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Risk and Society

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Course Introduction:

Risk is a relatively modern concept taking over in public and political debates about singular events like disasters and catastrophes, as well as matters of everyday lives. It quickly became an important concept in sociology and other social sciences. The course Risk and Society aims at understanding the concept of risk within leading theories of risk and society and applying available analytical and theoretical tools on risks in a diversity of domains: health, environment, international security and others. Special attention will be paid to issues of risk perception and the diversity of conceptions of risk within lay and expert public.

Students will become acquainted with the key theoretical approaches to risk and theories of society placing risk in their centre (Douglas, Luhmann, Beck, Giddens, Slovic, and others) as well as less prevalent approaches (e.g. edgework, governmentality). Using available theoretical and analytical tools, students will contribute by analysing and presenting a topic of their own choosing, focusing on a specific risk domain or problem.

The main goal of the course is to understand the diversity and social construction of definitions of risks and “acceptable” levels of risk, as well as to gain critical insight in the role of risk in modern societies.

We will search for responses to the following questions:

What is risk and what is its role in the modern societies?

Is risk real or is it socially constructed?

Is risk a tool of power and control?

Why is lay perception of risk often different from expert calculation? (meaning: Why are people not scared when they should be and why are they panicking if there is no real danger?)

Is risk-free, secure, or safe society possible?