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Contemporary Western societies are characterized by ‘until further notice’ relationships (and precarious or very loose social bonds), historically high levels of mobility of both capital and labour and growing numbers of single person households. As artefacts of freedom and choice these social arrangements do not inevitably give cause for concern but they may come at a price and that might involve more frequent and more sustained experiences of loneliness. This article argues that we know very little about loneliness even though some observers have described it as a new plague. The article sets out to describe the dimensions of a sociology of contemporary loneliness in terms of its social distribution, its extent and impact as well as its nature as an emotional and ontological experience. While we may be heading towards a civilization which, as Michel Houellebecq darkly hints in the recent novel The Possibility of an Island (2006), may have little further need for ‘the social’, for the time being it seems as though this problem (that would ‘rather not’ speak its name) is the cause of considerable suffering and pain.
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Keywords: Zygmunt Bauman; community; individualism; loneliness; social networks

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 17, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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