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Risk Society; part 2

In the last post, we began to hear about what Ulrich Beck call “risk society”, which we will elaborate further today.

The Risk Society is to sum up defined as: “a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernization itself” according to Beck. To continue from last week, here are a further vocabulary taken from Beck’s work, guiding ourselves through the risk society in a more positive way.

Risk community
“Risk is not, in other words, the catastrophe, but the anticipation of the catastrophe. It is not a personal anticipation, it is a social construction. Today, people are aware that risks are transnational, and they are starting to believe in the possibility of an enormous catastrophe, like radical climate change or a terror attack. For this sole reason we find ourselves tied to others, beyond borders, religions, cultures. In one way or the other, risk produces a certain community of destination and, perhaps, even a worldwide public space”.

The availability to recognize the difference between quantitative risks and non-quantitative uncertainties: in the availability to negotiate between various rationalities, rather than engaging in mutual condemnation; in the availability to raise modern taboos on rational bases; and – finally – in recognizing the importance of demonstrating to the collective will that we are acting in a responsible way in terms of the losses that will always happen, despite all precautions.

Culture of uncertainty
“What we need is a “culture of uncertainty”, which must clearly be distinguished from “culture of residual risk” on one hand, and the culture of “risk-free” or “security” on the other. The key to a culture of uncertainty is in the availability to openly talk of how we face risks, in the availability to recognize the difference between quantitative risks and non-quantitative uncertainties: in the availability to negotiate between various rationalities, rather than engaging in mutual condemnation; in the availability to raise modern taboos on rational bases; and – last but not least – in recognizing the importance of demonstrating to the collective will that we are acting in a responsible way in terms of the losses that will always happen, despite all precautions.

A culture of uncertainty that will no longer recklessly talk of “residual risk” because every interlocutor will recognize that risks are only residual if they happen to others, that the aim of a democratic community is to take on a common responsibility. The culture of uncertainty, however, is also different compared to a “culture of security”. By this I mean a culture where absolute security is considered a right towards which all society should lean. Such a culture would choke any innovation in its cage”.

Risk globalization
“Within the reflection of the modernization processes, productive forces have lost their innocence. The growth of technological-economic “progress” is ever more obscured by the production of risks. “Initially, they might be legitimized as “hidden side effects”. But with their universalization, with the criticism carried out by the public opinion and the (anti)scientific analysis, risks definitely emerge from latency and acquire a new and central meaning for social and political conflict.”

By this we need to accept the insecurities as a element of the society.

For further reading

  • Beck, Ulrich (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Translated by Ritter, Mark. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-0-8039-8346-5.
  • Beck, Ulrich (2020) “Review of Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity”

About the author

Julie Hviid

jh@rocconsult.eu


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