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Individualization revisited: Global family developments, uncertainty and risk

Burgess, Adam (2017) Individualization revisited: Global family developments, uncertainty and risk. Journal of Risk Research, 21 (1). pp. 83-95. ISSN 1366-9877. E-ISSN 1466-4461. (doi:10.1080/13669877.2017.1359205) (KAR id:62273)

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As part of our special issue appreciating the work of Ulrich Beck, this article introduces and rearticulates his concept of individualization for an audience beyond those engaged with sociological theory. It is argued to be the ‘forgotten half’ of Beck’s approach that is in particular need of both restatement and reaffirmation of its contemporary relevance. It does so by firstly contextualizing and explaining its comparatively limited impact before elaborating the stages of the individualizing process and how his key notion of ‘disembedding without re-embedding’ is distinct from traditional sociological understanding of the individualizing dynamic within modernity. Its relevance and utility is then indicated through surveying developments in family and affective relations in China and America, two of Beck’s ideal types of individualization pattern. Both demonstrate a pattern of radical ‘disembedding’, and a conscious and partial ‘re-embedding’ in the case of the ‘neo-traditional’ American middle class family. Following this, the article suggests a stronger potential connection between the risk and individualization dimensions of his approach than was drawn out by Beck himself, through focusing upon the uncertainty created by disembedding. The uncertainty that follows from individualization suggests precautionary retreat into security and the construction of risk as a means of embodying and managing uncertainty. Recognition of this social dynamic is potentially more useful in understanding risk than the better known but very general theory of reflexive modernization that is the better-known half of Beck’s contribution to risk research.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/13669877.2017.1359205
Uncontrolled keywords: Individualization, uncertainty, family, China, America
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Adam Burgess
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2017 08:11 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Burgess, Adam:
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