Working together, at a distance
7 Last decade: Bauman writing, reading and talking
8 The 'Bauman phenomenon': signing out


Peter Beilharz is Professor of Culture and Society at Curtin University and Professor of Critical Theory at Sichuan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books and a founding editor of the journal Thesis Eleven.

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