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For good practical and theoretical reasons, risk and uncertainty have emerged as central themes in social science. More flexible labour markets, greater freedom to divorce, cohabit and re-partner and greater diversity in lifestyles erode the certainty with which people can map out their futures. Step-changes in the complexity and scale of technological innovation enable rapid rise in living standards, and, at the same time, bring the possibility of major catastrophes closer. Unexpected disasters, from the Challenger Space Shuttle to Chernobyl, from the Herald of Free Enterprise to Exxon Valdez remind us of the limits to our capacity for control. This subject will give an overview to interdisciplinary and sociological approaches to risk and a better understanding why we are concerned about risks and how we can deal with risks and uncertainty as a society but also individually in everyday life. It will show the limits of objectivist understandings of risk and will explore the involvement of values, power, knowledge and emotions in the realm of risk.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students should have:
- A good understanding of contemporary risks and uncertainties that includes the different dimensions (values, power, complexity etc.) involved in societal and everyday life risk issues;
- A good overview about major social sciences approaches to risk;
- The ability for critical and reflexive judgements about reasonable strategies to deal with risk and uncertainties;
- The ability to develop systematic arguments using different sociological approaches to risk and uncertainty;
- Communicate sociological concepts and theories on risk and uncertainty effectively using appropriate formats both oral and written.
Last updated: 22 November 2023