Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a remarkable work by all measures. Written by Zygmunt Bauman when he was still a professor in Poland and originally intended for publication in 1968, it was suppressed by the Polish government in the wave of repression following the protests in March of that year. For decades it was thought to be lost. Astonishingly, it survived in the form of an uncorrected set of proofs which were recently discovered and which are the basis of this edition.
Now published in English for the first time, this book sheds new light on Bauman’s work prior to his emigration and illuminates the intellectual climate of Poland in the late 1960s. Bauman’s pursuit of a semiotic theory of culture includes a discussion of processes of individualization and the intensification of global ties, anticipating themes that became central to his later work. Though this book stands as a testament to an historical moment, it also transcends it. “We live in an age that seems, for the first time in human history, to acknowledge cultural multiplicity as an innate and fixed feature of the world, one which gives rise to new forms of identity that are at ease with plurality, like a fish in water,” writes Bauman— a statement that is as true today as it was when Bauman penned it in the 1960s.
Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a strikingly prescient reflection on culture and society by one of the most influential social thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It will appeal to students and scholars across the social sciences and humanities and to the many readers of Bauman’s work.