Risk Society


“A numberof theorists of “risk society” have suggested that, in our current social context, science and technology in general have serious public relations problems. Risk theory posits that the management of risk forms the basis of government rationality in late modernity, replacing the distribution of social wealth and the protection against dangers. The origin of risk society is found in a fundamental process of modernity – the replacement of local knowledge by technical expert-knowledge systems.These knowledge systems render social relations abstract and invert the causal linkage of past, present,and future: the present becomes an outcome, not of the receding past,but of the emerging risks of the future. Yet these expert systems are not seamless. Risk theorists argue that the traditionally privileged position of science and technology as knowledge systems has come under scrutiny as their limits have become apparent. Contrary to Enlightenment expectations,the more that scientific knowledge has developed, the more complex, contradictory, and indeterminate it has become. The constant revision of knowledge, the disagreement among its practitioners, and the evident failures of science over the course of the twentieth century have tended to undermine utopian promises of progress; certain knowledge and rational control over nature have given way to a permanent sense of anxiety, as people contemplate the potential failure of globalised technologic scientific and economic systems”.

Text: Sheryl N. Hamilton, Traces of the Future: Biotechnology, Science Fiction, and the Media


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