Risk and Society - SO659

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Autumn 6 15 (7.5) PROF A Burgess checkmark-circle


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 basic concepts of risk, hazard and probability and how risk is managed and communicated. Topics will include risk and globalization, and risk and the media. Developments will be examined through key examples such as ‘mad cow’ disease and genetically modified ‘frankenfoods’. The course will suggest that heightened perception of risk is here to stay, and is leading to a reorganisation of society in important areas.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

2-3 hours lecture and discussion periods per week and 1 hour drop in session

Method of assessment

Essay or book review (up to 1500 words) for 30% of the assessment, an essay (up to 2500 words) for 50% of the assessment, 5% for attendance and 15% for group presentation.

Indicative reading

Jakob Arnoldi, Risk (Oxford: Polity, 2009)
Christopher Booker and Richard North, Scared to Death (London Continuum, 2009
Nick Pidgeon et al.. The Social Amplification of Risk (Cambridge UP, 2003)
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge (London: Penguin 2008)
Adam Burgess, Cellular Phones, Public Fears and a Culture of Precaution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technical and Environmental Dangers (University of California Press, 1982)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
Understand the key concepts associated with the sociology of risk
Recognise and interpret the key theoretical accounts of risk perception
Understand how risk has been socially, politically and culturally constructed
Be able to locate risk perceptions within the context of an understanding of modernity and its social consequences
Understand the impact of risk perception upon aspects of everyday life
Understand institutional responses - from risk analysis and management, to broad policy approaches


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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