Risk society and ecological modernisation: Alternative visions for post-industrial nations

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Two prominent social theories have been shaping the discourse of environmental politics during recent years. Ulrich Beck's risk society theory contends that conventional definitions of social class are losing their significance in advanced nations due to the success of the welfare state in reducing economic scarcity. As societies transition toward late modernity new social cleavages based on the distribution of environmental and technological risks are gaining salience. Standing in contrast is the theory of ecological modernisation originally advanced by Joseph Huber outlining a hyper-rational strategy for correcting the ecological flaws of contemporary production and consumption practices. This paper introduces a typology that joins the two theories into a unified framework and suggests that the direction toward which a particular society progresses will be conditioned by its predisposition to scientific rationality. Due to increasing public endorsement of alternative epistemologies, most countries will likely encounter great difficulty achieving ecological modernisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-119
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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