The term "risk" occurs throughout contemporary social analysis and political commentary. It is now virtually a legal requirement that large organizations throughout the world establish formal risk assessment and risk management procedures. Increasingly dense communication and media networks alert huge numbers of people and organizations to a widening range of threats and possibilities. A basic understanding of the risks themselves may require specific technical knowledge of basic chemistry, or the psychology of motivation, or of contrasting interpretations of injustices deep within the past. However, at the same time as attending to specific risks, there are general questions such as those above which invite reflection. This wide-ranging and concisely written text is devoted to these general questions, exploring issues such as the measurement of risk in its social context, the idea that the mass media or the political opposition always exaggerate risk, and the notion that the advice of the expert is the best we can get as far as risks are concerned.
It asks if there are more risks now and whether a certain level of risk is inevitable or even desirable, and considers for example whether interference with nature has led us to a world which is just too full of risks. Each chapter in the book builds towards a basic picture of risk in the contemporary world, and of the place of the concept of risk within the social sciences today.
Roy Boyne is Professor of Sociology and Vice-Provost of the Stockton Campus at the University of Durham. He has been teaching, researching and publishing in the field of risk for some years, most recently in association with Ulrich Beck. He also writes on French Philosophy and on European cinema. His previous book, Subject Society and Culture (2001), explored some of the representations of the contemporary human subject within social theory, art and cinema.