2 The Risk Society Thesis: The End of the World As We Know It?

It seems we are left with a conceptual inconsistency: the risk society thesis does not comply with the usual criteria of social science and yet appears to be considered valuable by its own social scientist detractors. I now argue that the reason for this is that we have so far been getting the nature of the risk society wrong. For the mere reason, the author is a sociologist, we mechanically defined his work as a purely analytical social scientific theory, whereas, as I will try to show here, it is probably better defined as a speculative attempt to unravel today’s “zeitgeist” and should be handled as such.

approach, UIrich Becks risk society thesis.

I shall start with the assessment of the realist side of the argument (i.e. the nature of world have changed) and then turn to the constructivist one. First,by simply reading Beck’s publications on the risk society and the world risk society (1992, 1997, 2002 etc.) one can easily notice the author markedly lightness on empirics. Beck indeed prefers declarative sentences (Leiss, 1992) to demonstrations based on thorough historical evidence (Mythen, 2007). More importantly, subsequent empirical studies have demonstrated a very partial applicability of the thesis to the facts. Thus, although discussion around the risk society has been mostly theoretical, some scholars have conducted empirical research on it, especially on the world risk society thesis. In this global version of the risk society, Beck maintains that risks being now global, they tend to call for global solutions, allowing for the emergence of a world risk community.


Sociology Essays - Risk Society Theory

——(1999), ‘Risk, Calculable and Incalculable’, in D. Lupton, ed., Risk and Sociocultural The-

More broadly speaking, this latter question carries the problems and the applicability of Beck’s claims to concrete issues of security and, more deeply, the nature of those claims. Given this ambiguity, I pay particular attention to assessing the risk society thesis on the ground it is trying to defend. I aim to identify the actual nature of what Beck tried to say, and assess it accordingly. I believe it is only by answering this fundamental question that one can truly measure, on solid ground, the contribution of the argument discussed here and the subsequent claims made on war and security.