"Risk Society" consists of two interrelated theses: reflexive modernization and risk. It upturns the essentially negative concepts of "post-industrial", "post-Enlightenment", "post-Fordist" and "postmodern" and replaces them by a coherent picture of global social change, and challenges Habermas's notion of modernization as Enlightenment project. Beck's theory of reflexive modernization has its origins in the sociology and critique of scientific knowledge. It applies throughout society and implies a changing relationship between social structures and social agents, leading to the individualization of decisions previously imposed by society. Underpinning the analysis is the notion of the "risk society". The changing nature of society's relation to production and distribution is related to the environmental impact as an all-embracing global economy based on scientific and technical knowledge becomes more central to social organization and social conflict.
Within this framework, Ulrich Beck develops an overview of other key elements of current social development: the centrality of the political economy of knowledge; the changing roles of class and gender in a new work environment; and the politics (both personal and public) of the risk society. The book is aimed at students and academics in social theory, sociology and political theory.
Ulrich Beck is Professor of Sociology at the University of Munich. He is the author of Counterpoison (1991) and Ecological Enlightenment (1992).