The Sociology of Risk - SO854

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
View Timetable
7 20 (10) PROF A Burgess







1. Introduction: The Sociology of Risk
2. The Social Semantics of Risk in Historical Perspective
3. Ulrich Beck and the ‘Risk Society’
4. The ‘Cultural Theory’ of Risk
5. Governmentality and Risk
6. Reading / Essay Writing Week
7. The ‘Perception of Risk’ in Sociological Perspective
8. The ‘Management of Risk’ in Sociological Perspective
9. Risk in Mass Media
10. Risk, Subjectivity and ‘the endangered self’
11. Transnational Risks and Civil Society
12. World Risk Society: Retrospect and Prospect


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Teaching will be by means of one two hour session each week.



Method of assessment

One coursework essay of up to 5,000 words.

Indicative reading

• Jakob Arnoldi, Risk (Oxford: Polity, 2009)
• Ulrich Beck, Risk society: towards a new modernity (Sage, 1992)
• Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: an essay on the selection of technical and environmental dangers (University of California, 1982)
• Deborah Lupton, Risk (London Routledge,1996)
• John Adams (1995) Risk (London : UCL Press, 1995)
• Nick Pidgeon et al. The Social Amplification of Risk (Cambridge UP, 2003)
• Taylor-Gooby, Peter and O. Zinn, Jens (eds.) (2006): Risk in Social Science. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
• Zinn, Jens (ed.) (2008): Social Theories of Risk and Uncertainty: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The unit will provide students with an introductory overview of contemporary theoretical debates on the social character of ‘risk society’. Critical attention will be focused upon the theoretical perspectives that inform empirical studies of risk perceptions and behaviors. Students will debate the political values and ethical concerns that inform contrasting sociological accounts of ‘risk’.

Objectives: on completion of the module, students should;

• have acquired a clear understanding of contrasting sociological approaches to the study of ‘risk’ in society;
• be able to identify and critically discuss the political values that underpin sociological theories of ‘risk society’
• be able to recognise the theoretical perspectives that inform empirical studies of risk perceptions and behaviours
• be able to communicate in written form the complexities of sociological debates on risk.

Successful completion of the module will support the following aims of the programme regarding intellectual and subject-specific skills by providing students with: An ability to gather data and information from secondary sources; an ability to present sociologically reasoned arguments; an ability to communicate opinions and ideas to a critical audience; an ability to critically apply social science to the assessment, analysis and management of risk; an ability to explore the interrelationship between theory, method, policy and practice; an ability to critically evaluate the sociological significance and value of research data

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