Zygmunt Bauman: Well there are more trou­bles with mod­ern life, but this one is par­tic­u­lar­ly acute. We feel it very strong­ly. Namely the obses­sive pro­duc­tion of redun­dant people—disposable peo­ple. People for whom there is no good room in soci­ety, there­fore they should be either sep­a­rat­ed from the rest and put some­where in an enclo­sure, or com­plete­ly dis­posed of—very often, par­tic­u­lar­ly in our times, just left to their own ini­tia­tive what to do with themselves. 

But why it is so? Why moder­ni­ty pro­duces redun­dant peo­ple? In pre-modern soci­eties there was no idea of waste; every­thing was going back into life—recycled, as we would say today. If there were more chil­dren com­ing into the world in a fam­i­ly, then obvi­ous­ly there was room for them, and extra work some­where in the farm­yard, in the field, in the sta­ble. And of course a place around the table. So the idea of being redun­dant, hav­ing no place in soci­ety, sim­ply did­n’t occur. 

But we are liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent time. We are liv­ing in mod­ern time. Modern time has the idea of putting things in order. Modern spir­it is about con­tin­u­ing progress, rais­ing the stan­dard of liv­ing, increas­ing the num­ber of prod­ucts, pro­duc­ing the dis­pos­al of peo­ple. And the byprod­uct of all that, or as we would say in con­tem­po­rary lan­guage, col­lat­er­al vic­tims of this aspect of moder­ni­ty, are pre­cise­ly dis­pos­able people.

There are two indus­tries typ­i­cal for mod­ern times which are spe­cial­iz­ing in pro­duc­ing redun­dant peo­ple. One indus­try pro­duc­ing dis­pos­able peo­ple is our obses­sion with order-building. We remake, we recast, we rehash our order time and again. We are nev­er fully—and right­ly so—satisfied with the order of things as it is now and has been cre­at­ed by our pre­vi­ous deci­sions. And we want to make it better.

Now, the trou­ble with order-building is that what­ev­er you design, visu­al­ize, and try to put in life, in oper­a­tion a new kind of order, there is always invari­ably a sit­u­a­tion in which some peo­ple don’t fit the new kind of order. That’s what chang­ing order, mak­ing a new order, is about, about reshuf­fling the posi­tion of peo­ple inside and using them bet­ter, from what­ev­er point of view. If you have an idea of good soci­ety or if you have got the idea of effi­cient soci­ety, greater effi­cien­cy, greater productivity—whatever is in your mind—or more coher­ence, more inte­gra­tion, there’s always a group of peo­ple who are dis­pos­able, redun­dant. They can’t be fit into the new order. 

The sec­ond indus­try of dis­pos­able peo­ple is what we call eco­nom­ic progress. Because eco­nom­ic progress means sim­ply that things that shall be done yes­ter­day and before yes­ter­day can be done also today with less invest­ment of effort, with less mon­ey, less costs, and less labor employed because of that. And again, if that happens—and it hap­pens day by day—we are con­stant­ly under con­di­tions of eco­nom­ic progress.

Now, when it hap­pens, then some peo­ple and some ways of gain­ing liv­ing, of earn­ing their liv­ing, become redun­dant. Simply they can’t stand com­pe­ti­tion with new, more effi­cient, cheap­er ways of doing things.

Two cat­e­gories of peo­ple, peo­ple who don’t fit the pro­ject­ed order, and peo­ple who are redundant—their skills are no longer usable. Somebody else in the future prob­a­bly, even robots, will take over the job they have been perform[ing].

Now, they are in two cat­e­gories of dis­pos­able peo­ple. Why it is so, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the cen­ter of pub­lic opin­ion and politi­cians’ speech­es and so on just today? What is the dif­fer­ence? What’s hap­pened? The pro­duc­tion of dis­pos­able peo­ple start­ed with the begin­ning of moder­ni­ty. But, the only part mod­erniz­ing and there­fore pro­duc­ing redun­dant peo­ple were for two cen­turies almost, Europe. The rest of the plan­et was pre-modern and there­fore they did­n’t have redun­dant peo­ple at all.

What Europe did, the unique­ness of this sit­u­a­tion of con­cen­tra­tion of the mod­ern­iz­ing process­es in one part of the con­ti­nent, Euro-Asian con­ti­nent in Europe, gave this place spe­cial priv­i­lege which was nev­er to be repeat­ed by any­body else. Namely, Europe could find glob­al solu­tions to locally-produced prob­lems. Very easy it was to do. One could send the youth, these redun­dant peo­ple to form colo­nial expe­di­tionary armies, send them there, and then con­quer the new lands, and set the local colo­nial admin­is­tra­tion there. Again, it was the way to dis­pose of redun­dant peo­ple who could­n’t be employed in their own coun­try. And so on and so on.

And if you look at European coun­tries, you’ll see that even­tu­al­ly it is impos­si­ble to find a fam­i­ly in which some great uncle or great aunt or great-great uncle emi­grat­ed to South America, to North America, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Africa, and set­tled there. And mind you, the present-day Latin America and Northern America is cre­at­ed all by peo­ple who left Europe because there was no room for them in their own coun­try. According to some cal­cu­la­tions, dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry some­thing about 50 to 60 mil­lion of Europeans emi­grat­ed to the colonies.

Now 50, 60 mil­lion at that time was an enor­mous amount of peo­ple, real­ly. It does­n’t sound very very fright­en­ing today, but then it was real­ly move­ment of nations, so to speak, the wan­der­ing of nations around the world.

Now the mod­ern way of life has won, on a plan­e­tary scale. More and more coun­tries, par­tic­u­lar­ly all of plan­et, are now at the mod­ern­iz­ing age and they are as eager to mod­ern­ize as our ances­tors in Britain or in France or in Germany or in Russia were. Which means that they also pro­duce redun­dant peo­ple. The pro­duc­tion of dis­pos­able peo­ple is no longer a local trou­ble, it is a plan­e­tary issue. Wherever more effi­cient ways of pro­duc­ing things are intro­duced, well, the last part of the local pop­u­la­tion needs to set off trav­el­ing in the search of bread and drink­ing water. They are all search­ing wealth, nec­es­sar­i­ly; they won’t sur­vive. It’s nor­mal sur­vival instinct which push­es them around.

But, they can’t send colo­nial armies. They can’t con­quer oth­er lands. So they are com­ing to the oth­er coun­try which is already dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed. It is not an emp­ty room for them to set­tle. And it looks askance on the com­ing peo­ple, accus­ing them of all sort of inde­cent, mali­cious intentions. 

That’s anoth­er sto­ry, which all should be dis­cussed sep­a­rate­ly; we don’t have time to do so. How politi­cians of many [?] are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on this fear of the locals of the peo­ple who were dis­pos­able in oth­er coun­tries and came here to set­tle. They are strangers. They are unknown enti­ties. You nev­er know what they intend to do. You don’t know what they mean when they say some­thing. You don’t know how to deci­pher, how to unpack, the way they are behav­ing, the way they are liv­ing and so on. It all cre­ates a sit­u­a­tion of acute uncer­tain­ty. People don’t like it—who likes being in an uncer­tain sit­u­a­tion? So, a fear is emanat­ed from these con­di­tions of uncer­tain­ty about their own local con­di­tion, cre­at­ed by the influx of peo­ple from outside.

So we have a prob­lem. We have a prob­lem of migra­tion. We have a problem—something real­ly shock­ing. Our min­is­ter of home affairs sug­gests to intro­duce a new law (I don’t know whether it has been already vot­ed in the par­lia­ment or not. It is a fresh mat­ter.), a law which actu­al­ly allows you to deprive peo­ple from their cit­i­zen­ship which they already acquired, on sus­pi­cion that they may be a threat to secu­ri­ty of the coun­try. Breaking two dif­fer­ent things at the same time, two sacro­sanct beliefs, prin­ci­ples of what is soci­ety and what is civilization.

One, human rights; human rights of the human and citizen—you can’t deprive peo­ple of their dig­ni­ty or their rights which were giv­en to them by the law. That’s one thing which has been broken.

And the oth­er, just pun­ish­ing peo­ple on sus­pi­cion. I think there is also a very very long­stand­ing legal prin­ci­ple that a per­son is con­sid­ered to be inno­cent until he, or she, is proved guilty. But here, on sus­pi­cion you can strip a per­son of his right to remain in the country.

Now, this is how far we are— Or we,” that’s a big ques­tion. Who are the we?” But there it is our rep­re­sen­ta­tives, our politi­cians, how far they are pre­pared to go, even break­ing the prin­ci­ples of our own democ­ra­cy, of our own lib­er­ties, in order to resolve this issue. Of course they can’t resolve it. Of course they can’t resolve it. By the way, there’s a very pow­er­ful force which would­n’t allow them to do [it]. And these are not the vot­ers, these are the busi­ness­es. Businesses need cheap labor. Businesses need peo­ple who will agree to per­form jobs which local, native peo­ple spoiled by a hun­dred years of tra­di­tion of trade unions, of working-class strug­gle against exploita­tion, they would­n’t allow them­selves to take them up.

So this oppres­sion, it does­n’t hit the first pages of news­pa­pers, par­tic­u­lar­ly the pop­u­lar news­pa­pers. But it is there, quite a real one. So the intro­duc­tion of suc­ces­sive strong mea­sures under­tak­en against immi­grants, against strangers which want to set­tle in this coun­try, they are very often a game of pre­tend; they’re just mak­ing noise around it, which will prob­a­bly will bring a few more vot­ers into the next gen­er­al election.

But it is doomed not to be ful­filled, sim­ply because the pop­u­la­tion of Europe is falling. And accord­ing to some cal­cu­la­tions, Europe will need actu­al­ly 30 mil­lion more immi­grants from oth­er con­ti­nents in order sim­ply to sur­vive, to pro­tect their own—our own—way of life, which we cher­ish, and which you would­n’t like to dis­pose of.

So we are real­ly in a pret­ty pick­le, so to speak. It is a trou­ble which does­n’t find an easy solu­tion. Whatever you do, you push it one way or the oth­er, you encounter very pow­er­ful and vocif­er­ous resis­tance against doing it. I think that han­dling the issue of planet-wide migra­tion of peo­ple under this con­di­tion of over­pop­u­lat­ed plan­et and a plan­et divid­ed already in sov­er­eign ter­ri­to­ries where there’s no emp­ty lands left on the map if you look at it… So, all that I think will be one of the major issues, if not the major issue—the most sem­i­nal, con­se­quen­tial issue—which peo­ple will con­front in this 21st century.

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