Risk and Society - SOCI6590

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Adam 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.


Contact hours

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

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Coursework – essay or book review (1500 words) - 30%
Coursework – essay (2500 words) - 50%
Coursework – seminar participation – 20%

Reassessment methods
100% Coursework

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

The intended subject specific learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1.Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the key concepts associated with the sociology of risk
2.Recognize and interpret the key theoretical accounts of risk perception
3.Demonstrate a systematic understanding of how risk has been socially, politically and culturally constructed
4.Be able to locate risk perceptions within the context of an understanding of modernity
5.Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the impact of risk perception upon aspects of everyday life
6.Demonstrate a systematic understanding of institutional responses - from risk analysis and management, to broad policy approaches
7.Critically evaluate and interpret quantitative information relating to risk (including risk ratios or odds ratios)

The intended generic learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1.Demonstrate enhanced research skills, particularly using online sources and e-journals
2.Present arguments orally through delivering and responding to seminar presentations.
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
4.Demonstrate training in the ability to digest, critically evaluate and disseminate complex theoretical ideas
5.Display progression in ability to analyse and interpret basic statistical data drawn from research and official sources


  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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