Risk Society: From Fear to Anxiety?

  • Elena Pulcini
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 11)


This chapter observes the crisis of the Hobbesian model owing to the metamorphosis of fear, since the sources and characteristics of the danger have changed substantially and fear today has become uncertain and indefinite. This appears clear if we try to define fear: fear of who, of what? In the global age we can identify two fundamental sources of danger which both have an indefinite nature: on one hand, the other, who however loses the certainty that he has in the Hobbesian paradigm since he takes on the disturbing and indecipherable outlines of the foreigner, he who is different: or rather the ‘stranger within’ (Simmel), who cannot be either expelled or assimilated, and who, as a consequence, is the permanent source of anxiety and unease (fear of contamination); on the other, the so-called global risks, produced by the development of technology and human action (such as the nuclear threat and global warming), which are difficult to outline, at times invisible and fundamentally uncontrollable, and therefore the source of a sense of impotence and anxiety. Starting from the Freudian distinction between fear and anxiety, the hypothesis is suggested that global fear no longer has the productive function of early modernity (capable of promoting the preservation of life and social and political order), but it becomes unproductive, since it results in irrational and destructive responses.


Global Society Global Risk Ecological Politics Embryonic Stem Cell Research Risk Society 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di FilosofiaUniversita’ Degli Studi Di FirenzeFirenze, FlorenceItaly

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