Risk and Technological Culture: Towards a Sociology of Virulence

Risk and Technological Culture: Towards a Sociology of Virulence

Risk and Technological Culture: Towards a Sociology of Virulence

Risk and Technological Culture: Towards a Sociology of Virulence

Synopsis

The question as to whether we are now entering a risk society has become a key debate in contemporary social theory. Risk and Technological Culture presents a critical discussion of the main theories of risk from Ulrich Becks foundational work to that of his contemporaries such as Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash and assesses the extent to which risk has impacted on modern societies. In this discussion van Loon demonstrates how new technologies are transforming the character of risk and examines the relationship between technological culture and society through substantive chapters on topics such as waste, emerging viruses, communication technologies and urban disorders. In so doing this innovative new book extends the debate to encompass theorists such as Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and Jean-Fran¿ois Lyotard.

Excerpt

On 11 September 2001, exactly 28 years after the murder of the Chilean president Salvatore Allende by an alliance between a military junta led by General Pinochet and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a new chapter was opened in the history of modernity. As it happened, I was putting the last finishing touches to this book, wondering how to introduce the general argument that risk engenders a turning in modern, western culture towards an apocalyptic sensibility. On that day, three hijacked planes were deliberately crashed into the most central nodal points of the ‘new’ globalized world order: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. With a devastating and cold precision, these calculated and coordinated series of attacks on both civilian lives as well as symbols of global power ground the world economy to a temporary halt. At the same time, centres of control were not functioning because people were being evacuated as a result of a heightened sense of vulnerability. Chaos and pandemonium prevailed as media encircled these sites of devastation and had nothing to report but some very bare facts, which were subsequently engrossed in immense speculation.

Although terrorism does not feature in this book at all, the similarities between terrorism risks and other risks that are being discussed here are remarkable. the immediate response to the actual catastrophe revealed that the security concepts deployed in terms of anti-terrorism policing did not adequately cover the open-ended nature or virtuality of risks. For example, the way in which domestic (as distinct from international) air travel operates in the usa shows that either there was no sense of risk associated with using aeroplanes as missiles, or that such risks were unduly ignored because of other perceived risks such as the costs of impeding speed of movement. Moreover, the way in which security concepts were framed in military terms, with an emphasis on large-scale high-tech mass destruction apparatuses, has been exposed as wholly inadequate in the face of the strategies of ‘terrorism’ being deployed on that day.

Above all, it showed that risks are potent only in their ‘becoming real’. Once the catastrophe is inaugurated, they have already moved to somewhere else, for example, in the form of speculations about further attacks (such as bioterrorism) or consequences in terms of world peace or economic stability.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.