From Industrial Modernity to Risk Modernity? A Critical Discussion of the Theory of the ‘Risk Society’ 1
One of the most obvious objections to the hypothesis of a ‘risk society’ is that we have always been confronted with risk: earthquakes, floods, plague, cholera etc. And not only have we always been confronted with risk, one can even claim that in some respects our existence today is less risky than it was just a hundred years ago. The way to determine whether the consequences of a given action constitute a risk or a danger has to do with the question of who makes the decision. For the one who decides the consequences of the action appear as risk; for the one who is affected the consequences appear as danger. In Risk Society Beck speaks indiscriminately of risk and danger; in addition he points out the difficulties in connecting given risks with certain causes. In late modernity, however, we are increasingly confronted with new types of risk, namely ‘high-consequence risks’ and ‘manufactured uncertainty’.