Anxiety and Uncertainty in Modern Society

Ethical Perspectives 8 (2):88-104 (2001)
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Abstract

The intention of this paper is to relate the various standpoints regarding anxiety and uncertainty. Within the humanities and social sciences, research is pursued in many different disciplines without much interaction between them. Everyone's thinking is based on concepts which are domain-specific, and the distinctions, methods and arguments used are the ones that are generally accepted within the discipline. The divergent conclusions constitute pieces of a puzzle that are seldom if ever put together. There are even doubts about whether such a puzzle can be put together. It can hardly be denied, however, that inspiration is to be found in a consideration of the views and findings of colleagues from other disciplines who are working on the same problems. Now that we have as our guests two prominent academics, each with specific views about our subject, we should take this opportunity to discuss together some of the sociological, anthropological, economic, philosophical and theological approaches to anxiety and uncertainty.If a number of well-known authors are to be believed, lack of trust, uncertainty and insecurity affect the most affluent and modern societies. In French one speaks of précarité , in German of Unsicherheit and Risikogesellschaft , and in English of “fear”, “risk” and “insecurity” . All modern Western societies seem to be afflicted with the same dismal and frustrating human experience.Belgian society is no exception to this. In recent years we have regularly been subjected to the emotional reactions provoked by sensational events in the areas of politics , justice and public health . Less spectacular but no less real were the results of opinion polls which showed that confidence in public institutions in general, and politics in particular, is at an all-time low

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