This SHOULDN’T Be Happening To Us. We beat Nature. She’s licked. All our problems are of our own societies’ making now. That’s the whole point of having entered reflexive modernisation…
The idea of reflexive modernisation describes, at its simplest, the notion that we are moving into a third stage of social development within modernity. Beck has subtitled his influential Risk Society ‘towards a new modernity’. Lash and Wynne, in their introduction to Risk Society suggest there was ‘first pre-modernity, then simple modernity and finally reflexive modernity’. In other words, traditional society was first supplanted by the industrial society which might be called simple modernity. This period saw the emergence of classes, wealth accumulation, rapid scientific advance and the arrival of industrial and capitalist society. We are now, it is suggested, in the grip of the consequences of a shift from that second phase of simple modernity to a third phase, which for Beck, is the period of reflexive modernity. A characteristic of this period is the apparent continuity of industrial society through the change. The underlying nature of this new industrial society is, however, very different from the old. It is now faced not with the problem of harnessing or controlling nature for the benefit of humankind but‘essentially with problems resulting from techno- economic development itself’. It is in this sense that Beck says modernity becomes reflexive, ‘a theme and a problem for itself.’ This new modernity has to solve the human-constructed problems which arise from the development of industrial society; to tackle how the risks produced as a consequence of modernity can be ‘prevented, minimised, dramatised, or channelled’.
from Reflexive Modernisation and the Social Economy by Mike Aiken
One is reminded of two things -
1) The joke that gets inserted into a sitcom, where you hear someone say the punchline – ‘And the bear says, “this isn’t about hunting, is it?”‘
2) In Walter Tevis’ novel about chess, Gambit, the young prodigy with a drink problem is playing one of those showing exhibition tournaments, her versus a whole bunch of amateurs in a room that she walks around playing simultaneously. She keeps thinking she can sweep some guy off the board because she is who she is, but…
P.S. Aiken usefully clarifies -
Before proceeding I should first clarify a possible confusion inherent in the term ‘reflexive modernisation’. We should think of ‘reflexive’ more in the sense of ‘reflex’ than ‘reflection’. In other words the notion is about social development arising as a reflex to previous decisions or activities which may give rise to unintended or even surprising consequences.