Since his incredibly influential 1986 work, RISK SOCIETY: TOWARDS A NEW MODERNITY, Beck has continued arguing that there has been a fundamental shift in the nature of modern society, from the first industrial society that emerged in the nineteenth century to our own contemporary modern world. The first industrial society, he says, was focused primarily on wealth distribution and expansion, because its foremost preoccupation was the problem of scarcity, class divides, want. But, by the closing decades of the twentieth century, he contends, we have moved to a new kind of modernity, one that is focused primarily on the distribution and management of risk, risks that are not simply alleviated by but in fact produced by the very technological, economic and political processes of modern civilization. Hence, our basic preoccupation has become the problem no longer of scarcity but rather safety and stability, meaning we are focused less on goods and more on fear. He makes many intriguing arguments to flesh out this perspective.
In an essay of 500-1200 words, please write a response to the following questions on our reading on Beck’s “Living in the World Risk Society”.
Beck argues that we are all today living in what he calls a ‘world risk society’. In what sense is our society more of a ‘risk’ society, one defined by ‘risk’, than earlier societies? Give examples of the ecological, technological, economic and political risks that might substantiate Beck’s claim that the ‘risk society’ is an inherently global one and that its risks are produced by the very modern technological, economic and political processes that are supposed to allow for societal welfare and advance. Beck contends that the cosmopolitan character of the risk society has an ‘Enlightenment function’. What does he mean? How does his vision of ‘Enlightenment’ differ from Kant’s? What do you think Beck would say about the pandemic we are living through? Do you think it is possible that we can move away from our individualized forms of ‘risk management’ towards more collective cosmopolitan decision making?
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