Risk, uncertainty and fear
DOI link for Risk, uncertainty and fear
Risk, uncertainty and fear book
It is almost obligatory these days that any text which addresses contemporary social and political issues has a chapter on risk. So here is mine. This chapter revisits some of the themes and issues addressed previously. It does so from the perspective of risk and illustrates the interwoven social and psychological complexity, for the middle class, of the contemporary education enterprise. The dualism of risk and fear in the conscience collective of the middle class, as related to the problematics of social reproduction (see Chapter 2), is at least one reason for the massively increased role of education within politics and the media. As Douglas (1994: 3) opines, ‘it is hard to maintain seriously that the perception of risk is private’ and Giddens (1998) asserts that we now live in a ‘risk climate’. The risks in play here lie somewhere between global and everyday risks. However, while Beck (1992) and Giddens have written the sociological headlines of the risk society, their representations of risk have a number of weaknesses and limitations (see Dean 1999; Crook 1999). In particular, ‘Beck’s approach to risk can be characterised as totalising, realist and relying on a uniform conception of risk’ (Dean 1999: 131). While I would not demur from his realism, Beck’s portrayal of risk as an ontological condition of all humans fails to take adequate account either of the social differentiation of risk or of the existence of different regimes of risk and risk management. Therefore the discussion here draws to a greater extent on the more nuanced work of Crook (1999), and to a lesser extent Douglas (1994), rather than the ‘super-realists’ Beck and Giddens. Crook’s conceptual framework provides a language for thinking about the relationship between risk-regimes and different forms of risk management behaviour.1 In other words, it creates a theoretical space in which it
is possible to think about both the role of the social actor and the role of the state. I shall get back to the role of the state at the end of the chapter but can do no more than make some theoretical gestures here to what needs to be a more thorough and extended theoretical and empirical exercise.