The concept of risk poses itself as the new paradigm for analysis of the glocal society. The rapidly changing ‘thresholds’ of techno-scientific innovation – from the infinitely large to the infinitely small, from big data to nanotechnology and manipulation of the genome – challenge the predictability and the very idea that reduction of risk can be pursued by applying present-day models to future scenarios.
The explosion of what Hans Jonas defines in The Imperative of Responsibility as “The Prometheus unbound” – modern technology – the scope of which is unpredictable and the consequences only visible in the long term, has implications in moral terms: with respect to simple ‘technique’ – neutral in an ethical sense, respectful toward the generating forces of nature – technology, the result of the boundless manipulative power of modern man, cannot declare itself to be ethically indifferent. It is Jonas himself who calls awareness to the fact that “the promise of modern technology has transformed into a threat”. Ulrich Beck likewise highlighted the economic pervasiveness of this type of innovation, revealing how it operates above and beyond any possible form of insurance.
The acknowledgement of the centrality of the “risk factor” in every global social action and its local – or, in a broader sense, individual implications (consider the molecular vision that permits intervention on the genome) – emphasizes the role of expert knowledge in recognising, assessing and managing risk despite the intrinsic randomness it is associated with. Opposing this centrality of risk, we find trends and dynamics that radicalise it and aspire to creating a zero risk society, even in contexts not strictly technological or environmental from which awareness of the issue developed: consider the most intimate of individual choices, for example procreation or euthanasia.
The argument of risk develops along these parallel interpretative lines and, from there, the deepest reflection on the possible constitutive values of social action in the extreme plurality of a global society.
Online: May 5, 2015
Papers deadline: August 31, 2015.
This issue is scheduled to appear at end-October 2015.