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Risk Society thesis

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  1. Introduction
  2. Risk society thesis: Rethinking our modernity to act towards modernization
    1. Facing issues that the society can not fix
    2. Ulrich Beck's risk society theory
  3. Questioning the role of science as a two-edged tool to cope with the environmental issue
    1. Science: The detection and creation of risks
    2. Intrinsic limits pointing to omniscience of the scientific knowledge
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

By offering a radical reorientation of mainstream sociology, modern social theory illuminates theoretical themes in environmental sociology. Indeed, it has recently begun to contest the honoured epistemological assumption of the environment as an independent, objective reality. New environmental issues such as global warming has actually triggered off a shift in social theory to a more direct theoretical concern with the social consequences of environmental degradation and resource management by environmental sociology. Hence, the Risk Society Thesis posits the ubiquity of risks, in social, economic, political and environmental fields. Insofar as risk is a problem of knowledge and the uncertain outcome of the relationship between the possible and the real, the social dimension of environmental issues is at stake. That is the reason why ecological alarmism seems to reflect growing uncertainties and anxieties to the changing character of late modern society.
How to apprehend such a complex issue that relies on every societal fields? By linking environment to sociology, to what extent does the Beck's Risk society thesis offers a new approach of the crisis modern societies are facing? As science is closely related to environmental sociology, which keys is it likely to offer us?
First of all, Beck's view of the modern world is one of transformation that is ?the modernization of modernity?, which demands a societal response to this shift. Then, as ozone depletion, acid rain, global warming have all become environmental concerns, green movement and green politics seems to be a new answer. Hence, it is essential to assess the extent to which science knowledge and expertise provide a sufficient basis for policy making.

[...] As we said, Ulrich Beck's risk society theory analyses ecological anxieties against the background of changing conditions of modernity. Through its questioning of the role of science and technology in overcoming an ecological catastrophe, the risk society theory seems to fundamentally contradict ecological modernisation theory. Indeed, Beck is calling for the use of new sociological and institutional tools to cope with environmental issues, whereas ecological movements are getting involved in the traditional ways of expression. Hence, Beck's theory contributes in analysing environmental problems in a new and revolutionary approach that mixes sociology and science. [...]


[...] Hence, environmental movement can be linked to the Weber's legal-rational authority which is legitimized by the scientism of this movement. However, some are still reluctant to grant too much place to science for several reasons. First because environmental issues are created by the scientific and technological parts of our civilization so it appears weird to trust an authority that is the source of our problems, then because scientific expertise is beginning to reveal its failure and its uncertainty. Moreover, some intrinsic limits could be point out as to the omniscience of the scientific knowledge, which in return weaken the essence of the green movement. [...]

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