My new book: Risk, 2nd edition

My latest book was published recently. It is the second, fully revised edition of  Risk, a volume I contributed to Routledge’s Key Ideas in Sociology series. The first edition appeared in 1999, so it was interesting to see how much had changed in the theoretical and empirical landscape of the sociology of risk in the ensuing years.

In the first edition of Risk, I identified three major theoretical perspectives on risk in social and cultural theory. The first approach draws upon the work of Mary Douglas to articulate the ‘cultural/symbolic’ perspective on risk. The second approach is that of the ‘risk society’ perspective, based on the writings of Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens. The third approach covered is that of the ‘governmentality’ perspective, which builds on Michel Foucault’s work.

No major theoretical perspectives have emerged since the first edition, but there have been some extensions of these established perspectives. The second edition adds discussion of new work by Beck and Giddens and governmentality writers in relation to the newly emerging threats of the twenty-first century, such as climate change, extreme weather events, terrorism and global financial crises. Beck’s recent writings on cosmopolitanism and world risk society are incorporated, as are those by Giddens on fundamentalism in relation to terrorism, and climate change politics.

New thoughts by governmentality scholars such as Mitchell Dean on precautionary risk are also covered. Precautionary risk is an approach that has recently emerged in neoliberal societies to deal with apparently incalculable and unpredictable risks. This strategy attempts to deal with great uncertainty about how to calculate and manage catastrophic risks, to govern the ungovernable threats of this new century that challenge neoliberalist ideals of progress, rational management and control.

As well as these theoretical directions, the book also includes discussion of many empirical research studies on risk published since the first edition, undertaken by researchers in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia. One change in the second edition is that I place more of a focus on the notion of risk and suffering, an aspect that did not receive much attention in the first edition. Scholarly and policy representations of risk often tend not to acknowledge the emotional dimensions  of feeling threatened by risk: the anxiety, fear and despair that  may accompany such experiences.

The new edition also includes discussion of the writings of my colleague and co-author John Tulloch (see Tulloch and Lupton, 2003), who was a victim of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. John has written about his unique position as a well-known scholar of risk and as someone who became the ‘face of the London bombings’ in the news media. He found himself in the difficult position of being used by Tony Blair’s government to support its anti-terrorist legislation even though he trenchantly opposed it. As such, John was able to critique political attempts to contain and control risk and media conventions of portraying risk.


June 2012 highlights on ‘This Sociological Life’

Last month was the first full month in the life of this blog, and it was a busy one. One of the most popular posts of the month looked at the debate provoked by the obesity sceptics who challenge the orthodox medical view that (non-extreme) obesity is detrimental to health. Many interesting opinions were posted in response to the post, including clinicians and health promotion academics working in obesity treatment and prevention and activists advocating for the Health at Every Size Approach, as well as my own comments providing details about other work in this area and in fat studies. There were quite a few relevant sources cited to back up commentators’ arguments, so these comments would be a good place to look for those interested in the debate between anti-obesity exponents and obesity sceptics.

Other posts published last month looked at topics such as how women engage in voluntary risk-taking (‘edgework’) and how this differs from men’s edgework; pregnancy and loss of control of the body/self; the concept of the ‘good mother’ in relation to the ‘fat child’; the Australian government’s controversial introduction of a mental health check for three-year-old children; the new mobile device technologies and how they are being used for health promotion; and the concepts of the ‘milkmother’ and the ‘Yummy Mummy’ in contemporary understandings and experiences of motherhood.

Another popular post in June looked at how sociologists and other social scientists can use the social media platform Pinterest as part of their research and teaching. This post was republished on the LSE Impact of the Social Sciences website. I noted in the post that I have made my own Pinterest boards on my current research interests. They include ‘Medicine as Culture’, ‘Fat Culture’, ‘The Sociology of Infancy’, ‘The Sociology of the Preborn’, ‘M-health and the Digital Cyborg’ and ‘Public Health Campaigns’ (you can view the boards here). I was also interviewed for The Australian newspaper’s Higher Education section about using Pinterest in academic work.

In June I also wrote a guest blog for ‘Croakey’, the health section of the ‘Crikey’ discussion website on making an app as an experiment to see how easy being an ‘app developer’ is (). To view or download the app itself (which explains over 25 key concepts in medical sociology) go here. I continue to be fascinated by the capabilities of social media for academic work and have been busy experimenting with Twitter (@DALupton), Delicious and Storify.

Meanwhile, in other academic writing my article ‘”Precious cargo”: foetal subjects, risk and reproductive citizenship’ was published in Critical Public Health. Last month I continued work on the revisions for the second edition my book Risk, originally published by Routledge in 1999, and plan to submit the final manuscript to the publishers at the end of July. I am bringing the book up to date by including, among many other issues, discussions of Ulrich Beck’s and Anthony Giddens’ latest writings on risk and new governmentality approaches on ‘prudential risk’ in the context of the catastrophic events that have occurred since the turn of this century and which have resulted in different ways of understanding and dealing with risk.