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Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (Published in association with Theory, Culture & Society) Paperback – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Sage Publications UK (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803983468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803983465
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


This is a challenging book with a bold thesis which fully deserves the widespread attention it has provoked since its publication. In it Beck not only sets out a philosophically informed sociological theory of contemporary Western societies but also provides a framework within which environmental politics can be understood, explained and developed. While firm in criticising those who claim Western societies are "postmodern", Beck also offers an immanent critique of modernity's failed promises. What Beck claims is that contemporary society is at the cusp of a transition between "industrial society" and "risk society".... To conclude, "risk society" could be viewed as the "morning after" the industrial night(mare) before, with "reflexive modernization" as the "hair of the dog", a necessary but not sufficient condition for dealing with risk. A sobering analysis indeed!
Environmental Politics

Thoroughly attuned to complexity in ecopolitical affairs... dissatisfied with the state of these affairs... ponder[s] the problematic relationship between science and politics... offer[s] insight into how to move beyond an unsatisfactory status quo in the search for ecological rationality or sustainability.... sensitive to the ecological hazards of modernity... Risk Society appeared in German in 1986, and its substantial impact in German social science looks set to be repeated in the English-speaking world. To Beck, the contemporary crisis is not of modernity but within modernity. The question is... how to make the best of modernity; as Beck puts it, to move from the semi-modernity of industrial to modernity proper
Policy Sciences

Risk Society is incredibly thought-provoking and has quickly established itself as one of the most significant works of contemporary social analysis. A book of enormous breadth, it raises several issues of critical importance in contemporary society.... there are many memorable phrases and passages throughout the book which lead colour to the disturbing subject matter
The Ecologist

Provocative. Beck's discussion of the politics of risk societies is particularly insightful, and contributes to a more complete and critical understanding of advanced modern societies
Political Studies

Ulrich Beck's remarkable book Risk Society gives one cause to think again about whether a new model might not be becoming available for thinking about our times, in not an unhopeful spirit. Beck's book, published in Germany in 1986 and successful enough there to have sold more than 60,000 copies and turned its author into a regular columinst... Risk Society displays a real sociological imagination
Radical Philosophy

Beck's book, in the tradition of German critical theory, provides a panoramic and abstract overview of contemporary society as dominated by technical risk... The greatest strengths of Risk Society are its rich theorizing and its global, often original, insights into the nature of contemporary social forces. Beck explains that society fights the `devil of hunger' with the `Beelzebub of multiplying risks'. He also claims that, in industrial society, the driving force is `I am hungry' whereas in risk society it is `I am afraid'. Such gripping conceptualisations are the mark of a distinguished essaysist, as Beck is. He astutely observes that we have succeeded in being skeptical about the methods of science but not about the application of science. Likewise Beck says that in the risk society we have replaced the politics of voting with faith in progress
Environmental Values

Beck puts forward an intriguing argument: global endangerment is replacing class society and its alliances as an organizing principle. Whereas in earlier class-based societies only the proletariat was victimized, in the emerging worldwide risk society all groups - even the rich - are threatened...He makes the important point that risk and class positions overlap on a national and an international scale...Risk Society is a bold and imaginative treatise...vivid passages and sparkling metaphors...scholars, graduate students and patient general readers concerned with risk, social theory, or global social change will find reading it well worth their effort...(the) book addresses the cultural and moral dimensions of risk perception with compelling arguments. (It) also makes clear that social theory cannot truly explain contemporary society without carefully accounting for the roles played by science, technology, and cultural construcitons of risk
Contemporary Sociology

This is a book of central political and social importance; it is vital that it triggers off and animates public discussion in this country as it did in Germany. After all, the greatest of risks our risk-infested society carries is the indifference to the risk aspects of our individual, sectional and global actions
Times Higher Education Supplement

This analysis of the condition of Western societies made a 'big splash' when it was first published in German... The English translation will most probably help this important text of contemporary sociology to find its place among other typifications of society as postindustrial or postmodern... Here is a book which is very relevant to current debates about the social dimensions of the so-called 'post-modern society
Social Compass

About the Author

Ulrich Beck is Professor of Sociology at the University of Munich. He is the author of Counterpoison (1991) and Ecological Enlightenment (1992).

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In advanced modernity the social production of wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risks. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The only thing stopping me from giving this book 5 stars is its occasional complexity / impenetrability. The writing style can be hard going at times.

That said, a genuinely thought-provoking, complex and brilliant book. I found I had to try three times before I could finally get through it - something clearly clicked within me at some point, and the third time I approached it (feeling somewhat wary) I found it a relative breeze. Note 'relative'. I got through it in three days of unemployment with a pencil to hand, making pretty extensive notes. I found that I had to stop several times as it was getting a bit much.

However, there aren't that many books that have had me just sitting and thinking something over for ten minute stretches at a time. Digesting Beck's writing was one thing; pondering the consequences and ramifications of his theories of risk and reflexive modernisation was quite another. There was some stuff in there that left me astounded; with clear mental pictures that I would find it hard to translate into words. One example that had me thinking for some time - Marxist inequality and Marxist concepts in a post-industrial, classless society. How can the inequalities and differentiations within society remain alongside the divisions - how can Marxist theory still be broadly applicable - only in a world without class, without solidarity, without many of the precepts of classical Marxist thought.

I have come across Beck in one-line references time and time again in my chosen field of study (criminology). Nothing could prepare me for the scope and brilliance of this book.
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By John Grace on 18 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
excellent product, excellent service
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Risk Society : A departure from Rational Risk 12 Mar. 2007
By Hooman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ulrich Beck argues that industrial society that used to be known as the distribution of goods has now been moved toward distributions of risk and hazard named as risk society. In other words in the advanced modern world, the social production of wealth systematically goes hand in hand with social production of risks. Accordingly, the problems and conflicts of distribution in a society of shortages are over layered by problems and conflicts that arise from over-production, definition and distribution of scientifically and technologically produced risks, says Beck. Then He argues that science has changed from an activity in the service of truth to an activity without truth. Likewise the consequences of this reflexive modernization contain a tendency toward globalization and ignore the boundaries of nation states which lastly results in continuous global endangerment.

The book also describes the way that the general forms of social life has moved from traditional societies in the mid 18th century to early modernity in 20th century and lastly toward reflexive modernity in the late 20th century which individualism is widespread. No longer, unskilled and uneducated people required and instead of high value on long term loyalty to the corporate institutions of the 20th century a shift to the self as the primary agent (i.e. a shift to I) had taken place. To sum up, Beck gives a new identity to risk which long has been dominated by rational doctrine. Manufactured Risks which are at the heart of the Modern society have become a taboo. The modern corporations have build a "Family of Myths" among which the most important is the "Myth of Rationality".
Five Stars 21 April 2015
By lorraine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
just as described ;-)
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Three Stars 13 Oct. 2014
By Julie Mercier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book is a bit dense & hard to get through.
13 of 47 people found the following review helpful
risk society towards a new modernity 2 Sept. 2000
By pushyam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Book consists of two interrelated theses. one reflexive modernization and other issue of risk. The concept of risk is directly bound to the concept of reflexive modernization.It shows how classical modernization is different from reflexive modernization. Risk may be defined as a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernization itself.The risk and hazards of today is of global nature of their threat to people,animals and plants .It results in global industrial pollution,contamination of air,water,foodstuffs etc. and also sickness ,death of plants, animals and people. Another dimension of risk is social transformation with modernity.There is a process of individualization deprive class distints but inequalities by no means disappear.There is a shift from the system of standardised full employment to the system of flexible and pluralised under employment.Risk of scientific development increases disproportionately faster than solution. With the globalisation of industrial society political system looses its function as modernization, technoeconomic system changes the realms of social life and on other hand political systens pre-supposes condition of the system.
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