Living in and coping with world risk society – Ulrich Beck

In this talk (from a few years ago, 2011 I think), sociologist Ulrich Beck outlines and updates his theory of reflexive modernization and the ‘risk society’. He suggests that, to the extent that risk is experienced as omnipresent in the current age, there are only three possible reactions: denial, apathy or transformation. The first, he says, ‘is largely inscribed in modern culture, the second resembles post-modern nihilism, the third is the “cosmopolitan moment” of world risk society’.

In the talk that follows he structures his argument around three key points. In  the first he outlines the distinctive, new features of this world risk society. There is a distinction between risk and catastrophe – they are not the same things. Risk is about the anticipation of catastrophe. This is why, despite the fact that Europe and ‘The West’ are relatively safe, globally speaking, or perhaps even ‘objectively’ so, it is the global anticipation of catastrophe (propagated via symbolic forms in the mass media etc) that is fundamental to the shaping of contemporary societies. These global perceptions of risk have three features: de-localization ( in spatial, temporal and social terms), incalculableness, and non-compensatibility.

His second key point stresses the fundamentally global character of these process, over and against the nation-state as a political level of analysis, and transformative action. Against this methodological nationalism he offers a defence of his cosmopolitan vision for the social sciences, outlined in more detail in his Power and the Global Age (2005). His final point offers some consequences of his position, in general, and a (sympathetic) critique of alternative theoretical conceptions of risk, most notably those of Mary Douglas and Michel Foucault. What is needed is a paradigm shift in the social sciences – the emergence of a cosmopolitan social science – a ‘cosmopolitan turn’.

This defence of cosmopolitanism – his cosmopolitical realpolitik –  is, of course, open to many criticisms and questions, as are his wider arguments about risk, decision-making etc.  There are some questions/discussion after 26 mins or so.

President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative Public Lecture, NUI Galway: Social Equality and Poverty, Prof. Jonathan Wolff (UCL)

jon wolff
Via Dr Richard Hull (NUI Galway)
The discipline of Philosophy (NUI Galway) is delighted to welcome Professor Jonathan Wolff to NUI, Galway, as part of the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative. He will deliver a public lecture on ‘Social Equality and Poverty’, to which you are warmly invited.
Date: Friday 10th October, 2014.
Time: 4pm.
Venue: Aula Maxima Lower.
Title: ‘Social Equality and Poverty’.
A note about the Lecture:
A society of equals is a society that avoids a range of destructive asymmetrical social relations, including domination, exploitation, snobbery, servility and social exclusion. But how, in the highly unequal societies in which we live, can we begin to make progress on eliminating social inequality? This talk explores how thinking about relative poverty can help illuminate one highly important aspect of social inequality: social exclusion. At the same time reflecting on relative poverty, and the steps people take to overcome it, can help us to understand some of the considerable structural obstacles that stand in the way of achieving a society of equals.
A note about Professor Jonathan Wolff:
Jonathan Wolff is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London. He is the author of several books on political philosophy, including Disadvantage (with Avner de-Shalit) 2007, Ethics and Public Policy 2011, and The Human Right to Health. He has been a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Gambling Review Body, and the Board of Science of the British Medical Association. He writes a regular column on higher education for the Guardian.
We look forward to seeing you there on Friday 10th. For further information contact Dr Richard Hull:

Just In Print: Power and Emotion (Routledge)

Power and emotion cover


I am delighted to announce that a collection of papers edited by myself and Prof. Helena Flam on the theme of emotions and power is just out today. This collection originally appeared as a special issue of the Journal of Political Power in 2013, but was chosen by Routledge to be reissued as part of their ‘special issue as book‘ series.  It is available for purchase from Amazon (UK now, US in October), Routledge, the Book Depository and elsewhere, but would make an excellent addition to your institutional library (recommendation form here).

The book includes some very high quality chapters that deploy and interrogate the concepts of emotion and power across a wide array of topics and issues, from some of the leading international researchers on these topics. The quality and diversity on show recommend this publication to a variety scholars, but especially those interested in the sociology of emotions, questions of social and political power, political sociology, organization studies, media studies, education, and political and social theory more generally.

The list of chapters and authors is:

Heaney, J.G. ‘Emotions and power: a bifocal prescription to cure theoretical myopia’.

Flam, H. ‘The transnational movement for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation as an emotional (rule) regime?’.

Simpson, A.V., Clegg, S.R., Freeder, D. ‘Compassion, power and organization’.

Barbalet, J., Qi, X. ‘The paradox of power: conceptions of power and the relations of reason and emotion in European and Chinese culture’.

Wettergren, Å., Jansson, A.‘Emotions, power and space in the discourse of “People of the Real World”’.

Baker, S.A., Rowe, D. ‘The power of popular publicity: new social media and the affective dynamics of the sport racism scandal’. 

Martin, J.‘A feeling for democracy? Rhetoric, power and the emotions’.

Zembylas, M.‘Memorial ceremonies in schools: analyzing the entanglement of emotions and power’.

Procter, L. ‘Emotions, power and schooling: the socialisation of “angry boys”.

The blurb reads:

This collection is concerned with two fundamental concepts of social science– power and emotion. Power permeates all human relationships and is constitutive of social, economic, and political life. It stands at the centre of social and political theorizing, and its study has enriched scholarship within a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, political science, philosophy, and anthropology. The conceptual cluster of emotion, by contrast, had a more troubled time within these same disciplines. However, since the 1970’s and the advent of the ‘emotional turn’, there has been a widespread re-evaluation of emotion in and for our shared social existence and, today, emotions research is at forefront of contemporary social science. Yet, although both concepts are now widely seen as fundamental, research on these two phenomena has tended to run in parallel.

This collection, featuring leading international scholars, seeks to unite and deploy both concepts, emotion and power, in a variety of ways, and on a diverse array of topics such as: education, organizations, social movements, politics, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, rhetoric and in comparative intellectual history. The results are at the bleeding edge of scholarship on these concepts, and will make important reading for practitioners and students working in the sociology of emotions, social and political power, political sociology, organization studies, and for sociological and political theory more generally.

This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Political Power.

Please share widely!


A Brief History of Liberty – and its Lessons: A Public ‘Ethics Initiative’ Lecture by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University in NUI Galway.


Distinguished Irish philosopher Prof. Philip Pettit of Princeton University will give a public lecture on ‘A Brief History of Liberty — and its Lessons’ in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway at 4pm on Tuesday, 17th June 2014. This talk is being presented as part of the President of Ireland’s ‘Ethics Initiative’, and organised by the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Research Cluster of the School of Political Science & Sociology. The President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, will be in attendance at the lecture.  All are welcome and the event is free, but we would appreciate if you could register your attendance here.

Philip Pettit, originally from Ballygar Co. Galway, is L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, where he teaches philosophy and political theory. He is particularly renowned for his revival and development of republicanism within political philosophy, and for his work on group agency.  Among his books are The Common Mind (1996); Republicanism (1997); The Economy of Esteem (2004), with G. Brennan; A Political Philosophy in Public Life: Civic Republicanism in Zapatero’s Spain, with J.L. Marti (2010); and Group Agency (2011), with C. List.  Professor Pettit is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of academies in his two countries of citizenship: Ireland and Australia.  His recent book On the People’s Terms (2012) is published with Cambridge University Press. It is based on the 2009 Albertus Magnus Lectures in Cologne, and the 2010 Seeley lectures in Cambridge.  Also forthcoming is a book with W.W.Norton for a general audience, entitled Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World. He is giving the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Berkeley in 2014-15.

While in Ireland, Prof. Pettit will also be involved in a number of workshops, based on his work, in UCD, and will give the opening keynote address, on the infrastructure of democracy, to the third annual Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School in Dublin later in June.

Abstract for the lecture is below the fold.

Continue reading “A Brief History of Liberty – and its Lessons: A Public ‘Ethics Initiative’ Lecture by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University in NUI Galway.”

Call for Papers – ESA Emotions Network Midterm Conference 2014**DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 6TH 2014**

Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004 4 mm square section mild steel bar 225 x 218 x 170 cm Photograph by Stephen White, London
Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004
4 mm square section mild steel bar
225 x 218 x 170 cm
Photograph by Stephen White, London


The ESA Emotions Network (RN11) will hold their 6th midterm conference between 25-27 September, 2014. The conference will take place on the island of Rhodes, Greece, in the University of the Aegean. This year, in addition to the usual streams, the conference will feature two special workshops on emotions – one for PhD students (featuring Prof. Helena Flam and Prof. Helmut Kuzmics), and one on the use of literary analysis for sociology of emotions research (again, featuring Prof. Helmut Kuzmics and Dr. Stephanie Bird). The proposed sessions, towards which you might pitch your abstracts, include: Theorizing Emotions; Emotions and: Morality; Globalization; Religion; Civic Action; Power; Literature; Law; Finance; Visuals; Migration-Sensations-Spaces; Post-Atrocity Emotions; and Researching Emotions Empirically. The full call for papers is here: CfP RN 11 Midterm Rhodes final(pdf).

Abstracts not exceeding 300 words should be sent by the 31st of March 2014 to Jochen Kleres ( Please use “RN 11 midterm submission”in the subject line of your email. Also, please send your abstract indicating whether it is for a specific session listed above. Notifications about the abstracts selected for presentation at the midterm conference will be made by mid-May 2014. Conference fees, more precise conference times, and links to accommodation will be announced then.

I hope to make it this year myself and I urge those working on affect or emotions to submit an abstract. I have been to other conferences with this group and always found them both intellectually stimulating and, perhaps more importantly, filled with interesting, warm and (not least) fun social scientists from all over the world. But hurry up! The deadline is Monday!


Special Issue: Emotions & Power

RPOWcover 1..2

Just a quick note to announce that a special issue of the Journal of Political Power, edited by myself and Prof. Helena Flam, is now available online. The theme of the special issue is emotions and power, and the issue contains some new and exciting social science research addressing these two concepts from a variety of perspectives. We have chosen eight papers that address both concepts, emotion and power in a variety of settings, including education, work organizations, social movements, politics, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, rhetoric and in comparisons in the conceptualization of some core concepts between ‘the West’ and ‘the East’. The diversity of subjects and approaches in evidence in the papers testifies both to the ubiquity of power and emotions in all areas of social life in general, and the importance and illumination gained from exploring these concepts together. The list of contributions, with links, is below. There are a handful of free access eprints to my introduction still available, but the rest of the articles are behind a paywall for now. If anyone wants me to email one or other of the papers just PM or leave a comment.

Heaney, J.G. (2013) ‘Emotions and power: a bifocal prescription to cure theoretical myopia’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 355–362.

Flam, H. (2013) ‘The transnational movement for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation as an emotional (rule) regime?’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 363–383.

Simpson, A.V., Clegg, S.R., Freeder, D. (2013) ‘Compassion, power and organization’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 385–404.

Barbalet, J., Qi, X. (2013) ‘The paradox of power: conceptions of power and the relations of reason and emotion in European and Chinese culture’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 405–418.

Wettergren, Å., Jansson, A. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and space in the discourse of “People of the Real World”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 419–439.

Baker, S.A., Rowe, D. (2013) ‘The power of popular publicity: new social media and the affective dynamics of the sport racism scandal’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 441–460.

Martin, J. (2013) ‘A feeling for democracy? Rhetoric, power and the emotions’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 461–476.

Zembylas, M. (2013) ‘Memorial ceremonies in schools: analyzing the entanglement of emotions and power’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 477–493.

Procter, L. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and schooling: the socialisation of “angry boys”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 495–510.

Call for Papers: The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

This new and exciting journal has issued a call for papers.  First issue will be out in 2014.

Call for Papers

The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

Official Journal of the European Sociological Association

The study of culture is the fastest growing area in both European and North American sociology. After years of mild neglect, political sociology is also re-establishing itself as a central plank of the discipline. The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology aims to be a forum not so much for these fields of study considered separately, as for any work that explores the relationship between culture and politics through a sound sociological lens.  The journal takes an ecumenical view of ‘culture’: it welcomes articles that address the political setting, resonance or use of any of the arts (literature, art, music etc.), but it is also open to work that construes political phenomena in terms of a more philosophical or anthropological understanding of culture, where culture refers to the most general problem of meaning-formation. As for work that lies between these poles, it might address the relationship between politics and religion in all its forms, political symbolism past and present, styles of political leadership, political communication, the culture of political parties and movements, cultural policy, artists as political agents, and many other related areas.  The journal is not committed to any particular methodological approach, nor will it restrict itself to European authors or material with a European focus.  It will carry articles with an historical as well as a topical flavour.  The journal aims to have a robust book reviews section, and while the language of reviews will be English, we wish to promote reviews of and review articles about significant new work written in other languages.  The journal’s most general aim is to foster and perhaps rekindle the sort of intellectual sensibility that was once a staple of the sociological tradition.

Editor in Chief:

Charles Turner (University of Warwick; UK, )


Ricca Edmondson (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland;

Paul du Gay (University of Copenhagen, Denmark;

Eeva Luhtakallio (University of Helsinki, Finland;

 Reviews Editors

Beatriz Padilla (University of Minho, Portugal;

Erle Rikmann (University of Tallinn, Estonia;

Editorial Assistant

Zeynep Talay (

Facing Gaia: A new enquiry into Natural Religion-Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures 2013

Bruno Latour’s recent (Feb,2013)  Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh deserve to be more widely viewed than they have been.  Indeed, if history is any guide, they probably will be, eventually.  Already I have heard about an upcoming workshop organized around the lecture series, and a book based on the series is forthcoming.  Past luminaries of these lectures, which were established to ‘promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term’ have included some of the most influential thinkers (and books) of the last century, including William James (1900-1902, The Varieties of Religious Experience), Henri Bergson (1913-14, The Problem of Personality), Hannah Arendt (1976, Life of the Mind), and, with particular significance for Latour, Alfred North Whitehead (1927-28, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology).

This last work, still notoriously troublesome despite its various revisions since Whitehead delivered it in Edinburgh almost a century ago, echoes throughout Latour’s six lectures.  Latour speaks; Whitehead stands at his shoulder.  It is clear that Professor Latour enjoyed following in ‘his philosopher’s’ footsteps. The key themes of the lectures circle around the implications of living in a new epoch in which humans are significantly affecting the earth’s ecosystem: the anthropocene.  The abstract for the series as a whole reads:

Facing Gaia. A New Inquiry into Natural Religion.

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of ”natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ”natural religion”.

Politics, science and religion are brought into dialogue, via a sustained contemplation of Gaia, rather than nature.  What this shift calls for above all is a (political) shift from matters of fact to matters of concern, which is, in itself, a Whiteheadian shift.  The draft text of the lectures is available here (pdf), but the published book is on the way.  The remaining five lectures are below the fold.  I have only recently finished viewing them all and I am not ready to offer a critique just yet.  I may have to read (and re-read) the notes or the book that emerges to fully grasp what Latour is  saying.  His project is vast, and requires, demands, serious attention.  These lectures are a good place to begin.

The abstract for the first lecture is:

Once Out of Nature – natural religion as a pleonasm

Lecture abstract

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct, we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ”secular” version of nature and of the natural sciences.

They get better as they go on.  Persevere.  And enjoy!

Continue reading “Facing Gaia: A new enquiry into Natural Religion-Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures 2013”

‘Walled States, Waning Sovereignty’ Professor Wendy Brown, CCIG Keynote Lecture

I am affiliated with the wonderfully named ‘power cluster’ in the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway.  This occasionally makes me feel like a superhero. This intrepid group, somewhere on a scale between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, meets once a month to discuss work related to our own research interests that has some relation to the notion of power, broadly defined.  This month we are reading the first chapter from Prof. Wendy Brown‘s recent book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).  The lecture posted here basically covers the same ground.  Her argument is that the proliferation of walls and walling that we are witnessing worldwide, such as ‘The Wall’ separating Israel and Palestine  or the one on the US-Mexico Border, is a feature of contemporary globalization and (paradoxically, despite the theatrical show of physical dominance that such walls might symbolize) signals the waning of sovereignty for the nation-state.  These walls are not built to defend states from other national actors but rather to target nonstate, transnational actors, such as migrants and ‘terrorist’ groups etc.  For Brown, who wishes to differentiate her argument from Agamben (Homo Sacer) and Hardt and Negri (Empire), key to the loss of this national sovereignty are the domination of free-floating global capital and ‘God-sanctioned political violence’.  Rather than being a sign of nation-state dominance, these walls actually represent a deep-seated national anxiety about increasing sovereign impotence and an aspect of  the ‘theater state’ (though she does not mention Geertz here).  What is perhaps most interesting is her discussion of the ‘state of emergency’/’state of exception’, always provisional and temporary, yet a perpetual and seemingly permanent feature of the contemporary world.  This, of course, is well-trodden ground, particularly by (again) Agamben, following Schmitt.  But this is perhaps where I  also part company with Brown and her analysis of the waning of the nation-state, which may be a little over-stated.  Is it not the case that, for Schmitt, this discourse of the state of exception, or more specifically, the capacity or power to declare a state of exception is central to the notion of state sovereignty.  Far from being a sign of a weakened nation-state, is this capacity not a sure sign of the state’s enduring power?  And one which is exercised, when it is exercised (power is a capacity and should not be confused with it’s exercise), often in the face of vocal international opposition, such as in the case of Israel.

In any case, I enjoyed the chapter and hope to finish the book.  Enjoy the talk.