Read Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity by Ulrich Beck Online


»Wer wie Beck sich bewußt zwischen alle theoretischen Stühle setzt, um in diesem begrifflichen Niemandsland Verunsicherung und Erkenntnis zu erfahren, kann mit Lob von solchen Lesern rechnen, denen die Lektüre eines Buches nicht zur Bestätigung, sondern zur Widerlegung ihrer Überzeugung dient.« Rainer Erd, Frankfurter Rundschau, 21. Oktober 1986...

Title : Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity
Author :
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ISBN : 9780803983465
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-05-21 07:40

    This is a remarkable book – but not least because it is so incredibly famous, even though I’ve only started hearing about it over the last couple of years. As it says in the Introduction, this book sold 60,000 copies in its first five years. That is pretty remarkable given it is a book on social theory. But I’ve found it quoted everywhere. I had to read this because I was starting to feel like the woman who was asked what she though of seeing Hamlet for their first time who said, “It was alright, but I’d heard a lot of it before.”A lot of the Bauman stuff I’ve been reading lately comes more or less directly from this book. You are probably going to have to read this and not just rely on my review, I’m afraid, as there were large chunks that would require me to do a much closer reading to summarise properly.So, why risk? Well, we tend to think of society as being divided by wealth. And that wealth is able to use money to purchase security to protect them from the dispossessed. Gated communities, private schools – you know the drill.But risk is a very strange thing. The first thing to notice about it is that it works in the inverse to wealth – the poor get to have more than their fair share of risk in all senses. The problem is that if that was the end of the story there would be no story. We would just have a wealth society and risk would be one more add on or natural consequence. However, the world we live in can’t be ‘fixed’ to make sure that all the risks can be the problem of the poor. Risk is more the like plague was at the end of the middle ages. The poor might get the worst part of it, but no one is actually safe. Polluted air, water and beaches are not restricted to the poor. We all get to breath in, we all get to drink. Even nation states can avoid risks or legislate them away. As Beck points out, Scandinavia can pass the most stringent anti-pollution laws it likes, but acid rain is still going to kill their trees, because this rain comes from the sulphates belching out of factories in other countries. Nuclear war (funny how the fear of that one seems to have disappeared despite none of the bombs actually going anywhere) would kill everyone, not just the poor.That’s the thing about risks – they have become global. Global warming even has ‘global’ as the adjective just in case you forget. The risks from there being no more bees is something for everyone to share, not just poor people. And even manufactured risks – like the risk from global terrorism – are likewise presented as indiscriminate. What is really interesting here is that the more these risks move into the global sphere (a sphere without a legislative body where citizens could impose their will) the more people are asked to respond to these risks by applications of their biographies. By this he means something like what Marx meant when he spoke about the main contradiction of capitalism. For Marx capitalism would eventually fail because production was becoming increasingly social and the product of production was being held increasingly in fewer hands. Production is social in the sense that no single person really produces any complete thing anymore – to produce anything you need the whole world helping you. That is, the stuff we produce today is only possible if the whole of society exists and works together to make it. The contradiction Marx was worried about was this social nature of production seemed to be opposed to the private means of gathering the wealth that was produced from this production process. Eventually Marx believed this contradiction would kill off capitalism. But what I’ve always fond interesting about this is that the more social our lives have become – you know, the more we depend on others to provide us with sewers and paved streets and to ship food to us and to keep out water clean and to design and build planes or cars or god – please – stop me now… The more social our lives become, the more we like to think of ourselves as individuals. It is terribly strange. Well, risk suffers from the same fate. The more global our risks become the more we are expected to address them as individuals. That is, the more risks are beyond our capacity to have any impact on at all as individuals, the more the consequences of those risks as they are played out in our lives are presented back to us as the manifestation of our own personal choices and decisions. Like I said, it is all terribly strange.I have to come back to Marx again, sorry. Marx felt that one of the things that kept capitalism going was that it produced what he called ‘a reserve army of the unemployed’. And these people served a purpose. They were always ready and willing to take the jobs of those who were employed. As such, they helped to keep the price of labour down. The capitalist wanted to suck as much value out of the labour they employed as they could – and so they sought to increase the rate of exploitation by increasing the hours that labour worked and thereby increasing the intensity of that employment. But today we are witnessing quite the opposite of this in many ways. We don't have a ‘reserve army’ of unemployed – rather, we have an underclass of people who will never work. Worse still, rather than capitalism increasing the time that people work, there has been an odd reduction taking place. Both of my parents, as a case in point, started work at 14. They worked six days a week. They were required to work overtime. When I started fulltime work I was about 20 and worked five days a week and rarely any overtime. My children are in their mid-20s and still have not got a fulltime job. They have worked in a series of part-time, temporary or casual jobs. Sometimes they work 11 hour shifts, but between times they hardly work at all. They both have undergraduate degrees. One of them is doing her PhD. They are anything but unusual – as you will see if you read The Unfinished Revolution, for instance. Large sections of the workforce today can also expect to be unemployed at some stage of their working lives. People are constantly being made redundant as companies downsize. And then people are also often expected to ‘retire’ early – often in their mid 50s. The time spent actively in the workforce is diminishing rather than expanding.And this brings other risks – not just poverty, but social, cultural and emotional alienation. What is interesting about risks is that they have become a force to drive production. You see, capitalism really needs growing markets – capitalism is expansion. But there is only so much stuff we can consume. Capitalism might be able to convince you to eat a couple of times more than you really need, but there are limits to how much people can eat – even with the best will in the world. But that certainly isn’t true about risks. You can always get people to consume more on the basis of overcoming perceived risks. There is no end to the risks that can be invented and no end to the ways of addressing them. As such, risks present the perfect solution to the need for endless expansion. Ramp up the fear and watch the new markets create themselves – perfect. And when things turn to crap you can blame everything on the bad decisions of the suckers you sold your product to. If this wasn’t all so terrifying and so familiar it would almost be funny.The best of this book is his attack on scientific rationalism. We like to think that scientific rationalism is our best hope of getting us out of this mess (ignoring for the moment that scientific rationalism has created many of the problems that we are now hoping it will now ‘fix’). The problem is that the scientific method is fundamentally flawed and this is because science simply isn’t the ‘pure’ thing we are often told it is – but rather a social activity conducted by less than perfect humans. Science isn’t something that happens in the pure mountain air at the top of Mount Olympus, but rather it happens down here in the fast and dirty world of real life. Science is paid for by people – and often those people aren’t really people, but corporations. Beck gives the wonderful example of the scientists working to determine the safe levels of pollution in the air we breathe. What do they do? Well, first they test the toxin they want to release on you on mice. They run a swag of tests and decide that, for mice, a concentration of whatever doesn’t seem to present too many problems. Let’s say the concentration is 10 (parts per whatever, you know). Ok, but everyone knows that people aren’t mice. The only real way to see the impact on people is to run the experiment on them and see what happens. Except scientists don’t do this – what they do is say that a concentration of 10 is safe and they leave it at that. They don’t check to see if this proved to be right – they say, we tested this on mice and everything was fine. If you are getting sick YOU will need to prove there is a causal relationship between the poisons we are pumping into the air and your illness. And, by the way, we are the experts and you are nobodies – so, don’t expect us to take anything you say all that seriously.And this concentration of 10 is an average concentration – so, scientific rationalism can say, “We have tested the air and the average concentration is 10” – but some areas might have five times that concentration. All the same, scientific rationalism has averaged this and is only interested in this average ‘safe’ concentration – not the real concentration you might be breathing.And this is ‘scientific rationalism’.Or take the medical version. We now live to what were once considered to be ‘Biblical’ ages – three score and ten was once ‘the very best it could get’, now people feel ripped off if that is all they live to. But that means that a lot of the stuff that used to kill us now don’t. But we still have to die. The point being that a lot of us now die slowly and after prolonged illnesses – that is, we now take a long time to die. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no hurry myself. But what is interesting here is how these questions are being decided by increasingly small groups. Questions such as: when does life start, when does life end, how should conception happen? A lot of people didn’t like the idea of IVF, for instance. But rather than us discussing this as a society, medicine was able to decide what would happen next on the basis of their ‘expert’ status. But that means that medical science gets to both come up with the procedure and to evaluate the ethics of applying the procedure. There is no outside review and even if there is the only ones capable of conducting that review are other medical scientists. The potential for conflicts of interest is clear. To question (or even mention there might be a problem) is presented as a kind of luddite-ism. Australia now has lower immunisation rates than many developing nations – Rwanda has a higher rate of immunisation… But this is symptomatic of a culture where people are cynical towards an elitist establishment that hides information behind jargon, treats outsiders as fools and expects unquestioning devotion, even in the face of failures. Again, the myth and the reality of scientific rationalism come into conflict.I found this book powerfully thought-provoking. Like I said, it is quoted and requoted everywhere, from Ball on Education Policy through to Bauman on Liquid Modernity. There is no escaping this work – it is quite literally seminal. You can avoid the risk of appearing ignorant of this book by the easy expedient of reading the damn thing. Trust me, it is no real hardship.

  • Ole
    2019-05-12 05:40

    Fucking germans. Although Beck is originally polish.My teacher said that we should read this book, because it`s well written. It isn`t.Ulrich Beck is a pretencious fool. His book is not scientifical, not well written, and his ideas aren`t new, or original. Still, everyone should read this book. Why? Two reasons.First, the ideas introduced are true. Althought Beck doesn`t supply the scientific proofs, those who came before him did. Read the original sources.Second, these ideas, points to bigger, underlying problems with our society(s).If you aren`t afraid, or at least are left with some questions, after reading this book - then you haven`t read it good enough. We human seem to imagine ourselves, that we live in an economical, social, and knowledgeable equilibrium - where we are the modern society, we are the developed society, we are the society closest to perfection.We aren`t. A modern society, is only modern until it isn`t.As a last note, i would like to mention one thing. Why do all sociologist have to name it x-society? Industrial society, risk society, technology society, knowledge society, changing society - isn`t it a little arrogant assuming that the defining aspect of ones society - is the one thing you are writing about. Fucktards.Which leads me to my biggest problem with Mr. Beck. Risk society - why? Although the modernization process introduces new risks, bigger risks, equitable risks, global risks and so on. This doesn`t necesarry entail a risk-society! Taken into regard that people live longer, better lives, healthier lives, more take education, work, read, live happy lives... Untill the day Ulrich Beck supplies scientific proof, showing that we are exposed of substantially more risks, than any society that has come before - I`m not convinced. Still - it`s a good book. Science!

  • Ariel Littlemermaid
    2019-05-04 06:32

    Some truths and real-world insights, but the rather intricate/ cumbersome language, syntax and phrasing made it so hard to follow. I think one needs an MA in Sociology or Social Sciences to absorb the book 100%.

  • Sauli
    2019-04-30 09:53

    My first 'difficult' non-fiction book in German, I feel fulfilled. Also, if you want to understand 2016, do read this, for a book written in the 80's, it's ominously relevant today . (Called Risk Society in English.)

  • Isadora Wagner
    2019-05-13 06:29

    Hands down the theoretical book I have read about the structure of contemporary western societies. Recommended!

  • Josh
    2019-05-15 03:31

    This book is full of interesting points about the problems of modernization and the resulting implications for society. Of course, because it's a sociology book, those points are buried in pages upon pages of rigid prose. Also, the phrase "On the other hand" appears at least fifty times throughout the text, sometimes twice per page. It's not a bad read, but don't expect it to be a fun one.

  • Jacob
    2019-05-13 02:37

    Risk society might in many ways no longer be an accurate account of how we are intertwined and guided by our perceptions of risk. However, the basic idea that we are guided by our constant quest for mitigation is as true as ever.

  • Fiona
    2019-05-22 08:45

    Really a very interesting book, but like most Sociology text books really could get the point across in half the words used.

  • MertAlaydin
    2019-04-25 06:55

    In rough terms, Beck examines nation of risk whose reflections could be found in every inch of daily life struggles. As being a complete alien to social science studies and having no background at all, yet maintaining a sharp critical attitude, most of the ideas were hard to grasp at a first glance. I guess I'd better to read it with enlarged background information,e.g. rationalization of Max Weber or class theories of Marx, each time in order to obtain a full comprehension. Only then, one can see complete logical chain which makes the entire reading activity hopefully a more joyful one.Nevertheless, he touches upon a point which was quite stimulating for me. Having incapability of predicting risks with their outcomes, and at the same time being the number one manufacturer of them, hard sciences are exposed to heavy criticism, financed by governmental organisations which are inherently connected to politics of status-quo. One crucial example of desperate and unassisted position of hard sciences, as he stated, is a trickery situation regarding threshold values of harmful chemicals to the environment which are still not so that open to discussion even today and most of the effects remain still unknown. Therefore, we live in a society that is fully occupied by varying sort and magnitude of risks, ranging from environmental concerns to financial insecurities depending on class level to which one belongs.Considering this pioneering work was written thirty years ago and it is still possible to observe most of the arguments still matching with the realities of today, it is on the way, or already, to be a classic of its field.

  • Daniel
    2019-04-25 04:47

    Every so often I read a book in which the author introduces a grand theory of everything. These books are the non-fiction equivalent of a Dan Brown novel; the ideas are compelling in the moment but leave no lasting impression. Overconnected (Davidow) and The End of Power (Naim) are examples from this year alone. Beck reads more like classic literature, it's a struggle in the moment but the ideas and themes endear.Sure, he illustrates his theory with conservation examples that now seem dated. But his prescience saves the book, he was held back by the lack of real world examples to illustrate his theory. The risk society is very much a reality. For example, technology companies experiment with products that re-engineer social relations and leave politicians with the damage as a fait accompli, much like industries did with pollution.I would love to see someone describe 2017 using Beck's framework. It would give a far more fulfilling account than the grand theories of everything that populate airport shelves.

  • Leonardo
    2019-05-26 03:51

    Hace algún tiempo, Ulrich Beck desplegó la noción de «sociedad de riesgo», centrándose en cómo nuestra posición subjetiva fundamental ha pasado de «tengohambre» a «tengo miedo». Lo que actualmente genera miedo es la falta de transparencia causal de las amenazas que se suponen: no tanto la trascendencia de las causas, como su inmanencia (no sabemos hasta qué punto somos nosotros los que ocasionamos el peligro). No estamos impotentes frente a algún Otro divino o natural; nos estamos volviendo demasiado poderosos, sin llegar a entender nuestro propio poder. Los riesgos afloran por todas partes, y confiamos en los científicos para que se ocupen de ellos. Pero ahí se encuentra el problema: los científicos / expertos son los sujetos que supuestamente saben, pero no saben. El devenir científico de nuestras sociedades tiene una inesperada característica doble: mientras que confiamos cada vez más en expertos, incluso en los dominios más recónditos de nuestra experiencia (la sexualidad y la religión), esta universalización solamente transforma el campo del conocimiento científico en un inconsistente y antagonista no Todos. La vieja división platónica entre el pluralismo de opiniones (doxa) y una única verdad científica universal es reemplazada por un mundo de «opiniones de expertos» en conflicto entre ellas. Y, como siempre sucede, semejante universalización supone la autorreflexividad: como agudamente observa Beck, las amenazas actuales no son primordialmente externas (naturales), sino que son autogeneradas por actividades humanas vinculadas a avances científicos (las consecuencias ecológicas de la industria, las consecuencias psíquicas de la biogenética sin control, etc.). De esta forma las ciencias son simultáneamente la fuente(s) del riesgo (una de ellas), el único medio que tenemos para entender y definir el riesgo, así como la fuente(s) (una de ellas) de afrontar la amenaza, de encontrar una salida; la cita de Wagner «Die Wunde schliest der Speer nur, der Sie schlug» («la herida solo puede ser cicatrizada por la lanza que la causó») adquiere así una nueva relevancia. Viviendo en el Final de los Tiempos Pág.371

  • Sergei_kalinin
    2019-05-22 04:28

    Книга сравнительно старенькая. Написана фактически живым классиком :) современной немецкой философии и социологии Ульрихом Беком. В основу книги легли тренды и проблемы Германии середины 90-х, но, как ни странно, для мира (и России особенно), книга не потеряла своей актуальности.Сразу скажу, за что поставил "троечку": 1) читается архи-тяжело, через авторско-переводческий язык просто не продраться; 2) местами аргументация автора ой как хромает! :)Про что книга? Собственно, основных идей две: 1) современный пост-индустриальный-пост-модерн производит уже не общественные блага, а риски (наиболее наглядный из которых - экологический); 2) главный источник рисков - модернизация всего и вся в современном обществе, зашедшая в некий логически необходимый и неизбежный тупик. Главная тенденция современности - рефлексивная (т.е. направленная на себя же) модернизация. Причем эта рефлексивность м.б. и со знаком минус (усиливающая и создающая риски), и со знаком плюс (упреждающая риски). Риски и рефлексивность Бек иллюстрирует разными соц.феноменами. Очень понравилось, как он пишет про современный рынок труда, современную семью, про субполитику. Довольно справедливо проходится по современной науке, которая ныне не убирает, а плодит риски. Отлично написано про индивидуализм (в лучших традициях франкфуртской школы).Но слабовато (на мой взгляд) он обосновывает сами риски (особенно экологические и технологические). Примеры не очень корректны, факты довольно тенденциозны. Плюс есть очень много сомнений, что риски станут когда-либо "главной повесткой дня" человечества. Во всяком случае каких-либо вразумительных идей в книге по этой теме нет (

  • Borum
    2019-04-27 04:45

    도가 말해질 수 있다면 영원한 도가 아니고이름이 불려질 수 있다면 영원한 이름이 아니다.이름이 없는 것은 만물의 처음이고이름이 있는 것은 만물의 어머니이다그러므로 항상 욕심이 없을 때 그 미묘함을 보고항상 욕심이 있을 때 그 밝게 드러난 모습을 본다두 가지는 한곳에서 나와서이름은 다르지만 가리키는 것은 같으니현묘하고 또 현묘해서모든 미묘함의 문이 된다.道可道也, 非恒道也. 名可名也, 非恒名也. 无名, 萬物之始也. 有名, 萬物之母也. 故恒无欲也, 以觀其妙. 恒有欲也, 以觀其所皦. 兩者同出, 異名同謂, 玄之又玄, 衆妙之門울리히 벡의 '위험 사회'에서 위험의 비가시성이 가시화되어가며 위험의 잠재적 단계가 끝나가고 있다고 하며 미래와 과학의 계산가능성과 평가가능성이 증대하고 있는 것을 보며 노자의 이 글이 연상된다.无名, 萬物之始也. 有名, 萬物之母也. 이름이 없는 것은 만물의 처음이고이름이 있는 것은 만물의 어머니다.우리는 가시화되어가는 기존의 비가시적 부수효과와 예측할 수 없던 위험들을 계산하고 평가하며 예측하게 되며 새로운 세상의 시초에 그치지 않고 그것을 더욱더 확장하고 키워나가는 모태적인 움직임을 보고 있는 게 아닐까?故恒无欲也, 以觀其妙. 恒有欲也, 以觀其所皦그러므로 항상 욕심이 없을 때 그 미묘함을 보고항상 욕심이 있을 때 그 밝게 드러난 모습을 본다아마 아직도 제대로 이해하지 못하고 있는 부분이고 항상 갸우뚱하던 부분이었는데..이 곳에서 욕심이 있을 때 밝게 드러난 (또는 드러나는 듯하거나 부각되었던) 근대화 및 산업화와 함께 발전한 우리의 욕구가 앞으로는 위험에 대한 불안으로 인해 완전히 없어지지는 않겠지만 숨죽이는 욕심 속에 양성, 계급, 과학, 정치 등 사회 전반의 모순과 상통과 미묘함이 보이게 되는 것일까..번역이 너무나도 껄끄러워서 가끔 정말 책을 집어던지고 싶은 생각이 들었지만 원서는 참 잘 썼을 것 같다..(적어도 영문 번역의 발췌문을 통해서 짐작컨대.. 독문은 알 수가 없으니..^^;;)40불 넘게 내가 투자할 만한 가치가 있을까... 음.. 일단 통장에 여유 좀 생기면 고민 좀 해보고...ㅋㅋ 그리고 다음에 다시 읽을 때는 여기서 언급된 맑스나 베버, 쿤 등의 저서를 좀더 읽어보고 읽어야겠다.

  • Dan Richter
    2019-05-21 07:38

    Kursorische Beschreibungen aktueller (1986) Probleme statt theoretischer Genauigkeit. Als Soziologe sollte man ja immer skeptisch werden, wenn jemand die "neue" Gesellschaft als Bindestrich-Gesellschaft bezeichnet.Das Originelle an dem Buch ist freilich, dass er neue Gefährdungslagen als *ein* Phänomen begreift.Aber die alten Schichtungsprobleme haben sich auch als weiterhin stabil erwiesen - mit und ohne ökologische Risiken.

  • Gözde Yeşilsefa
    2019-05-20 09:41

    Saat olmuş 05.31 ben hala ders çalışıyorum. Aslında Beck amcamın bu kadar lafı dolandırmasına gerek yokmuş. Ben "Risk Toplumu Nedir?" sorumun cevabını öğrenmek için ve anlamak için bu kadar acı çekmemeliydim. Resmen gözlerim yerinden çıkıp beni dövecekler artık. Risk toplumu nedir? Modernitenin doğurduğu yeni çağın önlenemez ve öngörülemez tehlikelerle karşı karşıya gelme tehlikesidir. Bu kadar basite indirgemek istemezdim ama saat geç oldu.

  • Daniel
    2019-05-18 06:30

    Clear theses, unclearly presented.

  • Amber
    2019-05-11 05:54