Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world


I am Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. I am a sociologist, social commentator and author of:

  • Paranoid Parenting (2001), Allen Lane (The Penguin Press)
  • Culture of Fear (2002), Continuum
  • Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability In An Uncertain Age (2003), Routledge
  • Where have All The Intellectuals Gone?: Confronting 21st Century Philistinism (2005), Continuum
  • Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right (2005), Continuum
  • Invitation to Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown (2007), Continuum.
  • Authority: A Sociological History (2013)
  • Moral Crusades In an Age Of Mistrust: The Jimmy Savile Scandal (2013), Palgrave
  • The First World War: Still No End In Sight (2014), Bloomsbury Press
  • Power of Reading: From Socrates to Twitter (2015), Bloomsbury Press

My research is oriented towards the study of the workings of precautionary culture and risk aversion in Western societies. At present I am engaged with issues located at the border between historical and cultural sociology. After completing a study of the sociological history of authority I am looking at the relationship between the contestation of cultural authority and literacy.

I completed my PhD in Research and MA in African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. I completed my BA in Political Science at McGill University.

Find me:
on Twitter
on Academia
on Linkedin

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I am actively involved in supervising PhD students in my area of research.

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Research interests
Since 1995, my 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 my interest on the workings of contemporary risk consciousness and loss aversion.

In 1995, I published a study on the international contraceptive pill panic of 1995, titled The International Impact of a Pill Panic. The varied response to this panic in different societies led me to ask questions about why some cultures have a more developed consciousness of risk than others.  Most of my 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.

Different forms of social anxieties
Although my work is strongly influenced by the insights of social constructionist sociology, my 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) and in particular in The Culture of Fear (1997, 2002 – new revised edition 2007).

These three texts examine the problematisation of different forms of social anxieties (race, population and risk) and have provided me with an opportunity to elaborate a sociological approach that synthesises the methods of historical inquiry with the insights of sociological investigation.
Paranoid Parenting (March 2001, Alan Lane/ Penguin, revised edition forthcoming October 2008) develops this approach in relation to social anxieties about childhood. This work will be developed in a historical-sociological study of fear – the aim of this book is to outline the workings of the fear market and to isolate what constitutes our distinct 21st century rules of fear.

Since September 11, I have been exploring the way that the reaction to this event provides insights into the contemporary consciousness of risk and also the impact of this episode has influenced the public perception of risk. A preliminary study, Refusing to be Terrorised; The Management of Risk After September 11, report, published by Lloyds/Global Futures, attempted to develop an analytic framework for making sense of this dreaded form of risk. This research was further developed through a research project associated with the ESRC’s ‘The Domestic Management of Terrorist Attacks’ programme. The publication of my study Invitation To Terror (2007) expands the analysis of The Culture of Feart o the issue of terrorism.

Therapy Culture - Cultivating Vulnerability In An Anxious Age
Alongside my study of risk consciousness, I have explored the cultural influences that have encouraged society to become risk-averse and to feel a heightened sense of vulnerability. The defining feature of people is increasingly represented as their vulnerability and it is frequently suggested we live in an age where people's mental health and emotions are permanently under siege.

The cultural influences that promote a new version of diminished subjectivity constitute the subject of my recently published book, Therapy Culture - Cultivating Vulnerability In An Anxious Age. Along with colleagues committed to the more robust version of personhood associated with the humanist tradition, I am engaged in a cultural critique of attempts to medicalise people's experiences and behaviour.

As a humanist scholar committed to the promotion of an intellectually engaged public life I have sought to reflect on the contemporary challenges facing education, culture and intellectual life. My approach towards these issues is outlined in the book Where Have All The Intellectual Gone; Confronting 21st Century Philistinism.  At present I am engaged on a sociological history of literacy and more specifically on the theme of what different societies have thought about the meaning of reading.

Planned research 
The main research problem underpinning my future work is the  problem of authority today.
In contemporary times where authority has to continually justify itself and is continually contested the authority of authority  requires reflection. Authority is not a taken-for-granted institution. Indeed the age-long concern with ‘crisis of authority’ has expanded and encompasses questions such as ‘trust’, ‘confidence’ and ‘competing knowledge claims’. Lack of certainty about the authority of authority is both an encouragement to claims- making and to its contestation.

My focus is on the contestation of cultural authority and I am working on a study of competing narratives of what reading means or should mean to people’s lives. This project, titled Reading: from Socrates To Twitter is supported by a grant from the British Academy and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship

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  • Power of Reading: From Socrates to Twitter, Bloomsbury, 2015
  • First World War: Still No End In Sight, Bloomsbury, January 2014
  • Authority: A Historical Sociology, Cambridge University Press, October 2013
    Moral Crusades In An Age Of Mistrust: The Jimmy Savile Scandal, Palgrave Pivot, April 2013
  • Moral Crusades In An Age Of Mistrust: the Jimmy Savile Scandal, Palgrave Macmillan (2013)
  • On Tolerance, In Defence of Moral Independence, Continuum Press, August 2011
  • Wasted: Why Education Is Not Educating, Continuum Press, 2009.
  • Invitation to Terror; the Expanding Empire of the Unknown,Continuum Press, 2007. (translated into Croatian, Polish)
  • The Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right, Continuum Press, 2005.
  • Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone, Confronting 21st Century Philistinism, Continuum Press, September 2004. (translated into Dutch, Korean, Italian, Polish and Chinese)
  • Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Anxious Age, Routledge 2003. (translation in Italian, Korean)
  • Culture of Fear (revised edition – 3 new chapters), Continuum, 2002. (translations in Turkish, Chinese ,Korean)
  • Paranoid Parenting, Penguin/Alan Lane, 2001. (translations in French, German, Italian, Danish and Dutch)
  • The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race, Rutgers University Press, 1998.
  • Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectations, Cassell, 1997.
  • Population and Development, Polity Press, 1997.
  • Colonial Wars and the Politics of Third World Nationalism, I.B. Tauris 1994.
  • The New Ideology of Imperialism: Renewing the Moral Imperative, Pluto Press, 1994.
  • Mythical Past - Elusive Future: History and Society in an Anxious Age, Pluto Press, 1992.
  • The Mau Mau War in Perspective, James Currey/Ohio University Press, 1989, Kenya edition 1990, Second edition, 1991.

Other publications

  • ‘Bringing Historical Dimension Into the Study of Social Problems: the Social Construction of Authority’ , Qualitative Sociology Review, vol. XI, issue, 2, 2015, pp.94 -108
  • ‘Is it Justice? Therapeutic History and the Politics of Recognition’ in Speed, E, Moncrieff, J., Rapley, M. (2014) (eds) De-Medicalizing Misery II; Society, Politics and the Mental Health Industry, Palgrave Macmillan : London.
  • ‘The objectification of fear and the grammar of morality’ in Hier, S. (ed.) Moral Panic and the Politics of Anxiety, Routledge ; London, 2011.
  • ‘Introduction’ to the Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer’, in Mike Molesworth, Richard Scullion, Elizabeth Nixon , Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer, Routledge. (2011).
  • ‘Changing societal attitudes, and regulatory responses, to risk-taking in adult care’ , Research Report- JRF scoping paper: ‘Rights, responsibilities, risk and regulation’,
  • ‘The Authority of Public Opinion – Why Weber declined to take part in the conversation’, Max Weber Studies, vol.11. no..1., January 2011,pp119-239.
  • F.Furedi & J. Bristow, Licensed to Hug, Civitas : London, 2nd edition
  • ‘Celebrity Culture’, Society, vol. 6, October 2010.
  • ‘Precautionary Culture and the Rise of Possibilistic Risk Assessment’, Erasmus Law Review, vol.2, issue 2, September 2009.
  • ‘Recapturing the Sociological Imagination; the Challenge for Public Sociology’, in Jeffries, V. (2009) (ed) Handbook of Public Sociology, Rowan ‘ Littlefield Publishers, INC : Lanham
  • ‘‘Fear and Security: A Vulnerability-led Policy Response’’ in Denney, D. (ed) (2009) Living in Dangerous Times: Fear, Insecurity, Risk and Social Policy, Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester.
  • ‘Extending Life with Meaning’, Society, May/June 2009.
  • ‘Socialisation as Behaviour Management and the Ascendancy of Expert Authority’, Kohnstamm Lecture; Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam, 2009.
  • ‘Re-reading C.P. Snow and His Elusive Search for Authority’, pp.61-76, in Whelan, R. (2009) (ed) From Two Cultures to No Culture: C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” Lecture Fifty Years On, Civitas: London. 2009
  • ‘The Politicization of Lifestyle’, Society, Sept/Oct 2008.
  • ‘The “Long War”; Who is Winning the Battle For Ideas’ Review of International American Studies, Winter-Spring 2008-2009, 3.3-4.1.
  • ‘Fear and Security: A Vulnerability-led Policy Response’, Social Policy & Administration, December 2008.
  • Licence To Hug, (with J Bristow), Civitas: London
  • ‘Vulnerability – Analytical Concept or Rhetorical Idiom’ in Satterthwaite, J., Wattas, M. & Piper, H. (eds) (2008) Talking Truth, Confronting Power, Trentham Books : Stoke on Trent.
  • ‘Fear Rules; The expansion of the empire of the unknown’, Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (2008), Architectures of Fear; Terrorism and the Future of Urbanism in the West, Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona: Barcelona.
  • ‘Medicalisation in a Therapy Culture’ in David Wainwright (ed) (2008) A Sociology of Health, Sage Publications: London.
  • ‘The Rules of Fear’ in Kate Hebblethwaite & Elizabeth McCarthy (2007) (eds) Fear: Essays on the Meaning and Experience of Fear, Four Courts Press Dublin.
  • ‘The Changing Meaning of Disaster’, Area; Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, vol.39, no.4 , 2007
  • ‘Do Academics Still Think’ in DeBurgh, H., Fazackerly, A, Black, J (eds) (2007) in Can The Prizes Still Glitter?, University of Buckingham Press: Buckingham
  • ‘Coping With Adversity: The Turn to the Rhetoric of Vulnerability’, Security Journal, April 2007.
  • ‘From the narrative of the Blitz to the rhetoric of vulnerability’, Cultural Sociology, vol 1, no. 2 (July 2007).
  • The End of Professional Dominance’, Society, vol.43, no.6, 2006
  • The Legacy of Humanism’ in Cummings, D. (2006) (ed) Debating Humanism, Imprint Academic : Exeter.
  • ‘New Dimensions of a Market in Fear’ in Havidan, R, Quarantelli, E, Dynes, R. (2006) (eds) Handbook of Disaster Research, Springer : New York.
  • ‘Terrorism and the politics of fear’ chapter 15 in Criminology (Oxford University Press : Oxford).
  • Reflections on the Medicalisation of Social Experience’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, vol. 3, no.2, August 2004, pp.413-415
  • ‘Introduction to some uncomfortable realities’ Foreword to Todd, M.J. & Taylor, G. (eds) (2004) Democracy and Participation; Popular Protest and New Social Movements, (Merlin Press : London).
  • ‘The formalisation of relationships in education’, in Dennis Haynes (2004) (ed) The Routledge Falmer Guide to Key Debates in Education, (RoutledgeFalmer : London).
  • ‘Promiscuity of Choice, Society, vol. 41, no.4, 2004.
  • ‘Always On, Changing Britain’ in Always on, Changing Britain, European Media Forum, 2004. (A sociological analysis of the role of broadband)
  • ‘Crossing The Boundary: The Marginal Man’ in Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe (2004) (ed.) ”Mixed Race” Studies: A Reader, (Routledge: London).
  • ‘The Downsizing of Intellectual’ in Critical Review of International and Political Philosophy, vol.6, no.4, 2003
  • Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis’ book review in American Journal of Sociology, September 2002.
  • ‘Drug Control and the Ascendancy of Britain’s Therapeutic Culture’ in Nolan, J. (ed.) Drug Courts in Theory And In Practice, Aldine De Gruyter, 2002.
  • Refusing to be Terrorised; Managing Risk After September 11th, Global Futures Report, 2002.
  • ‘The Silent Ascendancy of Therapeutic Culture in Britain’, Society, vol.39, no.3, March/April 2002.
  • ‘The Social Construction of the British Bullying Epidemic’ in J. Best ed. Cross-National Diffusion of Social Problems Claims, Aldine de Gruyter, 2001.
  • Sociological Perceptions of Race Mixing’ in Parker, D. and Song, M. ed. Rethinking 'Race Mixing, Pluto Press, 2001.
  • ‘Reproductive Health or Population Policy?’ in Kelleher, C. and Edmondson, R. eds. Health Promotion: Multi-Discipline or New Discipline, Irish Academic Press, 2000.
  • ‘Diseasing the Workplace’, Journal of Occupational Health Review, November 1999.
  • ‘Complaining Britain’, Society, June 1999.
  • ‘The demobilized African soldier and the blow to white prestige’ in D. Killingray, D. Omissi (eds.), Guardians of Empire, Manchester University Press. 1999.
  • ‘The New Etiquette’ in C. Levitt, S. Davies, N. McLaughlin (eds.), Mistaken Identities; the Second Wave of Controversy over “Political Correctness”, Peter Lang. 1999
  • Courting Mistrust: The hidden growth of a culture of litigation in Britain, Centre for Policy Studies, 1999.
  • ‘A Sociology of Health Panics’ in Mooney, L. and Bate, R. eds. Environmental Health; Third World Problems - First World Preoccupations, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999.
  • ‘Risk and Risk Society - exchange between Ulrich Beck and Frank Furedi’, Prometheus, no.1, Winter 1999.
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Media appearances
I’ve appeared on Newsnight, Sky and BBC News, Radio Four’s Today programme, and a variety of other radio television shows. Internationally, I’ve been interviewed by the media in Australia, Canada, the United States, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, and Germany.

My 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
I am regulated invited as a guest public speakers and I have recently addressed:

  • Cheltenham Music Festival
  • Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Institute of Ideas
  • Royal Society of Arts
  • Edinburgh Festival
  • Festival of Ideas (Brisbane)
  • Festival of Science (Rome).
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Frank Furedi: The younger generation has been infantilised by the baby boomers
IQ2 debate - YouTube

Frank Furedi: Western parents don't know how to bring up their children
IQ2 debate - YouTube



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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 08/09/2016