Portrait of Professor Frank Furedi

Professor Frank Furedi

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

About

Professor Furedi completed his PhD in Research and MA in African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He completed his BA in Political Science at McGill University. 

Professor Furedi is a sociologist, social commentator and author of several books (see Academia).  His research is oriented towards the study of the workings of precautionary culture and risk aversion in Western societies.

Research interests

Since 1995, Professor Furedi’s work has explored the different manifestations of the way that contemporary western culture attempts to give meaning to social experience. The current problems that society has in engaging with uncertainty have focused his interest on the workings of contemporary risk consciousness and loss aversion. 

Author of over 20 books, most of his work in recent years has been devoted to the development of a sociology of fear and an exploration of the cultural developments that influence the construction of contemporary risk consciousness. 

Although his work on different forms of social anxieties is strongly influenced by the insights of social constructionist sociology, his past training in field work and history bring to the study of social problems a historical and empirical dimension. Elements of this approach are outlined in Population and Development (1997), The Silent War (1998) The Culture of Fear (1997, 2002 – new revised edition 2007) and in particular, How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century (2018). These texts examine the problematisation of different forms of social anxieties (race, population and risk) and have provided him with an opportunity to elaborate a sociological approach that synthesises the methods of historical inquiry with the insights of sociological investigation. 

Furedi’s studies on the problem of fear has run in parallel with his exploration of the problem of cultural authority. Since his Authority, A Sociological History (2013) he has published a study a study The First World War: Still No End In Sight – which interprets this event as the precursor of today’s Culture Wars. His study, Populism And The Culture Wars In Europe: the conflict of values between Hungary and the EU, discusses the sociological implications of the tension between populists and anti-populist political currents. 

Professor Furedi’s approach towards the contemporary challenges facing education, culture and intellectual life is outlined in the in the book Where Have All The Intellectual Gone; Confronting 21st Century Philistinism. He is now engaged on a sociological history of the Crisis of Identity. This project is supported by a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship. 

Supervision

Professor Furedi is involved in supervising PhD students in his area of research.

Professional

Media appearances 

Frank has appeared on Newsnight, Sky and BBC News, Radio Four’s Today programme, and a variety of other radio television shows. Internationally, he has been interviewed by the media in Australia, Canada, the United States, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, and Germany. 

Editorial 

Frank's articles have been published in the New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal, The Independent on Sunday, India Today, L’Espresso, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Toronto Globe and Mail, The Christian Science Monitor, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Spiked-online, The Times Literary Supplement, Harvard Business Review, Die Welt and Die Zeit, among others. 

Public speaking 

He is regularly invited as a guest public speaker and he has recently addressed Cheltenham Music Festival, Institute of Contemporary Art, Institute of Ideas, Royal Society of Arts, Edinburgh Festival, Festival of Ideas (Brisbane) and Festival of Science (Rome). 

Publications

Article

  • Furedi, F. (2009). Precautionary culture and the rise of possibilistic risk assessment. Erasmus Law Review [Online] 2:197. Available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1498432.
    The shift from probabilistic to possibilistic risk management characterises contemporary cultural attitudes towards uncertainty. This shift in attitude is paralleled by the growing influence of the belief that future risks are not only unknown but are also unknowable. Scepticism about the capacity of knowledge to help manage risks has encouraged the dramatisation of uncertainty. One consequence of this development has been the advocacy of a precautionary response to threats. This article examines the way in which precautionary attitudes have shaped the response to the threat of terrorism and to the millennium bug. The main accomplishment of this response has been to intensify the sense of existential insecurity.
  • Furedi, F. (1999). Mud sticks. New Scientist [Online] 163:50-51. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16321935-200-mud-sticks/.
  • Furedi, F. and Brown, T. (1999). Complaining Britain. Society [Online] 36:72-78. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12115-999-1043-3.
  • Furedi, F. (1999). Your number's up. New Scientist [Online] 164:52-52. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16422075-200-your-numbers-up/.
  • Furedi, F. (1998). New Britain - A nation of victims. Society [Online] 35:80-84. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=273941&site=ehost-live.
    This article focuses on a debate on victimhood in Great Britain. Recent events in Great Britain indicate that the cult of vulnerability goes beyond the terms of the existing debate. This cult has emerged as a key element in a moralizing project that touches upon every aspect of social life. The events surrounding the death of Princess Diana showed how significant sections of the British population have been touched by the cultivation of public emotion. Less than two months after Diana's death, the British reaction to the guilty verdict against Louise Woodward indicated that there was still plenty of spare emotion in support of yet another heroine-victim. These events also demonstrated that when politicized, the culture of victimhood can become a powerful force. The politicization of grieving in Britain has been intimately linked to the institutionalization of vulnerability. Virtually every shade of political opinion and the entire British establishment has endorsed this project. Today, British society actually encourages those who suffer to discover some meaning in their experience. The media continually portray personal tragedies as moral plays, where a victim's loss is endowed with special significance. Thus whenever a tragedy strikes, a member of the family invariably remarks on television that they hope that their loved ones have not died in vain. Critics of the culture of victimhood often direct their fire at its more mendacious and self-serving manifestations, such as the predictable demand for compensation or the evasion of responsibility for the outcome of individual action. The celebration of the victim identity represents an important statement about the human condition. It regards human action with suspicion. It presupposes that human beings can do very little to influence their destiny. They are the objects rather than the subjects of their destiny. Consequently the human experience is defined by not by what people do but what has happened to them.
  • Furedi, F. (1992). Creating a breathing space - the political management of colonial emergencies. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History [Online] 21:89-106. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03086539308582908.

Book

  • Furedi, F. (2013). Authority: a sociological history. [Online]. Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Authority-Sociological-History-Frank-Furedi/dp/0521189284.
    Concern with authority is as old as human history itself. Eve's sin was to challenge the authority of God by disobeying his rule. Frank Furedi explores how authority was contested in ancient Greece and given a powerful meaning in Imperial Rome. Debates about religious and secular authority dominated Europe through the Middle Ages and the Reformation. The modern world attempted to develop new foundations for authority - democratic consent, public opinion, science - yet Furedi shows that this problem has remained unresolved, arguing that today the authority of authority is questioned. This historical sociology of authority seeks to explain how the contemporary problems of mistrust and the loss of legitimacy of many institutions are informed by the previous attempts to solve the problem of authority. It argues that the key pioneers of the social sciences (Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, Tonnies and especially Weber) regarded this question as one of the principal challenges facing society.
  • Furedi, F. (2011). On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence. [Online]. Continuum Publishing Corporation. Available at: http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=159026&SearchType=Basic.
    Outwardly, we live in an era that appears more open-minded, non-judgemental and tolerant than in any time in human history. The very term intolerant invokes moral condemnation. We are constantly reminded to understand the importance of respecting different cultures and diversities. In this pugnacious new book, Frank Furedi argues that despite the democratisation of public life and the expansion of freedom, society is dominated by a culture that not only tolerates but often encourages intolerance. Often the intolerance is directed at people who refuse to accept the conventional wisdom and who are stigmatised as 'deniers'. Frequently intolerance comes into its own in clashes over cultural values and lifestyles. People are condemned for the food they eat, how they parent and for wearing religious symbols in public. This book challenges the 'quiet mood of tolerance' towards morally stigmatised forms of behaviors. The author examines recent forms of 'unacceptable behaviour'. It will tease out the real motives and drivers of intolerance.
  • Furedi, F. (2005). Politics of Fear. Continuum.
  • Furedi, F. (2004). Where have All the Intellectuals Gone. Continuum.
  • Furedi, F. (2003). Therapy Culture. Routledge.
  • Furedi, F. (2001). Paranoid Parenting. Penguin.

Book section

  • Furedi, F. (2011). The objectification of fear and the grammar of morality. in: Hier, S. ed. Moral Panic and the Politics of Anxiety. Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 90-103. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415555562/.
    Moral Panic And the Politics of Anxiety;
    Moral Panic and the Politics of Anxiety is a collection of original essays written by some of the world's leading social scientists. It seeks to provide unique insight into the importance of moral panic as a routine feature of everyday life, whilst also developing an integrated framework for moral panic research by widening the scope of scholarship in the area. Many of the key twenty-first century contributions to moral panic theory have moved beyond the parameters of the sociology of deviance to consider the importance of moral panic for identity formation, national security, industrial risk, and character formation. Reflecting this growth, the book brings together recognized moral panic researchers with prominent scholars in moral regulation, social problems, cultural fear, and health risks, allowing for a more careful and critical discussion around the cultural and political significance of moral panic to emerge. This book will prove valuable reading for both undergraduate and postgraduate students on courses such as politics and the media, regulatory policy, the body and identity, theory and political sociology, and sociology of culture.
  • Furedi, F. (2010). Introduction to the marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer. in: Molesworth, M., Scullion, R. and Nixon, E. eds. The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 1-8. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415584470/.
    The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer;
    In recent years government policy in the UK has encouraged an expansion of Higher Education to increase participation with the express aim of creating a more educated workforce, capable of competing in international 'knowledge-based' economies. This expansion has led to competition between Higher Education Institutions, where students are increasingly positioned as consumers and institutions are working to improve the extent to which they meet 'consumer demands'. A business mind-set is now in charge in UK Higher Education, forcing institutions to reassess the way they are managed and promoted to ensure maximum efficiency, sales and profits. Students view the opportunity to gain a degree as a right, and a service which they have paid for, demanding a greater level of accountability, and cost-effective approaches. Changes in higher education have been rapid, and there has been little critical research into the implications. This volume brings together internationally comparative academic perspectives, critical accounts and empirical research to fully explore the issues and experiences of education as a commodity, examining: The new purpose of university 'mission statements'; The implications of University branding and promotion; Students as 'active consumers' in the co-creation of value; League tables and student surveys vs. quality of education; The higher education market and distance learning; and, Changing student demands and focus. With contributions from many of the leading names involved in UK Higher Education including Ron Barnett, Frank Furedi, Lewis Elton, Roger Brown and even Laurie Taylor in his journalistic Times Higher guise as an academic at the University of Poppleton, this book will be essential reading for all involved in higher education. "The Marketisation of Higher Education" offers a groundbreaking insight into the effects of government policy on the structure and operation of universities.

Monograph

  • Lee, E. and Furedi, F. (2005). Mothers’ experience of, and attitudes to, the use of infant formula for feeding babies. SSPSSR.
    In British society, breastfeeding is offered cultural affirmation. Images of women breastfeeding their babies are prominently displayed in maternity wards and other healthcare settings. Magazines for pregnant women and new mothers promote breastfeeding to their readers, drawing attention in particular to its health benefits for babies. Advice books and manuals about baby care make it clear that breastfeeding is best. The aim of the study reported on here was to investigate the experience of women in this context. Its particular focus is mothers who feed their babies with formula milk. How do mothers who feed their baby formula milk engage with the cultural expectation to breast-feed? Why do they use formula milk? What information do they receive about doing so? Who provides it and in what form? How do they feel about feeding their babies this way? In particular, given that formula use appears discouraged, to what extent do such women feel respected as mothers?

Research report (external)

  • Furedi, F. (2011). Changing societal attitudes, and regulatory responses, to risk-taking in adult care. [Online]. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/risk-adult-care-attitudes-full.pdf.
    This paper:
    • explores the relationship between policy initiatives regarding risk-taking in adult care and its claim to reflect user experience;
    • argues that these policy initiatives are driven by the imperative of rationalising risk management; and
    • claims that such policies are not a response to user demand and that more research is needed to evaluate the attitudes of users of adult care to risk- taking.
  • Lee, E. and Furedi, F. (2009). Review of the effectiveness of the controls on infant formula and follow-on formula, Literature Review. The Food Standards Agency.
    The objectives of the research were as follows:
    • To assess whether infants under 6 months are being fed follow-on formula and if so, the
    reasons why
    • To assess whether the new controls upon the ways in which follow-on formula are
    presented and advertised2 have been effective in making it clear to all those likely to be
    involved in child care, including parents, formal and informal carers, health professionals
    and parents-to-be, that advertisements for follow-on formula relate to formula only for
    older babies (6 months plus), and are not perceived as, or confused with, infant formula
    advertising, which is prohibited and
    • Based upon this evidence, to draw conclusions about what changes, if any, could be
    made to the presentation and advertising of infant / follow-on formula, for consideration
    by the review panel

Review

  • Furedi, F. (1999). Mau Mau and Kenya: an analysis of a peasant revolt. Journal of Modern African Studies 37:579-580.
  • Furedi, F. (1998). Mau Mau from below. African Affairs [Online] 97:135-136. Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=472E92E0217DD6C1FAC8.
  • Furedi, F. (1998). Imperialism, academe and nationalism: Britain and university education for Africans, 1860-1960. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 36:163-163.
  • Furedi, F. (1996). Contesting Colonial Hegemony: State and Society in Africa and India edited by Dagmar Engels and Shula Marks. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History [Online] 24:157-159. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03086539608582972.
  • Furedi, F. (1995). Racism After Race-Relations - Miles,R. British Journal of Sociology 46:550-551.
  • Furedi, F. (1995). Colonialism's Culture: Anthropology, Travel and Government by Nicholas Thomas. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History [Online] 23:376-377. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03086539508582956.
  • Furedi, F. (1994). Struggle for Kenya: The Loss and Reassertion of Imperial Initiative, 1912–1923 by Robert M. Maxon. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History [Online] 22:585-586. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03086539408582940.
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