Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

In good company: risk, security and choice in young people's drug decisions

By Hilary Pilkington


This article draws on original empirical research with young people to question the degree to which 'individualisation of risk', as developed in the work of Beck and Giddens, adequately explains the risks young people bear and take. It draws on alternative understandings and critiques of 'risk' not to refute the notion of the reflexive individual upon which 'individualisation of risk' is based but to re-read that reflexivity in a more hermeneutic way. It explores specific risk-laden moments – young people's drug use decisions – in their natural social and cultural context of the friendship group. Studying these decisions in context, it suggests, reveals the meaning of 'risk' to be not given, but constructed through group discussion, disagreement and consensus and decisions taken to be rooted in emotional relations of trust, mutual accountability and common security. The article concludes that 'the individualisation of risk' fails to take adequate account of the significance of intersubjectivity in risk-decisions. It argues also that addressing the theoretical overemphasis on the individual bearer of risk requires not only further empirical testing of the theory but appropriate methodological reflection.\ud \u

Topics: HV
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2004). 1 Indeed a further criticism of Beck, in particular, is that he fails to distinguish adequately between ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’
  2. (2004). 10 These data are touched on only briefly in this paper but further details of both the results and the methodological underpinnings of this element of the work can be found in the project’s final report (see Pilkington
  3. (1999). 2 For the purposes of the argument here these are taken to be those concerned with the differences between calculable risk (during modernization) and incalculable risk (during reflexive modernization) and the implications of this for society (see Dean
  4. (2000). Addicts' narratives of recovery from drug use: constructing a non-addict identity’, doi
  5. (2001). Adolescents’ risk activities, risk hierarchies and the influence of religiosity’, doi
  6. (2005). An early version of this article was presented to the BSA Annual Conference,
  7. (2002). Beck’s Sociology of risk: A critical assessment’, doi
  8. (2000). Contextualizing risk and danger: An analysis of young people’s perceptions of risk’, doi
  9. (2005). Disconnected Youth? Growing Up in Britain’s Poor Neighbourhoods, doi
  10. (1998). Drug users' sexual relationships and the social organisation of risk: The sexual relationship as a site of risk management doi
  11. (2004). Everyday” but not “normal”: Drug use and youth cultural practice in Russia, Final Report, available electronically at:
  12. (2006). For us it is normal”: Exploring the “recreational” use of heroin in Russian youth cultural practice’, doi
  13. (2003). Growing up as risky business? Risks, surveillance and the institutionalized mistrust of youth’, doi
  14. (1998). Illegal Leisure: The normalization of adolescent recreational drug use, London and doi
  15. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, doi
  16. (2001). Networks, resources and risk among women who use drugs’, doi
  17. (2003). Norms, social networks, and HIV-related risk behaviors among urban disadvantaged drug users’, doi
  18. (2004). Pleasure, freedom and drugs’, doi
  19. (1999). Postmodern reflections on ‘risk’, hazards’ and life choices’ doi
  20. (2006). Putting at risk what we know: Reflecting on the drugusing subject in harm reduction and its political implications’, doi
  21. (1994). Reflexivity and its doubles: Structure, Aesthetics,
  22. (1992). Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural Theory, doi
  23. (2002). Risk is part of your life”: Risk epistemologies among a group of Australians’, doi
  24. (1992). Risk perception, risk taking and risk management among intravenous drug users: Implications for Aids prevention’, doi
  25. (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, doi
  26. (2004). Risk-taking behaviour among German adolescents’, doi
  27. (1999). Risk, calculable and incalculable’ doi
  28. (1997). Risk, governance and the new public health‘
  29. (2002). Risking risk: the influence of types of capital and social networks on the injection practices of drug users’, doi
  30. (2003). Situational factors influencing drug injecting, risk reduction and syringe exchange in Togliatti City, Russian Federation: a qualitative study of micro risk environment’, doi
  31. (2005). Social capital and substance use among Swedish adolescents—an explorative study’, doi
  32. (1998). Socio-economic differences in health risk behavior among adolescents: Do they exist?’, doi
  33. (1991). The body in consumer culture’ doi
  34. (1972). The crowd and the pubic and other essays (edited by H. Elsner),
  35. (2004). The New Medical Sociology: Social Forms of Health and Illness,
  36. (2006). the politics of the engagement between the discourse of the neo-liberal subject and drug policy and practice are not as clear cut as this might suggest. Moore and Fraser
  37. (1994). The reinvention of politics: Towards a theory of reflexive modernization’
  38. (2005). The social structural production of HIV risk among injecting drug users’, doi
  39. (2006). Understanding risk behaviours: How the sociology of deviance may contribute? The case of drug-taking’, doi
  40. (1997). Young People and Social Change. Individualization and risk in late modernity, Buckingham and Philadelphia:
  41. (2003). Young people’s leisure and risk-taking behaviours: Changes in gender patterning in the West of Scotland during the 1990s’ doi
  42. (2005). Youth, community life and wellbeing in rural areas of Siberia’, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.