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date: 07 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

In his 1958 book War and Industrial Society, Raymond Aron claimed that industrial society had shaped not only the way in which war was fought in the twentieth century, but also the expectations of what force could achieve and how peace could be made. A number of sociologists are now arguing that the industrial society described by Aron is changing into what Ulrich Beck terms a “risk society.” The concept of risk entered the realms of security studies and strategic studies in the early years of the twenty-first century. It has been stimulated by new challenges to policy makers and new strategies for dealing with “security issues.” Today, the concept of risk is used to develop strategies for a globalizing world redefined by rapid technological and social change in the same way as the concept of security was used to forge strategies for the Cold War. Three concepts together define the practices of risk: risk management, the presence of the future, and the boomerang effect. The future is present in contemporary policy making in the shape of scenarios and in the sense of the boomerang effect, creating a self-referential society that is very much aware of the changes it is going through. This anxiety of change and the preemptive policies that follow are captured in the risk literature. Future research should tackle the question of whether the risk society is a way of coping with transition, or whether it is the way of a new “postmodern” society.

Keywords: Raymond Aron, industrial society, war, peace, security, risk society, risk, risk management, presence of the future, boomerang effect

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