From "trust society" to the "risk society"? the case of aging and welfare in Europe

Jason L. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the concepts of "trust" and "risk" that both are theoretical tools and arguably major facets of "late modernity." During the 1970s, the use of the notion "risk" was mainly confined to "natural sciences," when the concept was used to analyse and improve the "security" of technological systems. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that social science based "disciplines" discovered the importance of the topic in relation to changes affecting modern society. Sociological conceptions of trust and risk are rapidly changing theoretical knowledge bases of social gerontology. A sociologically informed gerontological understanding of transition of a trust society to a risk society illustrates the interconnectedness of an aging population and social welfare. Risk is more than a calculation of costs and benefits, it is a theoretical mechanism for weighing different sets of political and economic orientations which impinge on the positioning of older people and aging populations. The article takes to task what we understand by trust and risk. Drawing from examples in Europe, the article assesses how the transition from a trust society to a risk society has implications for how older people are made welfare subjects in contemporary society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalHallym International Journal of Aging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Risk
  • Social theory and aging
  • Trust
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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