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Rivista di etica e scienze sociali / Journal of Ethics & Social Sciences

pdfThis title is composed of two fundamental concepts: Liquid Modernity and Pancasila.

1. The Understanding of Liquid Modernity.

Some sociologists use different terms to explain the period of postmodernity. Ulrich Beck, for example, uses ‘reflexive modernity’. Anthony Giddens: ‘high’ or ‘late’ modernity. George Baldier: surmodernity. George Ritzer: second modernity1. Zygmunt Bauman, meanwhile, has introduced the term Liquid Modernity2.

A sociologist born in Poland3, Zygmunt Bauman adopted this metaphor after he had used the term ‘postmodernity’ for some time4. There are two reasons why Bauman changed his mind about the term ‘postmodernity’. Firstly, it is a ‘negative’; it cannot help in defining what characteristics do or should belong to this epoch. Secondly, the author of the book

Postmodernity and its Discontents’ has said that the epoch of modernization has had ‘a sad ending’ in postmodernity, and he wished to move away from this. For the same reason, he found the terminologies used by Giddens, Beck, Ritzer and Blaider to be insufficient. Thus, in 2000, the founder of the theory of Liquid Modernity conveyed the essence of postmodernity in his own terminology: liquidity.

1.1 Terminology.

The liquid state is one of the principal states of matter. A liquid is a fluid that has loose particles and can freely form a distinct surface at the boundaries of its bulk material. Its surface moves freely when the liquid is not constrained by a container5. Based on this notion, Bauman saw Liquid Modernity, on the one hand, as a novel phase in the history of modernity and, inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s notion of reality as something flexible and fluid, employed the Communist Manifesto’s revolutionary vision of ‘melting the solids’ of modern society6. Liquid Modernity, then, is a symptom of the crisis of modernity and a window of opportunity through which to respond. It is a threat and a challenge.

On the other hand, Liquid Modernity means the progressive unravelling of the systems of economy, politics, ethics, law and education which currently make any prospect of shifting, reforming and ultimately stabilizing postmodern society impossible. The Hobbesian problem of the existence of a social order, which gave form to modern social theory and sociology, lacks centrality and urgency in the epoch of Liquid Modernity7.

Jiri Piran, in his interpretation of Bauman’s work, affirms that “the notion of liquidity is an addition to the comments on ‘postmodernity’, ‘second modernity’, ‘reflexive modernity’, or ‘late modernity’ in philosophy and social theory in the last three decades. It reflects the diminishing role of the spatial dimensions of social life and highlights the central importance of the flow of time and social change. . . . Information moves with the speed of the electronic signal and has eroded territorial state power”8.

1.2 The criteria of Liquid Modernity.

Zygmunt Bauman has never negated the existence of the structural norm of traditional culture. He confirmed this in his book Legislator and Interpreters. He contends that before modernization, the behaviour of human beings was akin to that of gamekeepers: people who have no intention of changing the world, and believe that everything is a result of creation. The gamekeeper believes that nature knows how to arrange itself. The task of the gamekeeper is to protect nature from outside intervention and influence.

In solid modernity, however, human beings act as gardeners. They form ideas about how to intervene in the world and in nature. In their minds, they understand how to cut down a tree, and shape its growth so as to make a beautiful garden. Hitler, in Bauman’s thought, used this system to form the face of Germany as a great Nation State. The writer of the book ‘Modernity and the Holocaust’ experienced this historical episode personally.

According to Bauman, these types of people - gardeners and gamekeepers - are not coherent with our contemporary society. Our world, rather, is compared with the hunter: those who do not see the totality of life but see only a place to hunt and the results of hunting. He concludes that Liquid Modernity is characterised by living in unsicherheit (uncertainty, insecurity and constant danger); moving from one place to another according to financial or material interests, even destroying the social interaction between an individual and his environment. America and its intervention in the free market economic framework is seen as one example of the hunter phenomenon. The author of Liquid Love gives another example in regard to relationships between people: it is very difficult to find in liquid society a solid and ‘pure’ relationship, as proposed by Antony Giddens.

1.3 The consequences of Liquid Modernity.

Liquid Modernity takes place within our cosmopolitan society9. Based on a ‘liquid society’, we could say that changes across the world in the 21st Century can be explained by the fact that we are increasingly living in “one world”10, where our actions have consequences for others and the whole world’s problems have consequences for everybody living in the world. This changing world is affecting people’s lives in all countries, rich and poor, altering not just the global system but the everyday life of human beings in general. A changing world directly relates to a change in the behaviour of human beings. The intensification of worldwide interdependent social relations manifests itself in a particular way, summed up by the term 'Liquid Modernity'. In Zygmunt Bauman’s thesis, there is no distance, thought there is a 'no man’s land'. Geographical distance does not matter any more, while the idea of a geophysical border is increasingly difficult to sustain in the “real world”. As Bauman has affirmed, “distance is a social product11.

As a social product, and as a further consequence of a changing world, the decades that have passed since the end of the Cold War have been marked by violence, internal conflict and chaotic transformation in many areas of the world. Bauman himself argues that, “the transformation from solid, heavy, hardware-focused modernity to a liquid, light and software-based modernity has brought profound change to all aspects of the world. The new remoteness and un-reachability of the global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life-politics and human togetherness, call for a rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history”12.

The end of the Cold War, the collapse of Soviet-style Communism and the growth of international and regional forms of governance have drawn the countries of the world closer together. The spread of information technology has facilitated the flow of information around the globe and has encouraged people to adopt a global outlook. Trans-national corporations have grown in size and influence, building networks of production and consumption that span the globe and link economic markets13.

In a nutshell, Liquid Modernity signals both an intensification and fragmentation of the world, in accordance with the development of technology and economic growth with its flawed consumer, the 'tourist and vagabond', accompanied by a sense of unsicherheit14, where the new 'googlian' and 'facebook' philosophies, which encourage anomaly and openness, and yet also promote a society in which everything is closely monitored, are ever present, All of these, together, make up the face of 'Liquid Modernity'. The other consequences can be seen in Der Mann ohne Verwandtschaften15, the ‘economic migrant’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘global criminality’16, ‘inter arma silent leges’ in which elites ignore even the truth of the political and social system17, the absence of political control in the struggle for the common good of society. Everywhere we find the results of Bauman’s ‘cloak-room community’18.

All of these realities presuppose the existence of each person within this global society and impact concretely upon the existence of Indonesia, as one Nation State19, within the global world.

2. Understanding Pancasila.

The development of Indonesia ideologically, politically, economically, socially, culturally and ethically is determined by the presence of other countries. The unique key to understanding Indonesia is 'Pancasila' with its motto: Bhineka Tunggal Ika, 'unity in diversity', along with other elements which have in recent years refined the depth of our conceptual understanding of this nation20 with its characteristic way of life21.

As a way of life in Indonesia, we can categorize Pancasila under the German term, Welthanschaung (world view)22. Pancasila is a global conception for Indonesia that has far-reaching implications for its design in a philosophical, cultural, sociological, moral and ethical sense. Pancasila is seen as the basic building block upon which Indonesia is founded.

Darjo Darmodiharjo, in his book Santiaji Pancasila confirmed that Pancasila is used as a guideline for daily life. It means that the behaviour of Indonesian society must be conducted in the spirit of Pancasila. From when it was first introduced by Sukarno on June 1, 1945 until the people’s Consultative Council promulgated Decree no II/MPR/1978 on March 22, 1978, Pancasila underwent various changes in its order, formulation and emphasis of meaning. During this period, dozens of books on Pancasila were published and thirteen attributes and adjectives have been attached to it23.

Pancasila as way of life, according to Darmodiharjo, has two dimensions. We saw from its position, Pancasila has a supreme role that constitutes the foundation and aspirations of the nation. Pancasila comes from the Indonesian tradition and is seen as the spirit and identity of the nation24. Therefore he suggests that Pancasila, in its realization, may not contradict the norms of religion, law, ethics and morals. Pancasila is a crystallization and essence of Indonesian identity: culture, religion, ethics and morals, democracy and social justice25. Ethics is an essential part of Pancasila26.

As a way of life, Pancasila represents Indonesian culture, the essence of each ethnic group and the existence of the religions which are represented in Indonesia. It guarantees these pluralities so that it will not collapse with the changes of time, as has happened to Western culture, according to John Carrol27. In this light it will be argued that throughout the past 65 years, although there has been crisis and conflict, Pancasila is still living. Is Pancasila as way of life a liquid ideology? Is it possible that it can be integrated into a highly liquid society?

2.1 Crisis and revolution inside Pancasila.

Formally, Pancasila was born at the end of the Second World War. It entered into the discourse of modernity and experienced crises and revolutions: authoritarian government, Communist ideology, Islamic Fundamentalism, Sharia Law, corruption, and collusion and nepotism under the ‘New Order’ of Soeharto. In recent years, Pancasila experienced ethnic conflict in each region of Indonesia. At the international level, Pancasila now participates in the globalized world. Today, it can be analysed within the context of Liquid Modernity.

3. Pancasila as way of life in the context of Liquid Modernity.

My analysis, obviously, is based on an implementation of the five divine doctrines of Pancasila.

3.1 Liquid Modernity and tolerance.

In Liquid Modernity, manusia Pancasila demands much more than a grudging tolerance, supporting or accepting differences as inevitable. It requires the elaboration and the nurturing of a positive belief in the value of a society in which a multitude of languages, histories, cultures and religions coexist, interact and enrich each other in a reciprocal manner. Therefore, Pancasila society is a civil society that builds a ‘common platform’ across which religious, ethnic and political differences can be managed with civility and respect28.

Respect and civil behaviour as advocated by the manusia Pancasila are compatible with Pancasila itself, which is inclusive and non discriminatory. This is the central task of the first doctrine: One Supreme God. Flemming Intan, in his study on public religion, affirmed that Indonesian religion with its religious ethical guidance should function as a ‘liberating development’ by de-sanctifying everything other than strictly transcendental values29.

In this sense Zygmunt Bauman identified changes in the social mechanism of religion in response to transformations in postmodern morality and currents of opinion in the era of Liquid Modernity. It is the aim of his sociology of religion to further the full and free development of every human individual. Fanaticism, on the contrary, belongs to the holocaust and is against humanism itself. Fanaticism is a preposterous claim and leads to barbarism. It is the way of the tiger, according to Voltaire30.

3.2 Liquid Modernity and human rights.

There are some common challenges that East Asian countries face regarding human rights, as observed by Joanne and Daniel Bell31. Human rights in Asia are confronted by a particular set of problems, different from those experienced in the European or American context32. Indonesia, as a particular case, is one of the East Asian countries in which violence against human rights - in lack of religious freedoms caused by cultural attitudes and values, civil unrest and political instability, grinding poverty, greed, lax border controls, and burgeoning sex industries - is always a crucial problem.

Liquid Modernity helps manusia Pancasila in order to make liquid the authoritarian power’s opinion, fanaticism or fundamentalism in Indonesia, by maintaining the values of the second doctrine: just and civilized humanity.

The complexity of human rights in Indonesia have produced a system dominated by marked principles to help manusia Pancasila to explore the importance of the material conditions of a just and civilized humanity. Concretely, all Indonesian Islamic Neo-Modernists support the ideas of human rights although their approaches have varied, as argued Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid. For Christian intellectuals, the universal sovereignty of God should be the one, principal theological basis when we deal with the issues of human rights. And all religions affirm that these rights should be vested in God’s image33.

3.3 Liquid Modernity and dignity of differences.

Bauman’s discussion of nationalism might at the time have seemed of little relevance to Pancasila. The idea of a national self-consciousness emerged as a revolutionary force in transforming national identity from European identity after World War II. And in Bauman’s opinion nationalism could not elude the wide-ranging effects of identity: identity becomes a puzzle or a problem. Identity should become also a task to be realized34.

As Bauman argued, nationalism in Pancasila should be represented not by Islamic people, nor Christian people, nor public religions generally speaking. Rather, Islamic values, Christian values, religious values should be seen as inseparable parts of the same societal fabric, as Madjid has argued. There is no Islamic-ness, no Christian-ness, no public-religious-ness, no indigenous-ness. No Java-ness. No outer Java-ness. There is only Pancasila-ness with a respect for numerous differences as well as the content of the third divine doctrine: the unity of Indonesia35.

Zygmunt Bauman calls on Indonesian people to recognize and respect each other’s differences. Eliminating the other’s identity means we enter into the outcast mode of Liquid Modernity. We enter into human waste. We are not human beings. We are otherwise human waste. In Bauman, nationalism proclaimed the nation itself, the living legacy of a long and tortuous history, to be a good in its own right – and not just one good among many others, but the supreme good, one that dwarfs and subordinates all other goods36.

3.4 Liquid Modernity and Pancasila democracy.

Bauman's theories on Liquid Modernity help the maturation of Pancasila democracy. Bauman is right if we look to the real political life of politicians in Indonesia. At the beginning of each election, the politicians promised all the best programs in defence of Pancasila, and the constitution of 1945, in order to develop the interest of the people. In reality, the political consequences soon became apparent. They won. The ‘other’ lost. And the people continued their daily life as people from the third world.

At the level of ministries in the government, we find the difficulties that face people who represent other religions. Islam, as the majority religion becomes the key to an open political system. Where is our Pancasila democracy? In this circumstance, Bauman provides the resolution to such a problem: in pointing to the fact that pluralism in Indonesia is the future of Pancasila democracy37.

By regarding Pancasila as an open ideology we can develop fresh and creative ways to implement Pancasila and respond to the changes and challenges of this restlessly dynamic age, including national stability, dynamic growth, national unity and integrity, national security and national resilience38.

3.5 Liquid Modernity and social justice.

John Rawls observes that social justice rules ‘the basic structure of society, that is, the major political, economic, and social institutions that play the determining role in the divisions of advantages from social cooperation’39. Here, the State follows the principle of subsidiarity. Nurcholish Madjid, otherwise, describes social solidarity as an attitude which puts a high premium on the benefits that accrue to others. Hollenbach calls human beings to participate actively in contributing to, and benefiting from, the emergent patterns of (human) interdependence which affect them. And social justice would be able to deepen ‘people’s participation in creating and benefiting from the common good'.

There are different names applied but the scope of the fifth doctrine was the promotion of public welfare, the welfare of the manusia Pancasila as recommended in the preamble of the constitution of 1945, paragraph four, and therefore was conceived in order to form a government of the State of Indonesia which (might) protect the whole nation of Indonesia and the entire territory of Indonesia, and in order to promote public welfare.


Taking into consideration the problem of Pancasila as way of life in the context of Bauman's Liquid Modernity in global prospective, we stand before of a clear challenge: not only how to realize the five divine doctrines of Pancasila, but also how to maintain their values. The State could inspire various governments towards these particular aims: commitment to humanity, struggle for justice and peace, the development of economy, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. For the world we live in appears to be marked by fragmentation and discontinuity40.

If we consider, nevertheless, the various deviances that pervade and animate Indonesian society in looking to establish the priority of each of the above elements, we hold that the more urgent matter resides in a return of hope and trust to all the various ethnicities of Indonesia following crises and deviations from the full Pancasila experience, characterized by the totalitarian regime of Soeharto, by corruption, collusion and nepotism where all have looked to their own interests, leading the poor to become poorer. The clash between the different religions has been used as an instrument to destroy the unity of Indonesia. Scientific invention and modern technology has furthered the abuse of the weak. The whole infrastructure of government has been employed to the advantage of small elites. The commitment to the common good and the moral values of the state was carelessly ignored. Violence has increased. The drama of humanitarian crises is less under control than before. When we find a pervasive indifference, there is a crisis of moral values that negates the rights of citizens: under these circumstances, we need a commitment not only from the government, but also all institutions aside from government including the Catholic Church with their social teachings based on a moral assessment of human dignity, of solidarity and subsidiarity. According to this prospective, we hold it to be necessary and useful that Pancasila as a way of life is questioned in the context of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity.



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1 Peter BEILHARZ, The Bauman Reader, Malden, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, 202.
2 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2000.
3 Keith TESTER, The Social Thought of Zygmunt Bauman, New York, Palgrave Macmillan Published, 2004, 1-11., 4/17/2008.
4 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Intimations of postmodernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992; Postmodern ethics, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 1993. Postmodernity and its discontents, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1997.
5 Herbert LIEBESKIND, The Encyclopedia Americana. International edition, Vol. 17. Danbury, Grolier Incorporated, 1991, 549 – 551.
6 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Modernity, op.cit, 2-4.
7 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Society under Siege, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2002, 26

8 Jiri PIRAN, Liquid society and its Law, Hampshire, Ashgate Publishing, 2007, 1.

9 Ulrich BECK, La societa cosmopolita. Prospettiva dell’epoca post-nazionale, trad. di Carlo Sandrelli, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2003.

10 Thomas L. FRIEDMAN, The world is Flat, trad. di Aldo Piccato, Il mondo e piatto. Breve storia del ventunesimo secolo, Milano, Mondadori Editore, 2006.

11 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Globalization. The Human Consequences, New York, Columbia University Press, 1998, 12.

12 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2000.
13 Michael Hvvid JACOBSEN – Paul PODER, Sociology of Zygmunt Bauman, Hampshire, Ashgate Publshing, 2008.
14 Zygmunt BAUMAN, In Search of Politics, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999, 5. Zygmunt Bauman has translated the German terminology unsicherheit with three English terms: uncertainty, insecurity and unsafety.
15 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Intimations of postmodernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992; Postmodern ethics, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 1993. Postmodernity and its discontents, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1997.
16 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Love, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2003.
17 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Waste Life. Modernity and its Outcast, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2004.
18 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Fear, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2006.

19 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Community. Seeking Safety in the Insecure World, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2001. 

20 The origins and early history of nation-states are disputed. Cfr. http://en.wikipedia.org; Some authors have even, analysed the disappearance of the nation state. Cfr. Ohmae KENICHE, The End of the Nation State. The Rise of Regional Economies, trad. it. a cura di Enrica Angelini, La fine dello stato nazione. L’emergere delle economie regionali, Milano, Baldini & Castaldi, 1996 We need national identity and we need the State as a sign of the 'personal', present in each particular community. Cfr. Benedict ANDERSON, Imagined Communities, trad. it. di Marco Vignale, Comunita immaginate. Origini e fortuna dei nazionalismi, Roma, Manifestolibri, 1996. Zygmunt Bauman himself has written that the centuries long romance of Nation States is drawing to an end; we are seeing not so much a divorce as a 'living together' arrangement replacing the consecrated marital togetherness grounded in unconditional loyalty. Zygmunt BAUMAN, Liquid Modernity, op.cit, 185.
To consider the other analysis of Pancasila (read: Pantjasila, consisting of two Sanskrit words, panca meaning five and sila meaning principle with contents: One Lordship, a just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, Pancasila democracy and social justice) see Eka DARMAPUTRA, Pancasila and the search for identity and modernity in Indonesian society, Leiden, E.J.Breil, 1987; Benyamin FLEMING INTAN, Public religion and the Pancasila – based state of Indonesia. An ethical and sociological analysis, New York, Peter Lang Publishing, 2006.

21 SOEKARNO, Filsafat Pancasila menurut bung Karno, Yogyakarta, Penerbit Media Pressindo, 2006, 7.

22 The concept of Welthanschaung, developed in the writings of Dilthey and Spranger, came together in Mannheim’s thought in the 1920s. Cfr, David L. SILLS (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social sciences, Vol. 9, New York, The MacMillan Company and the Free Press, 557 – 562, 576 – 579. Cfr. Karl MANNHEIM, Essays on the sociology of knowledge, trad. it a cura di M. Gagliardi – T. Souvan, Sociologia della conoscenza, Bologna, Il Mulino Editore, 2000, 3 – 63.

23 Eka DARMAPUTERA, Pancasila and the search for identity, Op.cit, 176.
24 Darji DARMODIHARJO, Santiaji Pancasila, Surabaya, Penerbit Usaha Nasional, 1991, 16 – 17.
25 Christine KANSIL, Pancasila dan Undang – Undang Dasar 1945, Pendidikan Pancasila di perguruan tinggi, Yakarta, PT Pradnya Paramita, 2005.
26 SUNOTO, Mengenal Filsafat Pancasila. Pendekatan melalui etika Pancasila, Yogyakarta, Penerbit Hanindita, 1982.
27 John CARROL, The Wreck of Western Culture. Humanism Revisited, Melbourne, Grand and Associated, 2004.
28 Philippe SASSIER, Pourquoi la Tolerance, trad. di Carlo De NONNO, Perche la toleranza, Roma, Salerno Editrice, 2000.

29 Benyamin INTAN LFEMING, Public religion and Pancasila based state of Indonesia. An ethical and sociological analysis. Op.cit, 230.

30 Voltaire, Traite sur la tolerance, Op.cit, 48.

31 Joanne R. BAUER – Daniel A.BELL, The East Asian challenge for human rights, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

32 Peter VANNESS, Debating human rights. Critical essays from the United States and Asia, London, Routledge, 1999.

33 Benyamin FLEMING INTAN, Public religion and the Pancasila, Op.cit, 234-236.
34 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Identity. Conversation with Benedetto Vecchi. Cambrdige, Polity Press, 2004
35 Adam SCHWARZ, A nation in waiting. Indonesia search for stability, Boulder, Westview Press, 2000.
36 Zygmunt BAUMAN, In search of politics, Op.cit, 165.
37 Cfr. Norberto Bobbio, Il futuro della democracia, Torino, Einaidu Editore, 1984.
38 SOEHARTO, Openness, in David BOURCHIER, Indonesian politics and society, Op.cit, 192-194.
39 John RAWLS, Theory of justice, trad. it. di Ugo Santini, Una teoria della giustizia, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2008, 7.

40 Zygmunt BAUMAN, Alone again. Ethics after certainty, London, White Dove Press, 1994, 16