Reason of state and a new notion of fortune : Historicising the risk society

Donoghue, Geraldine (2014) Reason of state and a new notion of fortune : Historicising the risk society. In West, Brad (Ed.) Proceedings of the TASA 2014 Annual Conference: Challenging Identities, Institutions and Communities, The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), University of South Australia, Adelaide. (In Press)

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Since the 1980s the concept of risk has produced a large and diverse volume of sociological research. Ulrich Beck’s groundbreaking risk society thesis provides a particularly engaging contribution, since it seems that nearly every sociological account of risk engages with this work. For Beck, we are living in second modernity – a new epoch that breaks with pre-modernity and industrial society due to the centrality, incalculability and reflexivity of globalised risk. While Beck’s theory is compelling, a reading of other theorists such as Foucault (2007[1978]) and Hacking (1975,1990) suggests that a difficulty with Beck’s work is that in attempting to explain what is novel about risk in contemporary times, he too quickly passes over the complexities and ruptures of historical change that impact on the history and contingency of risk.

This paper begins by presenting a brief analysis of the present state of risk by introducing Beck’s historical narrative of risk from pre-modernity to the risk society; it then outlines the challenges with the “risk as epoch” argument by considering a range of literature, which suggests risk has a more complex history than proposed by Beck; and finally it highlights the value in examining strategies of statecraft in early modern Europe, specifically Machiavelli’s The Prince (2008[1513]) and Giovanni Botero’s political treatise, Della Ragion di Stato (1956[1589]) – as a means of more thoroughly understanding how our current concept of risk emerges. In doing so, this paper seeks to open up new trajectories in the historicisation of risk for other interested scholars.

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ID Code: 79884
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Risk Society, Ulrich Beck, History of Risk, Foucault, Reason of State, Machiavelli, Giovanni Botero
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Theory (160806)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300) > European History (excl. British Classical Greek and Roman) (210307)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Division of Research and Commercialisation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Please consult the author.
Deposited On: 08 Jan 2015 01:26
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2015 05:37

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