2009 Annual Meeting of the German Association for Social Science Research on Japan (VSJF) in cooperation with the National Institute of Chinese Studies – White Rose East Asia Centre – UK (WREAC)
Across the social sciences, the concept of risk has come to characterize the economic, political and social transformation of industrial societies at the turn of the 21st century. Most notably in the work of Ulrich Beck, the concepts “world risk society” and “reflexive modernity” have opened a new perspective on transnational dimensions of change, challenging the tendency to view globalization primarily as an economically driven process of market liberalization. At the same time, the risk perspective highlights the ambiguities of contemporary modernization processes, between the opportunities raised by the individualization of lifestyles and the precarious consequences of the “individualization of risk.” Moreover, the balance of opportunities and threats implied by contemporary social, political, economic and cultural changes are shaped by the changing logic of public institutions and state regulation, as the responsibilities for risks are shifted from states to markets, from the public to private sphere and from collectivities to individuals.
In 2009 the VSJF conference will cooperate with the National Institute of Chinese Studies, White Rose East Asia Centre to take up a transnational East Asian perspective. The works of Ulrich Beck have received a wide reception in both China and Japan. A first aim of the VSJF conference in 2009 is to engage with the “reflexive modernization” thesis from the perspective of East Asia, with East Asian social scientists and with Ulrich Beck, who will deliver the keynote address. The focus on the East Asian region is of high theoretical interest for an analysis of the “world risk society” precisely because this is a region of the world with a history of a different mix between public and collective protections and responsibilities for livelihood risks.
A second aim of the conference is to focus on major dimensions of risk from both a conceptual and an empirical perspective. In this part of the program panels will focus on recent research about livelihood risks, East Asian responses to the financial crisis, the role of local and central states in the governance of risks, and risks entwined with rural transformations in East Asia. In the closing podium discussion the conference participants will be asked to consider how well a risk theoretical perspective can “travel” to generate insights about transformations in East Asia.
Karen Shire (Universität Duisburg-Essen)