chapter  2
21 Pages

Social indicators of anxiety

It is now a matter of sociological common sense to identify ourselves as living through a period of acute insecurity and high anxiety. Indeed, many would recognise the condition of anxiety as the most prominent component of the prevailing cultural consciousness of modern times (Kroker and Cook 1988; Giddens 1991: i-vii; Beck 1992: 49; Pahl 1995; Dunant and Porter 1996; Furedi 1997; Vail et al. 1999). As a matter of cultural commentary the brute facts of anxiety appear to be almost beyond dispute. Where the mass media supply us with a relentless flow of information on alarming social problems and hazardous events, one may well presume that the majority of people are readily convinced that levels of anxiety surrounding the security of our world are now more pronounced than ever before. However, while we might all possess good reasons to be anxious, these do not necessarily translate into feelings of anxiety (Wilkinson 1999). While ‘anxiety’ may well be recognised as a theme which is most consonant with the cultural narrative of late modernity, it is quite another thing to identify public discourses on anxiety as a clear indication of the extent to which people actually feel distressed by the quality of their lives. Our social interactions with popular discourses on the anxieties of modern societies need not make us prone to experience this condition for ourselves.