Beck has analysed post-modern society as 'Risikogesellschaft' or
'risk-society' - the main feature of which is that society's members
are confronted with socially-created risks which endanger the survival
of the species. Our societies are characterised by 'organised irresponsibility'
whereby risk producers are protected at the expense of risk victims.
He has examined how our leading social institutions, of economics
(private property, industrialisation) and law (administrative law,
private law) and politics are engaged in not only producing those
risks, but in ... making the resulting risks socially non-existent.
I quote here from the legal scholar Brun-Otto Bryde, who gives an
example of risk disappearance: 'The French, who managed in the weeks
after Chernobyl to stop the radioactive clouds at the Rhine through
the simple technique of not measuring the radioactive fall-out,
certainly slept more peacefully and enjoyed their mushrooms better
than the Germans'." (M. G. Wiber, 1995)
the French were never likely to let a little radioactivity interfere
with their enjoyment of les truffles in any case. A good example
of risk is the BSE or mad cow disease crisis, which was the cause
of so many Welsh farmers chucking Irish beefburgers into the sea.
The events which led to the every country in the world banning the
import of British beef were entirely a creating of government complacency
and the desire of the agircultural business to increase its margins.
The government allowed animal feed to be made out of material which
included sheeps brains and spinal columns. Lovely. In a classic
example of risk creation, the decision was made that the chance
of this producing cross species diseases which could be passed on
to humans was outweighed by the benefit to the livestock industry.
It became apparent that this gamble had not paid off, and people
eating beef were potentially being exposed to the risk of developing
CJD, a particularly unpleasant disease that turns the brain into
a sponge. The government, whose purpose is supposedly to protect
society from risk, actively contributed to its creation, and then
sought to hide the risk it had created.