Beck, Risk, Complex
June 1, 2007
Yurika’s first Question
Is this true
threats against natural disaster, and this
kinds of threats have been continually reduced since
the beginning of industrialization.
Is there a relationship between the size of a natural
disaster and society’s ability to manage it?
In other words maybe we have an infrastructure of a
certain scale that has been adapted to handle
emergencies of a certain size (but not other sizes)
In general we can say that threats have been
reduced as society has become more advanced?
What to think About
We have some social theory about what society is and how
it is/can be organized
Is : fact (the way it is)
no facts are necessarily true
Can be : possibility (doesn’t have to be necessarily)
Should : way it ought to be (comes with a value
In methodology we worry about “is”s becoming
how can we distinguish between them
Benefits of society
over risks; minimizes risk
Aggregate knowledge (collect it)
Build on the insights/mistakes/lessons of
people who came before us
About Society and Choice
For example, people can not escape from
natural disaster, but people have a choice of using new
technology with risks or not.
Is this true (I.e. do we have choice of the
technological systems we exist with/in)?
There must be some minimum criteria for this to be
Money (to invest in/acquire new technology)
Ex: Iran may be developing nuclear power because it can’t afford
to fix its ageing oil technology
Assume that we have the money
do we have a
choice (of technological use)?
Distinguishing between: Natural
disasters and new technologies
: some of problem was that the
levees were not correctly designed or that the
water pumps were not sufficient to stop the
Message: Sometimes there are going to be
natural disasters that humans are not yet
capable of controlling.
Is Beck only concerned with
These are related to planning, human design
From the Case Reading
There are 2 main categories of human factors related to
: that we could not avoid the accidents
Does that mean that we should accept them as inevitable.
The “Shoganai factor” about living in this modern society
Idea of “acceptable risk”
Why are they acceptable?
: says that we can roughly
predict the odds of dangers/risks
We calculate costs and benefits and probabilities
before making decisions
Because we choose to live in society we are
also choosing (without resisting and thinking) to
accept a certain level of risk
Because the benefits of being inside the society
outweigh the costs
Preferable than a life outside society
Technological Risk versus
There are dangers to the Self (individual)
who has disembedded from one context and
become embedded in another
Here we are mixing in an insight/concept from
Dangers to the collective upon re
by that individual
Example: students who return to Myanmar or
China from Japan or the USA
Beck, Giddens. Lasch (1994)
Risk society is coextensive with reflexive modernity
Think about how through our reflection, our mental work
we are able to try to confront or offset the risks posed by
a fully developed industrial society.
These risks cannot simply be assimilated into the
system; they require conscious attention
Just Distribution of Risks
Beck, Giddens and Lasch argue: “
Rather than “just
distribution of goods and services” now the
concern is with the “just distribution of risks”
What is a “distribution of risk”?
This relates to the “shoganai” idea
We have decided to choose/accept risk
Once we have decided this, we become vulnerable to
Risk gets distributed (placed in certain places,
situations, contexts, times) however, not all risk is
Example: nuclear power
Is risk really distributed “fairly”
Example of Nuclear Power in
Why is there a nuclear power plant in Miyagi?
Acceptable because it is located in a place where
there are less people
And even in Miyagi they selected a place with fewer
Matsushima is . . . A tourist spot because it is one of
the three national treasures
Meaning that many people come
Also on the water
Meaning there is a good chance of widespread transmission
of contamination (if it occurs)
How do we decide these
Why is this of concern in a democracy?
Meaning that Government leaders will make
decisions on behalf of “the people”
Decisions are based on scientists’ (experts’)
What is the role of “the public”?
The opening of science?
The Public and Expert Systems
Why are systems “expert”?
Because they depend (are built on ) people who
possess a specialized knowledge that few people
A good/bad thing? A part of modern society. Can’t
have a modern society without it?
Trade, global exchange, also technical
The Public and Expert Systems
It is presupposed that research will
fundamentally take account of the public’s
However, this is an open question
Mechanically, who has control over the
instruments of government (control over these
Also, who possesses the knowledge to match
the experts (thereby controlling them).
Relationship between Citizens
“Blind citizens” can win back the autonomy of their
own judgment by making the threats publicly
visible and arousing attention in detail.
Although that was “voting with your pocketbook”E
Citizen protests have not had any effect in stopping the
building or operation of the airport
Thus, citizens may not always have the kind of
effect that is assumed by authors who point to
their oversight power
Accidents: Some Examples
What kind of accidents could be caused by Human
Things don’t work as they were supposed to
Example: US car industry: “Unsafe at any speed” (general
consumer security and oversight)
ring on the Space Shuttle
Examples where you use a thing as it was intended to be
used, but it fails
Things that don’t work when you use them.
You use it as it was intended to be used, but someone or
thing fails during its use; it is used improperly
Example: in a hospital electricity stops and a respirator stops
and a person dies
Some technologies require systems of
experts and control that we are not capable
Society may not have the ability (the level
of development) capable of handling such
An example that we will consider in the
coming weeks: terrorism