This Bauman, was the result of the ‘civilising’ mission

This essay attempts to discuss
Zygmunt Bauman’s (1925-2017) theory that modernity, rationality and The
Holocaust coincide with one another. Bauman’s book ‘Modernity and The Holocaust’ (1989) is a dramatic study of
Enlightenment reason and its possible deathly consequences. Furthermore,
Auschwitz, for Bauman, was the result of the ‘civilising’ mission of modernity
and that the Final Solution was not a dysfunction of Enlightenment rationality
but its shocking product. Equally, Bauman believes that modernity is generated
by social upheavals all of which are traceable to the capitalist world market. Furthermore,
Docker (?, p.355)
states that the Enlightenment created reason for modernity, which consumed
sensibility and deprived it of a capacity for wonder and doubt. The Holocaust
is known as a notorious act of genocide in modern history. Finally, the dualism
proposed by Foucault (?)
of disciplinary power highlights how repressed humans are. This is demonstrated
by Jews being controlled by internalised power, thus making them passive/docile.
 

The significance of the
Holocaust goes beyond the Jewish question and touches upon the very nature of
the condition of modernity.

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It is important to understand the
background in which modernity and rationality stem from. Bauman agreed with Adorno
and Horkheimer’s (?)
thesis on Dialectic of Enlightenment
which indicates that the self-destruction of the Enlightenment is a threat to
social freedom. Likewise, they state that the themes of Enlightenment have two
sides to it: good and bad. They state, that the enlightenment aimed at
liberating human beings, yet the enlightened earth radiates under the sign of
disaster triumphant. This is further
supported by both Alexander (2013) and Beck (1997), whom argues that modernity
possesses a ‘light’ (progressive) and a ‘dark’ (regressive) side.  This is illustrated in the Holocaust, as the
Enlightenment allowed modernity to assist in wide scale repression of the Jews.
Furthermore, Beck distinguishes modernity between a normative project grounded
in democracy, equality and humanism; and the modern age in which modernity’s
opposition to pre-modern social conditions is resisted by counter modern social
movements. Baert and Silva (2010) criticises Bauman and the theory of
modernity. They state that there is no a singular modernity but multiply
modernities.

For Bauman, the Holocaust was not a
‘pre-modern’, uncivilised or barbaric act as it is difficult to take the events
during the 1930s/40s and say it is an aberration of history. However, past
genocidal acts, such as the Armenian genocide, rejects this point. Thus,
illustrating that genocide has occurred in the past but that it was modern
technology that showed the immediate awareness of such acts. The Ottoman Empire
in 1915 killed 1.5 million Armenians. Furthermore, Bauman takes Durkheim and
argues that genocide does not originate in ‘pre-societal’ but in our modern ‘civilised’
values (Bauman, 1989, p.178).

Moreover, Bauman uses the imagery
of the modern gardening mentality as the modern ideology to illustrate the
relationship between modernity, rationality and The Holocaust. This illustrates
the rationalisation of evil acts. Bauman argues that modernity comprises a
‘garden society’, which cultivates a homogeneous social order. He states that
those unwilling to conform to the social norm/moral order are reduced to the
status of ‘weeds’ to be excluded or eliminated (Bauman, 1989, p.92).  Additionally, Bauman treats modernity as
constitutively hostile to difference/otherness (Bauman, 1991, p.104), which is
demonstrated in the treatment of Jews. The modern gardener during the Holocaust
believed that Jews were a problem as they were in the way of the neat vision of
society as they were hindering it by taking resources. Bauman (1989) stated
that the Jews were a hindrance on the purity of German development.

For both Bauman and Weber, a bureaucracy
epitomises instrumental rationality. Bauman’s interest in Weber notion of the
‘superiority’ of bureaucracy is illustrated in his belief that modern society
is characterised by a need for order and rationalisation. It is this ordering,
rationalising tendency that Weber saw the characteristics of modernisation.
Furthermore, he states that bureaucracy will constrain us, thus encaging us
within an iron cage. There is a clear chain of command; the hierarchical
authority is governed by formal, impersonal, and no-emotion that regulated all
facets of the organisation (Foucault = power).
This constrain is seen in the context of the Holocaust as the indigenous
population were encaged within death camps by leaders of state bureaucracies
without any emotion or remorse. For example, Individuals in bureaucratises are
cogs in a well-oiled machine, faithfully following the orders from above,
conveniently shielded from the consequences of their actions, and unwilling and
unable to reflect on the objectives of the organisation (Baert and Silva,
2010).