Risk society


Risk society

"Risk society" is a term used to describe a society that is organized in response to risk. According to sociologist Anthony Giddens, it is "a society increasingly preoccupied with the future (and also with safety), which generates the notion of risk" (Giddens 1999: 3) Risk can be defined in the risk society as a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernization itself (Beck 1992: 21).

While humans have always been subjected to a level of risk, modern society is exposed to a particular type of risk that is the result of the modernization process itself, altering social organization. There are risks such as natural disasters that have always had negative effects on human populations, but these are seen to be produced by non-human forces. Modern risks, on the other hand, are the product of human activity. These two different types of risk can be referred to as external risks and manufactured risks (Giddens, 1999). A risk society is predominantly concerned with manufactured risks. The marked difference between the two is that there is a significant level of human agency operating in the production and mitigation of manufactured risks.

Because manufactured risks are the product of human activity, there is the potential to assess the level of risk that is being produced, or that is about to be produced. As a result, risks have transformed the modernization process itself. With the introduction of human caused disasters such as Chernobyl and the Love Canal Crisis, public faith in the modern project has declined (a claim that has not been independently verified within all population groupsFact|date=July 2008) leaving a variable trust in industry, government and experts (Giddens 1990). The increased critique of modern industrial practices has resulted in a state of reflexive modernization. Concepts that demonstrate reflexive modernization are sustainability and the precautionary principle that focus on preventative measures to decrease levels of risk.

Social relations have changed with the introduction of manufactured risks and reflexive modernization. Risks, much like wealth, are distributed unevenly in a population and will influence quality of life. People will occupy social risk positions that are achieved through aversion, which differs from wealth positions that are gained through accumulation. 'In some of their dimensions these follow the inequalities of class and strata positions, but they bring a fundamentally different distribution logic into play' (Beck 1992: 23). Beck contends that widespread risks contain a 'boomerang effect' in that individuals producing risks will also be exposed to them. This observation suggests that wealthy individuals whose capital is largely responsible for creating pollution will also have to suffer when, for example, the contaminants seep into the water supply. This argument may seem oversimplified, as wealthy people may have the ability to mitigate risk more easily by, for example, buying bottled water. However, the argument is that the distribution of the risk originates from knowledge as opposed to wealth. While the wealthy person may have access to resources that enable him or her to avert risk, it would not even be an option were the person unaware that the risk even existed, and therefore risk position is fundamentally dependent on knowledge and access to information, which may or may not correlate to economic status, but often does.

References

* Ericson, R.V. & K. Haggerty. 1997. "Policing the Risk Society." Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
* Anthony Giddens (1990) "Consequences of Modernity". Cambridge: Polity Press
* Anthony Giddens (1999) “Risk and Responsibility” "Modern Law Review" 62(1): 1-10.
* Beck, Ulrich (1992) "Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity". New Delhi: Sage. (Translated from the German "Risikogesellschaft" [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risikogesellschaft] published in 1986


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • risk society — See reflexive modernization …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Risk — takers redirects here. For the Canadian television program, see Risk Takers. For other uses, see Risk (disambiguation). Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity (including the choice of inaction) will lead to a loss (an undesirable… …   Wikipedia

  • Society of Actuaries — logo Abbreviation SOA Motto The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances and demonstrations for impressions. John Ruskin[1] …   Wikipedia

  • Risk perception — is the subjective judgment that people make about the characteristics and severity of a risk. The phrase is most commonly used in reference to natural hazards and threats to the environment or health, such as nuclear power. Several theories have… …   Wikipedia

  • Risk aversion — is a concept in psychology, economics, and finance, based on the behavior of humans (especially consumers and investors) while exposed to uncertainty. Risk aversion is the reluctance of a person to accept a bargain with an uncertain payoff rather …   Wikipedia

  • Risk Management Programme — Risk Management is a research programme set up by the Geneva Association, also known as the International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics. The focus of this programme is manifold and address the following issues: fostering the… …   Wikipedia

  • Risk factors for breast cancer — Risk factors of breast cancer may be divided into preventable and non preventable. Their study belongs in the field of epidemiology. Breast cancer, like other forms of cancer, is considered to result from multiple environmental and hereditary… …   Wikipedia

  • Risk equalization — is a way of equalizing the risk profiles of insurance members in order to reduce premium differences to some predetermined extent.In competitive markets for individual health insurance, risk rated premiums are observed to differ across subgroups… …   Wikipedia

  • Risk Management Information Systems — (RMIS) are typically computerized systems that assist in consolidating property values, claims, policy, and exposure information and provide the tracking and management reporting capabilities to enable you to monitor and control your overall cost …   Wikipedia

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society — Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS), founded in 1950, is a membership based industry trade group, representing nearly 4,000 industrial, service, nonprofit, charitable, and governmental entities and serves more than 10,000 risk… …   Wikipedia