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By Samuel Kotz

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Many residents in the area had, for some considerable time, suffered from skin rashes, nausea, and headaches, and blame was squarely attributed to the white dust emitted from the factory’s smokestacks. Due to the visibility of the pollution, the case for damages against the factory was imagined, by many people, to be watertight. However, because there were three other glass factories in the area, the presiding judge offered to drop the charges in return for a nominal fine on the grounds that individual liability for emitting dangerous pollutants and toxins could not be established.

Globalization, as I mentioned earlier, is said to be one of the most contentious social-theoretical and political issues of the twenty-first century. To elevate the global over the national, with citizens squeezed between transnational forces on the one hand and local or regional movements on the other, is an increasingly common conceptual move in recent social thought. As Held (2001: 397) puts this: the present period is marked by a significant series of new types of “boundary problems,” which challenge the distinctions between domestic and foreign affairs, internal political issues and external questions, and the sovereign concerns of the nationstate and international considerations.

As traditional ways of doing things become problematic, people must choose paths for a more rewarding life-all of which requires planning and rationalization, deliberation and engagement. An active engagement with the self, with the body, with relationships and marriage, with gender norms, and with work: this is the subjective backdrop of the risk society. The idea of individualization is the basis on which Beck constructs his vision of a “new modernity,” of novel personal experimentation and cultural innovation against a social backdrop of risks, dangers, hazards, reflexivity, globalization.

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