Matter of Opinion

As the world continues to find ways of dealing with the deadly coronavirus, I have begun to retreat into my sociological roots to find answers. As a social theorist, I have read the works of Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck on Risk Society. They both talk about risk within the broader context of hazards and vulnerability.


by Dr Admire Mare, Senior Lecturer, NUST Faculty of Human Sciences

In a world full of interconnectednes, technological, ecological and economic rationalisation are bound to create risk factors. For instance, Beck coined the term risk society to refer to the manner in which modern society organizes in response to risk. The ways in which have organises our communities, structures and infrastructure in response to the Coronavirus speaks a lot about the embeddedness of risk in our thinking and actions. Giddens views a risk society is “a society increasingly preoccupied with the future (and also with safety), which generates the notion of risk”. However, it is Beck’s conceptualisation which makes sense in the context of COVID-19. He defines risk as “a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernisation itself (Beck 1992:21)”. His main thesis is premised on the realisation that risk factors like disease outbreaks cannot be separated from the wider societal developments.


In short, developmental processes carry with them hazards and vulnerabilities which exposes society to all kinds of unforeseen harms. The current efforts to contain the pandemic may as well teach us to reflect deeply about the very concepts we have normalised such as development, hygiene, social bonding and modernisation. Maybe this moment in time will help us to reimagine development processes, rethinking public health interventions but also to always remember that in sociology diseases are social phenomena located in social processes. It helps to go beyond biomedical explanations and find concrete answers in the mix of epistemologies and explanations. We need hybrid solutions that are rooted in local and global realities.

Friday, April 3, 2020
for Month: 
April, 2020

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