Liquid Modernity: How Geographical Adaptation Predict Social Changes?

Zygmunt Bauman’s metaphor "Liquid modernity", referring to the modern world as fluid, flexible and free from barriers and boundaries was taken up by Andrey Shcherbak at the beginning of his open lecture. Eventually, it demonstrates the effect of environmental factors on the process of modernization. Liquid modernity explains the processes of modernization through social effects of three liquids - water, milk and alcohol. The theory introduces the source thesis of emancipation.

The difference in the consumption of these fluids largely resulted in diverging reactions of societies to changing geographical conditions. Moreover, they affected the social and political changes in the long-term perspective. Using a variety of data from the field of geography, genetics, biology, economics, political science, demography, sociology, history and regression analysis as a tool showed how liquids influenced on the development of different regions of the globe.

The lecture demonstrated that the CW (the cool-water condition (CW-condition)) prevented a transition to agriculture in the first place since foraging was a freer lifestyle and led to the emergence of individualistic or collectivist systems. The set of characteristics relating to water posits the original source of human empowerment in the cool-water condition (CW-condition), which “is a combination of (1) moderately cold climates, (2) continuous rainfalls over all seasons, and (3) permanently navigable waterways”. According to the source thesis CW areas offer water autonomy and a higher disease security which naturally locates them higher on the utility ladder of freedom.

For example, in Denmark, the amount of people who are unable to break down lactose (digest milk) constitutes 2% of the population; in China (almost in all South-East Asia) around 100% are not able to digest milk. Meanwhile, milk consumption (and therefore its assimilation) directly correlates with the level of income. Simply put, rich countries drink more milk.

In conclusion, the lecturer suggested that the fourth liquid could be oil, which has already been established in the idea of "carbon democracy" (T.Mitchel) and theories of the "resource curse".  Eventually, on one hand, the results allow to indicate the importance of an interdisciplinary approach between social and natural sciences, on the other, create a critical look at a number of existing theories to explain the historical success of the developed countries.

The discussion that followed the seminar raised the issue of the relevance of the assumption that a high cool-water condition is connected with the absence of feudal dependence (or with a mild form of it), because in the Russian Empire, in spite of the extensive river network, serfdom existed until 1861. The discussion touched upon the idea of the future, the influence of current global events and trends (global warming, veganism) on human development.