Covid-19: A Late Modern-Day Risk and a Class Problem

  • Lucy MacDonald


The concept of risk society was coined in the late 1980s by the German Sociologist Ulrick Beck. The theory is used to explain the shift from scientifically predicted risks to socially produced risks. Predominantly, the main dangers we now face are created by ourselves rather than external natural causes (Beck, 1992). This is a key factor of reflexive modernity, a stage that Beck argues society is now in. Reflexive modernity is also characterised by the weakening of social structures and the decline in the power of scientific truth (Beck, 1992), which will be explored in this critical reflection and applied to a contemporary event. The recent Covid-19 pandemic is a sound example of a socially produced risk and will be used as the main framework in this reflection. However, Beck’s analysis has limitations, as the pandemic also shows that society is not as reflexive as Beck suggests. Societal structures are still majorly significant to an individual’s outcome and life chances. Therefore, we must still question and evaluate the accuracy of risk society when applying it to understand contemporary societies.