Risk and Society - SOCI6590

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The course is concerned with the relatively new ideas of living in a 'risk society' which theoretically capture the heightened sensitivity within Western societies to the numerous 'risks' which shape our lives. The course will explore different dimensions of risk's impact on everyday life, and then examine key ways in which political culture is being reorganised around risk aversion. The course will suggest that heightened perception of risk is here to stay, and is leading to a reorganisation of society in important areas.

Indicative lecture List

1. Britain, Europe and the New Risk Society
2. An Integrated Approach to Understanding Risk
3. Risk and the Interpersonal: Risky Relationships
4. Risk and the Family: Children and the Curbing of Activity
5. Risk and Public Life: the Terrorist Threat
6. The Risk Management of Everything
7. Accidents, Blame and the Culture of Inquiries
8. The Precautionary Principle
9. 'Compensation Culture'
10. Towards Global Risk Aversion?: The Case of Japan
11. Course Summary


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private Study hours: 128
Total study hours for the module: 150


All sociology and social policy programmes, cultural studies

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework – essay or book review (1500 words) - 30%
Coursework – essay (2500 words) - 50%
Coursework – seminar participation – 20%
Students will be assessed on the basis of an essay or book review (up to 1500 words) for 30% of the assessment, an essay (up to 2500 words) for 50% of the assessment and 20% for seminar participation and performance.

Reassessment methods

100% Coursework

Indicative reading

• O' Riordan, T. and Cameron, J., eds. 1994. Interpreting the Precautionary Principle. London: Earthscan.
• Current editions of Health, Risk and Society; Risk Analysis; and Journal of Risk Research
• Adam Burgess (2004) Cellular Phones, Public Fears and a Culture of Precaution (CUP)
• Deborah Lupton (1999), Risk (Routledge)
• Ulrich Beck (1992), Risk society: towards a new modernity (Sage)
• Branden B. Johnson and Vincent T. Covello, (1987). The Social and cultural Construction of Risk. (Reidel)
• Frank Furedi (1992), Culture of fear: risk-taking and the morality of low expectation (Continuum)
• Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky (1982), Risk and Culture: An essay on the selection of technical and environmental dangers
• John Adams (1995) Risk. (UCL Press)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the key concepts associated with the sociology of risk
8.2 Recognize and interpret the key theoretical accounts of risk perception
8.3 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of how risk has been socially, politically and culturally constructed
8.4 Locate risk perceptions within the context of an understanding of modernity
8.5 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the impact of risk perception upon aspects of everyday life
8.6 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of institutional responses - from risk analysis and management, to broad policy approaches
8.7 Critically evaluate and interpret quantitative information relating to risk (including risk ratios or odds ratios)

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Demonstrate enhanced research skills, particularly using online sources and e-journals
9.2 Present arguments orally through delivering and responding to seminar presentations.
9.3 Demonstrate that existing skills acquired in organising information in a clear and coherent manner will be further enhanced through essay
writing, and seminar-based group discussion of completed essays
9.4 Demonstrate training in the ability to digest, critically evaluate and disseminate complex theoretical ideas
9.5 Display progression in ability to analyse and interpret basic statistical data drawn from research and official sources


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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