BaumanA Biography
A Biography
Global thinker, public intellectual and world-famous theorist of ‘liquid modernity’, Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was a scholar who, despite forced migration, built a very successful academic career and, after retirement, became a prolific and popular writer and an intellectual talisman for young people everywhere. He was one of those rare scholars who, grey-haired and in his eighties, had his finger on the pulse of the youth. 

This is the first comprehensive biography of Bauman’s life and work.  Izabela Wagner returns to Bauman’s native Poland and recounts his childhood in an assimilated Polish Jewish family and the school experiences shaped by anti-Semitism. Bauman’s life trajectory is typical of his generation and social group: the escape from Nazi occupation and Soviet secondary education, communist engagement, enrolment in the Polish Army as a political officer, participation in the WW II and the support for the new political regime in the post-war Poland. Wagner sheds new light on the post-war period and Bauman’s activity as a KBW political officer. His eviction in 1953 from the military ranks and his academic career reflect the dynamic context of Poland in 1950s and 1960s. His professional career in Poland was abruptly halted in 1968 by the anti-Semitic purges. Bauman became a refugee again - leaving Poland for Israel, and then settling down in Leeds in the UK in 1971. His work would flourish in Leeds, and after his retirement in 1991 he entered a period of enormous productivity which propelled him onto the international stage as one of the most widely read and influential social thinkers of our time.  

Wagner’s biography brings out the complex connections between Bauman’s life experiences and his work, showing how his trajectory as an ‘outsider’ forced into exile by the anti-Semitic purges in Poland has shaped his thinking over time.  Her careful and thorough account will be the standard biography of Bauman’s life and work for years to come.
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  • August 2020
  • 500 pages
  • 160 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $35.00
  • 9781509526864
  • Open eBook $28.00
  • 9781509526895
Table of Contents


Chapter 1  A happy childhood “under such circumstances” -Pozna  (1925-1932)

Chapter 2  A pupil like no other -  Pozna   (1932-1939)

Chapter 3  The fate of a war refugee  (1939 -1944): Poznan - Molodeczna

Chapter 4  Russian Exodus— 1941-1943  : Gorki and the forest

Chapter 5  “Holy War”- 1943-1945

Chapter 6  Officer of the Internal Security Corps, 1945-1953

Chapter 7  “A man in a socialist society.”  Warsaw 1947-1953

Chapter 8  Young Scholar’s Life - 1953-1957

Chapter 9  Years of hope - (1957-1967)

Chapter 10 Bad romance with the Security Police

Chapter 11 The “Year 1968”

Chapter 12 Holy Land

Chapter 13 British Professor

Chapter 14 An Intellectual at Work

Chapter 15      Global Thinker 

Conclusion Legacy

Appendix   Working on Bauman


About the Author
Izabela Wagner is Associate Professor of Sociology at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, Associate Researcher at DynamE (Dynamiques Européennes) at Strasbourg University/CNRS, and a fellow of the Institut Convergence Migrations in Paris.
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"Who was Zygmunt Bauman? The late sociologist, known throughout the world for his path-breaking work on liquid modernity, had a biography. He was a Polish Jew, a soldier, a refugee.  He had a whole life before Leeds. Izabela Wagner's great achievement is to recover this other Bauman. This book will change the way we see Bauman, forever."
Peter Beilharz, La Trobe University

"This is a brilliant biography of an extraordinary intellectual. Izabela Wagner, a distinguished sociologist and intellectual historian, has found her subject.  Zygmunt Bauman’s life embodies a paradigmatic 20th century East-European trajectory. Framed by Hitler’s and Stalin’s totalitarianisms, it is a story of an attempted assimilation by a bourgeois Jewish family, engagement with Communism by the children's generation, disillusionment and exile. In Bauman’s case, of course, this has been accompanied by a lifetime of influential reflection on the conditions and characteristics of modern society.  A fascinating read."
Jan T. Gross, Princeton University

"Izabela Wagner’s biography of Bauman is impressively erudite, exquisitely researched, and brings its subject vividly to life… an indispensable book."
Australian Book Review

"The lives of sociologists, for the most part, tend not to be wildly eventful. But this was not the case with Bauman. […] Izabela Wagner's biography of Bauman is impressively erudite, exquisitely researched, and brings its subject vividly to life. […I]n it, you will find a painstakingly comprehensive account of Bauman's intellectual formation and his daring originality, a kind of voyage around the nature of his sociological enterprise, and a celebration of a truly global public intellectual."
Anthony Elliott, Australian Book Review

"excellent… It is rare that one says of an academic book that it is a page-turner, but this book is such a case. Partly, this is due to Bauman’s life, which, despite his protestations, was incredibly interesting, but it is also due to Wagner. She brings these events to life not just through her prose, but her skilful deployment of archival resources to enrich this story."
European Journal of Social Theory

"Wagner succeeds in vividly unfolding the multi-layered and conflict-ridden constellations that characterised Bauman's biography.  Her book offers a sociological perspective on the history of a man and his family that provides deep insight into the life of a Polish Jew growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, into his political socialization in Poland and in the Soviet Union, and above all into the dynamic intellectual scene in Warsaw during the thaw. Anyone who has an interest in the social and historical characteristics of these periods will be richly rewarded by this biography."
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