How fear works

Sunday 14 October, 12:0013:00, Level G StudioStudio Conversations

In 1997, Frank Furedi published a book called Culture of Fear. It was widely acclaimed as perceptive and prophetic. Now Furedi returns to his original theme, as most of what he predicted has come true. In his new book, How Fear Works, Furedi seeks to explain two interrelated themes: why has fear acquired such a morally commanding status in society today and how has the way we fear today changed from the way that it was experienced in the past?

In the book, Furedi argues that one of the main drivers of the culture of fear is the unravelling of moral authority. Fear appears to provide a provisional solution to moral uncertainty and is, for that reason, embraced by a variety of interests, parties and individuals. Society seems to believe that the threats it faces are incalculable and cannot be controlled or regulated. This outlook has been paralleled by the cultivation of helplessness and passivity, ultimately resulting in a redefinition of personhood. The book predicts that until society finds a more positive orientation towards uncertainty, the politicisation of fear will flourish.

How has Fear become a problem in its own right? How has Fear become detached from its material and physical source, often experienced as a secular version of a transcendental force? How does Fear influence people’s behaviour? What is the role of the media in promoting fear and who actually benefits from this culture of fear?