School of
Social Sciences
___Introduction to Sociology
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Ulrich Beck

 

"Ulrich 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)

Well, 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.



External Link  
Review Of "Risk Society" (External Link)  


These pages were originally written by: Angus Bancroft and Sioned Rogers
Redesigned and updated by: Pierre Stapley - 2010