The social foundations of risk

Bean, Clive & Kendall, Gavin (2011) The social foundations of risk. In Regent, N. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 2011 Australian Political Studies Association Conference, Canberra, A.C.T, pp. 1-24.


Ulrich Beck's argument about risk society emphasises, among other things, the pervasiveness of risk. As a feature of the human condition in the contemporary, globalised, world that distinguishes the present from the past, risk is widespread across society and affects all social strata. While Beck has gestured towards the irregular distribution of contemporary risks, nonetheless he has suggested that traditional structural entities – class and wealth – no longer provide the key interpretive frameworks for the calculation of susceptibility. In short, the tentacles of risk are long and almost no one is out of reach. Yet, while the risk society thesis has generated a large theoretical literature, there is very little in the way of research that marries theorising to original data collection. This paper represents an attempt to address this gap by using empirical data to investigate whether risk is more textured than Beck's account suggests. Focusing on health as a domain of risk, the paper uses data from a national sample survey of the Australian electorate to investigate the extent to which social divisions structure perceptions of risk within the general population. The findings suggest that various aspects of social stratification, such as income, occupation and education, do indeed play a role in shaping perceptions of risk.

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ID Code: 77941
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: risk, beck, perception
ISBN: 9780646564609
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Theory (160806)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Chancellery
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 21 Oct 2014 05:47
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2015 03:11

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