I am writing ans article on Zygmunt Bauman’s view of what sociology could and should be, its value and function, in conditions of liquid modernity. Zygmunt sees sociology’s role today, in conditions of liquid modernity, as supporting civic society and servicing a continuous dialogue, a dialogue with no predetermined outcome, that clarifies issues and accommodates multiple voices. Our job is to “defamiliarise the familiar and make the familiar unfamilar”, to make visible the invisible links and connections that lie behind the life world and to keep the conversation going. However “we cannot stay neutral or indifferent when the future of humanity is at stake”. See post at http://sociology.leeds.ac.uk/blogs/zbi/2010/09/08/conference-day-two-%E2%80%93-first-reflections/
Where does this leave socialism as a valid project? Is it just one set of ideas and a vision that some voices can bring to the discussion but without any claim to legislative privilege? Socialisms project to legislate and administer a particular sort of society (no doubt a good and egalitarian society)? I think the answer is to see socialism as a establishing a set of conditions for the conversation rather than an end point itself in a particular society. Socialism is a process rather than a fixed goal or outcome – the project of socialism should be development and the nurturing of the conversation, perhaps the creation of the sociality of the social state (not necessarily in conflict with elements of the bureaucratic and market state).
Great description of what the conversation should be like in the last paragraph of page xxi in the introduction to Intimations of Postmodernity.