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Risk, Risk Society, Risk Behavior, and Social Problems

DEAN CURRAN


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Do we live in a risky world? Are there more risks now than there were before? Is the fear of risks more prevalent than in the past? Can we understand the risks we face or must we just act as if we do? And are risks real or are they simply social constructions? These extremely important questions are some of the central themes that are the subject of analysis and contention within contemporary sociology of risk. From nuclear risk to “mad cow” disease, climate change, terror and crime, systemic financial risk, contagion and pandemics, unemployment and poverty, contemporary risks are a massive patchwork of possible damages generated by a series of different social and natural processes. Given the diversity of risks, it is not surprising that the different sociological approaches to risk vary in their methods, orientations, results, and points of emphasis. Nevertheless, despite the differences, these social scientific approaches to risk hold in common the synthetic impulse to develop frameworks that can identify common threads in the cornucopia of contemporary risks. The sociology of risk, with its early classic treatments published in the 1980s and early 1990s, is just barely over 30 years old; while the output of research and insights has been significant, it is still in its relative infancy. Whether, as it stands, it provides adequate resources to address contemporary risk is a matter ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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