Wet floor sign in the sea

New Frank Furedi book examines the role of fear in the modern age

Kent sociologist Professor Frank Furedi has published a new book entitled How Fear Works that follows on from his widely acclaimed 1997 work Culture of Fear.

Professor Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, returns to the theme of fear to examine how much of what he predicted in Culture of Fear has now come true as fear has become central to modern society – from terrorism and the economy to parenting and dieting.

On the topic of parenting, for example, he notes how new parents are both simultaneously told of the risk of children getting skin cancer if they are not protected from the sun, and the risk of vitamin D deficiency if they do not get enough sun.

Similarly, the ‘fear’ of exams that was always seen as a normal part of childhood and the education process has been rebranded by some as a psychological syndrome and cited as another example of mental health issues in children that have reached ‘breaking point’ in society.

The rise of such outlooks has been paralleled by the cultivation of helplessness and passivity – that the threats society faces are incalculable and cannot be managed or maintained.

As a result of this, Professor Furedi argues that one of the main drivers of the culture of fear is unravelling of moral authority. Fear appears to provide a provisional solution to moral uncertainty and is for that reason embraced by a variety of interests, parties and individuals.

He predicts that until society finds a more positive orientation towards uncertainty the politicisation of fear will flourish.

The book is published by Bloomsbury and available from 14 June.