Portrait of Professor Iain Wilkinson

Professor Iain Wilkinson

Professor of Sociology


Professor Iain Wilkinson’s research involves him working across a range of fields that include sociological theory, the sociological of health and illness, the sociology of humanitarianism, the sociology of the body and emotions, the sociology of risk and anxiety, the sociology of mass media and the history of sociology. 

Professor Wilkinson’s work concerns a range of issues relating to problems of social suffering. He explores how individuals are socially disposed to interpret and respond to problems of human suffering. He attends to occasions where encounters with the problem of suffering are involved in changing people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. This involves him investigating the cultural history of modern humanitarianism and humanitarian social movements. Here he is concerned to understand the social and cultural conditions that give rise to humanitarian moral feelings as well as the role played by the politics of compassion in public life. He is also attentive to the impact of humanitarian culture, politics and practice upon terms of sociological thought and methods of social investigation.

Research interests

Professor Wilkinson’s research attempts to document and explain how people’s experience of ‘the problem of suffering’ changes through history and between societies. He is interested in the potential for the incidence human suffering to operate as force of social and cultural change. This draws a focus to occasions where encounters with the problem of suffering are involved in changing people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. It also concerns an attempt to understand how cultural perceptions of human suffering are implicated within the actions taken in response to the needs of others. He is concerned to understand the social and cultural conditions that give rise to humanitarian moral feelings as well as role played by the cultural politics of compassion in public life. Professor Wilkinson is also tracing the impact of humanitarianism upon the culture of sociology. These interests are explored in various publications addressed to problems of ‘social suffering’ and in studies that explore the potential for documents of human suffering to be fashioned as a distinct form of social inquiry.


At undergraduate level, Professor Wilkinson teaches modules on social theory. 

He is programme convenor for the taught Sociology MA and convenes a module on social suffering.


Professor Wilkinson is particularly keen to supervise research students with interests relating to any of his research interests.

In recent years, Professor Wilkinson has supervised projects on Norbert Elias’ theory of the civilizing process, the social practice of compassion in everyday life, the sociology of utopia in relation to intergenerational developments in leftist politics, the social experience of isolation in remote island communities, the impact of experiences of volunteering on young people’s notions of citizenship, new forms of on-line humanitarian activism, and the impact of chronic pain conditions on the experience of academic identity. 


Honorary positions

  • Visiting Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra 2016- 
  • Visiting scholar to the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University 2008-9. 
  • Visiting scholar to the Department of Anthropology, Monash University, 2009. 

Professional activities 

  • Member of the International Assessment Board (IAB) of the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) 2011, 2012 and 2013 
  • Member of the Executive Committee of the British Sociological Association 2003-7.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Health Risk and Society 2006- 
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Sociology 2002-6 
  • Member of the International Advisory Board of European Journal of Social Theory 2007- 
  • Member of the Editorial board of Blackwell Sociology Compass 2007- 
  • Founder and convenor of the British Sociological Association study group on Risk and Society 2001-2007  



  • Ray, L. and Wilkinson, I. (2019). Introduction – Bicentennial Marx. Journal of Classical Sociology [Online] 19:3-9. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468795X18816150.
  • Ray, L. and Wilkinson, I. (2019). Interview with David McLellan July 2018. Journal of Classical Sociology [Online] 19:87-104. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468795X18810580.
    David McLellan, interviewed here, is a Fellow of Goldsmiths College, University of London and
    Emeritus Professor of Political Theory, University of Kent. Since the 1970s he has been one of the
    leading biographers, translators and commentators on Marx in the English-speaking world. He is
    the author of several books on Marx and Marxism, including The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx;
    Karl Marx: His Life and Thought; Karl Marx: Selected Writings; Marx before Marxism; and Marxism and
    Religion. He has also published a biography of Simone Weil, books on the political implications of
    Christianity, and a lengthy article on contract law and marriage. He lectures widely around the
    world on these topics, frequently in China, and in 2018 addressed a conference in Nairobi on
    religion and world peace. In this interview, or conversation, with Larry Ray and Iain Wilkinson, in
    July 2018, David discusses the origins of his interest in Marx, the development Marx’s thought and
    his critique of the Hegelians, Marx’s critical method, Marx and religion, Marx on Russia, the role
    of violence in social change, the relevance of Marx’s work today, and offers comments on some
    recent biographies. David has spent much of his intellectual career engaging with the meaning and
    legacy of Marxism and these reflections should generate reflection and debate on the significance
    of Marx and the possibilities of radical political change today.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2017). The Controversy of Compassion as an Awakening to our Conflicted Social Condition. International Journal of Law in Context [Online] 13:212-224. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1744552317000131.
    The study of law and emotion is now established as a distinct field of study in its own right. In this respect, legal studies has shared in a wider ‘affective turn’ that has involved twenty first century social science in a new concern to explain the contribution of emotional feelings to human thought, motivation and behaviour. This development has been accompanied by a pronounced debate over how emotion should be rendered accountable within a rational frame of analysis. On the one hand it is possible to portray this as being sustained by a movement to make us more emotionally literate and more sensitive to the ways people act and think through feeling. On the other hand, it might be interpreted as being rooted in a concern to make matters of emotion more amenable to rational discipline and the sanction of reason. In this article I contend that where a focus is brought to the experience of ‘compassion’, the volume is raised on these conflicts of interpretation. I further argue that opposing and contested points of view on the experience and value of ‘compassion’ provide us with valuable insights into the wider dynamics of social and cultural change that have inspired the ‘affective turn’. These arguments are developed with reference to the social theories of Max Weber and Norbert Elias. Moreover, in taking note of Hannah Arendt’s thinking on the cultural politics of compassion, I attend not so much to how the controversy of compassion might be resolved, but rather, to its potential to awaken critical humanitarian concern. Compassion is hereby celebrated as an inherently ‘unstable emotion’ that brings debate to the condition and bounds of human care and social justice.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2016). The problem of understanding modern humanitarianism and its sociological value. International Social Science Journal [Online] 65:65-78. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/issj.12073.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2016). Editorial introduction: Understanding modern humanitarianism. International Social Science Journal [Online] 65:7-11. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/issj.12081.
  • Alaszewski, A. and Wilkinson, I. (2015). The paradox of hope for working age adults recovering from stroke. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Health, Illness and Medicine [Online] 19:172-187. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1363459314555242.
    This article draws on data from a Stroke Association–funded longitudinal study in South East England (2003–2006) that explored the experiences and recovery of 43 stroke survivors under 60?years. Participants were invited to take part in four interviews over an 18-month period and to complete a diary for 1?week each month during this period. Here, we chart their shifting attitudes towards the process of their recovery. We bring a focus to how this transformed their views on the possible futures before them. We underline how hope was experienced as a deeply paradoxical and risk-laden notion. With energies concentrated upon the effort to live positively in the here and now, the very idea of hope for the future was met as an unwelcome distraction and in some cases even as a source of distress.
  • Petersen, A. and Wilkinson, I. (2015). Editorial introduction: The sociology of hope in contexts of health, medicine, and healthcare. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Health, Illness and Medicine [Online] 19:113-118. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1363459314555378.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2014). On the task of making social inquiry aligned to caregiving: An invitation to debate. Anthropology and Medicine [Online] 21:87-99. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2014.880874.
    This paper is designed as an invitation to debate the value of research and writing on social suffering in relation to practices of caregiving. It offers a brief account of the origins and development of social suffering as a concern for social inquiry. Henry Mayhew and Jane Addams are profiled in terms of their pioneering roles as social researchers heavily preoccupied with problems of social suffering. The contrast between Henry Mayhew's frustrated attempts at caregiving and Jane Addams success in instituting the pedagogy of caregiving in the work of Hull House is set up for analysis. These examples are used to issue an invitation to readers to question the cultural and institutional circumstances that make possible forms of social inquiry that recognise caregiving both as a means to social understanding and as an aim for social research in practice.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2013). The Problem of Suffering as a Driving Force of Rationalization and Social Change. British Journal of Sociology [Online] 64:123-141. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12009.
    This article documents and analyses a reconstructed Weberian conception of the problem of suffering. In this setting a focus is brought to how the problem of suffering is constituted in the dynamic interplay between, on the one hand, the compulsion to impose rational sense and order on the world, and on the other, the necessity to find a means to satiate charismatic needs. The discussion highlights Weber's account of the tendency for problems of suffering to increase in volume and scale along with the intensification and spread of modern processes of rationalization. It offers a case for the development of further sociological inquiries into the role played by experiences of the problem of suffering within the dynamics of social and cultural change.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2013). The provocation of the humanitarian social imaginary. Visual Communication [Online] 12:261-276. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1470357213483061.
    This article reviews recent attempts to analyse the visibility that is brought to human suffering within 'social imaginaries' committed to humanitarian concerns. It questions the conventions of critique that operate to cast the humanitarian social imaginary as a negative development within our political culture. It is designed to encourage a more critically reflexive and historically informed approach to the work of critique. It also argues that it is possible to trace a tradition in which humanitarian campaigners operate with the aim of appropriating the critical reaction to their work as part of their political strategy. In this regard, campaigners are more concerned to provoke moral controversy than to fashion 'winning arguments'. Here the visualization of human suffering is valued more for its potential to generate value conflicts than for the extent to which it serves as an authentic or ideologically uncontaminated representation of social reality.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2012). With and Beyond Mills: Social Suffering and the Sociological Imagination. Cultural Studies [Online] 12:182-191. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1532708612441768.
    This article offers a critical appraisal of C. Wright Mills’s The Sociological Imagination with focus brought to how he sets his sociology into practice. It is designed as an invitation to further dialogue and debate over the methodology of this work. It reviews Mills’s attempt to create a “sociologized pragmatism” and analyzes the contribution of The Sociological Imagination to this project. It argues that the critical praxis that informs the development of research and writing on “social suffering” demonstrates an approach to social inquiry that moves both with and beyond Mills, particularly with regard to the task of cultivating social understanding from conflicts met in lived experience.
  • Breeze, B. et al. (2011). What Role for Public policy in Promoting Philanthropy? Public Management Review [Online] 13:1179-1195. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2011.619069.
    This article presents and discusses the findings of a survey conducted among Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in most of the twenty-seven countries within the European Union, which studied the extent and success of fundraising from philanthropic sources for research. Our data demonstrate that success in fundraising is related to institutional privilege (in terms of the universities' reputation, wealth and networks) as well as factors relating to the internal organization, activities and cultures of universities (such as the extent of investment in fundraising activities) and factors relating to the external social, economic and political environments (such as national cultural attitudes towards philanthropy and the existence of tax breaks for charitable giving). Our findings identify the existence of a ‘Matthew effect’, such that privilege begets privilege, when it comes to successful fundraising for university research. We argue that, despite the existence of some untapped philanthropic potential, not all universities are equally endowed with the same fundraising capacities. The article concludes by suggesting that policy-makers pay more heed to the structural constraints within which fundraising takes place, to ensure that policies that seek to promote philanthropy are realistic.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2010). Grasping the Point of Unfathomable Complexity: The New Media Research and Risk Analysis. Journal of Risk Research [Online] 13:19-28. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669870903136175.
    This paper provides a critical review of engagements between the sociology of mass media and risk research. Attention is focused upon the ways in which sociologists and experts in media/communication studies have worked to bring a more socially dynamic and culturally nuanced account of the ways in which people interpret and respond to the content of news media within the field of risk analysis. I argue that, if taken seriously, this endeavour serves more to frustrate than advance the aims and objectives of risk communication. This leads me to question the role played by sociology in the context of risk analysis and to the critical suggestion that sociological reflexivity is bound to disrupt the domain assumptions and pervading ethos of this field.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2006). The Problem of Suffering as a Problem for Sociology. Medical Sociology online 1:45-47.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2006). Health, risk and 'social suffering'. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 8:1-8. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698570500532256.
    This editorial provides a summary account of research and writing on 'social suffering.' Some of the ways in which this body of work might be approached within the field of health risk research are outlined. Some of the criticisms that might be directed towards the paradigm of risk on the occasions when this is used to account for lived reality of human suffering are reflected upon. In this context, further lines of inquiry into the ways in which social scientist venture to write upon, and 'bear witness' to, experiences of pain, misery and distress are initiated. Each of the contributions to the special issue in terms of their distinctive approaches to these concerns is introduced.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2004). The problem of 'social suffering': The challenge to social science. Health Sociology Review [Online] 13:113-121. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5172/hesr.13.2.113.
    This article presents a critical review of contemporary research on 'social suffering'. It dwells substantially upon the ways in which social researchers account for the problem of bringing the lived reality of suffering to public attention.

    The author considers the possibility that it is the public failure of writers to provide a sufficient account of suffering that, paradoxically, works to convey an essential part of how this takes place in human experience; namely, as a most painful denial of meaning and a terminal struggle for understanding. Such public failing, it is argued, has a positive value insofar as it has the potential to serve as a force of moral inquiry and political engagement.
  • David, M. and Wilkinson, I. (2002). Critical Theory of Society or Self-Critical Society. Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy & Social Theory [Online] 3:131-158. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/156851602760226814.
    This paper presents a critical comparative reading of Ulrich Beck and Herbert Marcuse. Beck's thesis on ‘selfcritical society’ and the concept of ‘sub-politics’ are evaluated within the framework of Marcusian critical theory. We argue for the continued relevance of Marcuse for the project of emancipatory politics. We recognise that a focus upon the imminent and spontaneous possibilities for radical social change within the ‘sub-political’ is a useful provocation to the high abstractionism of much critical theory, but suggest that such possibilities are better captured in a Marcusian theoretical frame than they are in Beck's account.
  • Morgan, D. and Wilkinson, I. (2001). The Problem of Suffering and the Sociological Task of Theodicy. European Journal of Social Theory [Online] 4:199-214. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/13684310122225073.
    Once the preserve of philosophy and theology, what Weber called `the problem of theodicy' - the problem of reconciling normative ideals with the reality in which we live - recurs in the social sciences in the secular form of `sociodicy'. Within a functionalist framework, sociodicies have offered legitimizing rationalizations of social adversities, inequalities and injustice, but seldom address the existential meaning and ethical implications of human affliction and suffering in social life. We suggest that an apparent indifference to these questions in social theory reflects a deeper tension between modernity's millennial expectations of moral progress and the escalating history of violence, exploitation and suffering in the modern world. The task of sociodicy, we argue, should be reconstructed as a critique of the decivilizing implications of this tension, not just to document the consequences of suffering on people's lives, but in order to reassess the experience of modernity at the end of one of the most disturbed and violent centuries the world has known.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2001). Thinking with Suffering. Cultural Values [Online] 5:421-444. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14797580109367242.
    This article provides a critical review of literature on ‘social suffering’. Analytical attention is focused upon the ways in which writers struggle to bring ‘meaning’ to this topic. All sense that there is always something in events of extreme suffering that resists conceptualisation and defies analysis. This problem of establishing a language for ‘thinking with suffering’ is explored with reference to the works of Hannah Arendt, Paul Ricoeur and Max Weber. An agenda for sociological research is proposed which focuses on the struggle to make sense out of the phenomenon of suffering as a force of cultural innovation. In this context, it is suggested that what is most interesting here is the evidence to suggest that, when faced with the ‘brute fact’ of a world where there appears to be too much suffering, people are always moved to make this phenomenon productive for thought and action.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2001). Social Theories of Risk Perception: At Once Indispensible and Insufficient. Current Sociology 49:1-22.
  • Wilkinson, I. (1999). Where is the Novelty in our current 'Age of Anxiety'? European Journal of Social Theory [Online] 2:445-467. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/13684319922224608.
    This article critically investigates the presumption that we are living in a qualitatively new 'age of anxiety'. It suggests that most sociologists who address this topic have so far failed to recognize the analytical complexity of the condition of anxiety itself. By examining the possibility of establishing sociological indicators of the prevalence and character of anxiety in contemporary societies, the author argues that the 'sociological imagination' has yet to provide a sufficient account of the interrelationship between representations of social problems in the public sphere and the variety of anxieties which individuals may encounter in their 'personal troubles of milieu'. © 1999 Sage Publications: London.
  • Wilkinson, I. (1999). News Media Discourse and the State of Public Opinion on Risk. Risk Management [Online] 1:21-31. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.rm.8240029.
    With reference to the 'theoretical crisis' of those media researchers who have come to the conclusion that much of their work has been undermined by a fuller recognition of the complexity of symbolic production and exchange, this paper presents a critical summary of the potential for 'new audience studies' to call into question some of the basic premisses of theories of risk communication. This may give practitioners reason to jettison the popular view that risk controversies result from the discrepancies between expert and lay perceptions of the magnitude of hazards. Moreover, it certainly might be used to alert them to the possibility that media representations of risk, at least in their own terms, may have little bearing upon people's everyday worries and concerns. Risk communication researchers would do better to focus upon the specific dynamics of the political and economic interrelationships between news sources and their vested interests, in securing the power to influence the symbolic representation of public issues.


  • Wilkinson, I. and Kleinman, A. (2016). A Passion for Society: How We Think About Human Suffering. [Online]. University of California Press. Available at: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520287228.
    What does human suffering mean for society? And how has this meaning changed from the past to the present? In what ways does “the problem of suffering” serve to inspire us to care for others? How does our response to suffering reveal our moral and social conditions? In this trenchant work, Arthur Kleinman—a renowned figure in medical anthropology—and Iain Wilkinson, an award-winning sociologist, team up to offer some answers to these profound questions.

    A Passion for Society investigates the historical development and current state of social science with a focus on how this development has been shaped in response to problems of social suffering. Following a line of criticism offered by key social theorists and cultural commentators who themselves were unhappy with the professionalization of social science, Wilkinson and Kleinman provide a critical commentary on how studies of society have moved from an original concern with social suffering and its amelioration to dispassionate inquiries. The authors demonstrate how social action through caring for others is revitalizing and remaking the discipline of social science, and they examine the potential for achieving greater understanding though a moral commitment to the practice of care for others. In this deeply considered work, Wilkinson and Kleinman argue for an engaged social science that connects critical thought with social action, that seeks to learn through caregiving, and that operates with a commitment to establish and sustain humane forms of society.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2009). Risk Vulnerability and Everyday Life. [Online]. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Available at: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/id/Risk_Vulnerability_and_Everyday_Life/9780415370806.
    It is now sociological common sense to declare that, in everyday life, large numbers of people approach matters of work, family life, trust and friendship with 'risk' constantly in mind. This book, provides an introductory overview and critical assessment of this phenomenon. Iain Wilkinson outlines contrasting sociological theories of risk, and summarizes some of the principle discoveries of empirical research conducted into the ways people perceive, experience and respond to a world of danger. He also examines some of the moral concerns and political interests that feature in this area of study. Designed to equip readers not only with the sociological means to debate the human consequences of our contemporary culture of risk, but also, with the critical resources to evaluate the significance this holds for current sociology, this book provides a perfectly pitched undergraduate introduction to the topic.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2005). Suffering: A Sociological introduction. Oxford: Polity Press.
    "Sociology is always concerned with the causes and consequences of human suffering in one form or another, yet there is no sociology of suffering per se. This book is written with the understanding that if sociology fails to attend to what suffering does to people then it is left with a severely diminished account of human experience. Wilkinson maintains that a sociological response to suffering must confront the most unsettling questions of meaning and morality. He argues that the apparent 'senselessness' of suffering has the power to transform dramatically the ways we relate to society and ourselves. The book explores some of the ways in which our sensitivity towards this 'problem of suffering' is related to a new 'politics of compassion' in modern societies."
  • Wilkinson, I. (2001). Anxiety in a Risk Society. London, UK: Routledge.
    "Few would dispute that we are living at a time of high anxiety and uncertainty in which many of us will experience a crisis of identity at some point or another. At the same time, news media provide us with a daily catalogue of disasters from around the globe to remind us that we inhabit a world of crisis, insecurity and hazard. Anxiety in a Risk Society looks at the problem of contemporary anxiety from a sociological perspective and highlights its significance for the ways we make sense of risk and uncertainty. It argues that the relationship between anxiety and risk hinges on the nature of anxiety. Iain Wilkinson believes that there is much for sociologists to learn from those who have made the condition of anxiety the focus of their life's work. By making anxiety the focus of sociological inquiry, a critical vantage point can be gained from which to attempt an answer to the question: Are we more anxious because we are more risk conscious?"

Book section

  • Wilkinson, I. (2018). Compassion: Conflicted Social Feeling and the Calling to Care. in: Emotions, Everyday Life and Sociology. Routledge, pp. 56-70. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=27JjDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT71&ots=EkoMtYXOf6&sig=CVV5XBqRLgMQcxHbL17iLWNqsJM#v=onepage&q&f=false.
    This chapter I review the cultural and social history of compassion. I highlight the involvement of compassion in the creation and maintenance of conditions of everyday life in western modernity. I aim to equip readers with some resources to think critically about the range of moral, political and social interests that are featured in favoured accounts of compassion and its consequences. In later sections, I provide some analytical reflections on contemporary forms of ‘compassion fatigue’. Throughout the chapter I emphasise that compassion courts controversy, and I further underline the potential for this to marshal critical debate towards the institutional configuration and moral character of society. I hold that compassion is a ‘social emotion’ that holds the potential to alert us to the quality of our moral attachments to others and calls on us to reflect on how we bear a moral responsibility to relate people with care. The study of compassion involves us in far more than a critical commitment to expose its potential to operate in the service of various political and social ideologies, for the issues at stake here concern the potential for individuals to enact humane forms of society. I argue that by studying compassion we are made to attend to how individuals are more or less equipped with the moral motivation to care for one another.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2017). Social Agony and Agonizing Social Constructions. in: Neckel, S., Schaffner, A. K. and Wagner, G. eds. Burnout, Fatigue, Exhaustion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on a Modern Affliction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2017). Social Suffering and the Enigma of Humanitarianism. in: Alleviating World Suffering: The Challenge of negative Quality of Life. New York: Springer, pp. 61-71. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51391-1.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2017). The Social Question and the Urgency of Care. in: Atkinson, R., McKenzie, L. and Winlow, S. eds. Building Better Societies: Promoting Social Justice in a World Falling Apart. The Policy Press, pp. 15-26.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2015). Social Suffering and Critical Humanitarianism. in: Anderson, R. E. ed. World Suffering and Quality of Life: Social Indicators Research Series. New York: Springer, pp. 45-54. Available at: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789401796699.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2013). Social Suffering and Human Rights. in: Cushman, T. ed. Handbook of Human Rights. Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 146-154.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2013). The New Social Politics of Pity(Chapter 8). in: Ure, M. and Frost, M. eds. The Politics of Compassion. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 99-113.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2012). Unmasking the institutional formations of giving. in: Philanthropy and a better society. London: Alliance Publishing Trust, London, pp. 45-48.
    The May 2011 Giving White Paper declares a concern to ‘engage people at different life stages – from primary school children to pensioners’ and to create ‘sustainable social norms around giving’ (HM Government, 2011: 9 &
    32). Schools, universities, the workplace and the activities of those who are newly retired are all identified as key sites for the introduction of initiatives to ‘celebrate’ and ‘encourage’ giving. In this regard, it opens the door to a sociological approach to understanding how people are disposed to give their time and money to philanthropic and charitable causes. It also, however, quickly abandons the attempt to think sociologically about how this might be achieved.

    This chapter offers a brief sociological critique of the ways in which the White Paper conceives the task of building a giving society. It further moves to outline an alternative approach that does not focus on how people might be ‘nudged’ into giving by smart informational pitches but, rather, concentrates on the project
    of making giving a social norm and socializing force in everyday life.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2012). Cosmopolitanism and Humanitarianism. in: Delanty, G. ed. Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitanism Studies. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 400-413.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2011). Ulrich Beck. in: Ritzer, G. and Stepnisky, J. eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Major Social Theorists (v. 1). John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2011). Social Suffering and the New Politics of Sensibility. in: Delanty, G. and Turner, S. P. eds. Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2009). Emile Durkheim. in: Hayward, K. J., Maruna, S. and Mooney, J. eds. Fifty Key Thinkers in Criminology. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2007). On Bauman's Sociology of Suffering: Questions for Thinking. in: Elliott, A. ed. The Contemporary Bauman. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2006). The Psychology of Risk. in: Mythen, G. and Walklate, S. eds. Beyond the Risk Society: Critical Reflections on Risk and Human Security. Open University Press.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2006). Ulrich Beck'. in: Scott, J. ed. Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
  • Wilkinson, I. (2005). Entries on 'Ulrich Beck', 'Risk' and 'Reflexivity'. in: Harrington, A., Marshall, B. and Muller, H. -P. eds. Encyclopedia of Social Theory. Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Edited book

  • Petersen, A. and Wilkinson, I.M. eds. (2007). Health, Risk and Vulnerability. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
    The concept of risk is one of the most suggestive terms for evoking the cultural character of our times and for defining the purpose of social research. Risk attitudes and behaviours are understood to comprise the dominant experience of culture, politics and society in our times. Health, Risk and Vulnerability investigates the personal and political dimensions of health risk that structure everyday thought and action. In this innovative book, international contributors reflect upon the meaning and significance of risk across a broad range of social and institutional contexts, exploring current issues such as: the 'escalation of the medicalization of life', involving the pathologization of normality and blurring of the divide between clinical and preventive medicine the tendency for mental health service users to be regarded as representing a risk to others rather than being 'at risk' and vulnerable themselves the development of health care systems to identify risk and prevent harm women's reactions to 'high risk' screening results during pregnancy and how they communicate with other women about risk men and the use the internet to reconstruct their social and sexual identities Charting new terrain in the sociology of health and risk, and focusing on the connections between them, Health, Risk and Vulnerability offers new perspectives on an important field of contemporary debate and provides an invaluable resource for students, teachers, researchers, and policy makers.

Research report (external)

  • Breeze, B. et al. (2011). Giving in Evidence: Fundraising from Philanthropy in European Universities. [Online]. European Commission. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2777/4143.
    This report is a continuation of the themes and ideas explored in two previous European
    Commission reports, ‘Giving More for Research’ (2006) and ‘Engaging Philanthropy for
    University Research’ (2008). It is the first report to provide data gathered from universities
    across the European Union regarding the efforts made, and successes achieved, in
    fundraising from philanthropy for research. An additional output of the research is a new
    database of contacts responsible for fundraising in almost 500 European universities.
    We find that philanthropic fundraising is not, on the whole, taken seriously in European
    universities. Only a very small number of institutions are raising significant sums of money
    from this source, and even fewer are accessing philanthropic funding to pay for research
    and research-related activities. Whilst this may be disappointing for those hoping that
    private donors can represent an important source of funding for university-based research,
    it may also be interpreted in a more positive light as indicative of potentially significant
    untapped potential.
    There are many different types of university, which affects their likelihood of realising
    philanthropic income as a result of investment in fundraising activities. Our data
    demonstrates that success in fundraising is related to institutional privilege (what kind of a
    university it is, in terms of wealth, reputation and pre-existing relationships with different
    types of donors), as well as to the efforts made by universities (what the university does, in
    terms of fundraising activities), and environmental factors (where the university is located,
    in terms of the geo-political context). For this reason, we suggest that the concept of
    ‘accumulative advantage’ should be understood as an important factor, alongside ‘efforts’
    and ‘context’ which have so far featured more prominently as key levers in the policymaking literature.


  • Wilkinson, I. (2017). Wilkinson I (2018) ‘Social Suffering and Public Value: A Spur to New Projects of Social Inquiry and Social Care’, in A. Lindgreen, N. Koenig-Lewis, M. Kitchener, J. Brewer, M. Moore and T. Meynhardt (eds) Public Value: A Research Anthology edited by London: Routledge. in: Public Value: A Research Anthology. London: Routledge.
    This chapter provides a review of contemporary research and writing on ‘social suffering’. It highlights some of the contemporary intellectual and political developments that have inspired social scientists to treat manifestations of ‘the problem of suffering’ as a key concern. It also notes some of the ways in which this might construed a marking a return to ‘the social question’ of the nineteenth century. It is argued that here the conduct of social research is informed by an earlier ‘classical’ example of critical pragmatism championed by figures such as Jane Addams, W.E.B du Bois and Albion Small. This is directed by the understanding that social science should be committed to projects of ameliorative social reform. Where a focus is brought to problems of social suffering, the pedagogy of caregiving is deemed a necessary part of the processes through which we might apprehend the meaning and value of human life in social terms.
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