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risk society

  A term invented by the German sociologist, Ulrich Beck (1992), to describe a fundamental shift in western industrial societies towards a dependence upon scientific and technical knowledge that in turn produces risks and hazards which can reach across large swathes of space and time and whose consequences are accordingly difficult to assess (as in the case of nuclear power). The culture of scientism would attempt to combat these risks by the application of further scientific and technical solutions but Beck argues that in society at large the population finds different ways of coping, based upon a reflexive modernization which is a combination of the availability of reflexive critiques, which can lay claim to a morality equal to that of science (as in the principles of the Green movement), and an increasing individualization, which is the outcome of an expanding field of knowledge forcing people to reflexively fashion their biographies on the basis of knowledgeable choices.

This conception of modernity has much in common with that of Anthony Giddens (see especially Beck, Giddens and Lash, 1996) and has important links to the German tradition of critical theory. (NJT)

References Beck, U. 1992: Risk society. Towards a new modernity. London: Sage. Beck, U., Giddens, A. and Lash, S. 1996: Reflexive Modernisation. Cambridge: Polity Press. Franklin, J., ed., 1998: The politics of the risk society. Cambridge: Polity Press.



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Other Terms : geostrategic regions | sunk costs | metaphor
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