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Views of Risk in Sweden: Global Fatalism and Local Control - An Empirical Investigation of Ulrich Beck's Theory of New Risks

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Ulrich Beck's theory of risk society has been criticised because there is lack of empirical evidence. By comparing people with different life contexts and experiences, the aim of this study was to investigate how these people view risk, and if 'new' risks are perceived differently by different groups in society. Five focus-group interviews were conducted in Sweden, in 2004/05, with people in rural and urban areas, people with a foreign background and experts. The groups consisted of four people each and lasted for two hours. The results show that 'new' risks are not something people worry about; 'risk' is associated with personal experiences and life context. This indicates a traditional or at least modern way of viewing risk, and contradicts the idea of a reflexive view of risk. However, a division between the urban versus the rural-migrant groups appears: the expert-urban groups show a more global - fatalistic strategy to handle of risk, while the rural - migrant group shows a more traditional approach to risk, where control and the local context are in focus.

Keywords: New risks; Ulrich Beck; modernity; risk strategies; views of risk

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Social Science, Mid Sweden University, Sweden

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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