Risk, Society and Ethics (SAM525)

This course provides fundamentals about Risk, Society and Ethics, of importance for understanding the significance of risk, safety and security in contemporary society. The course focuses on concepts and theories related to risk as a social and political issue. In doing so, the course introduces and discusses basic principles of social science and philosophy, as well as approaches to risk in different disciplines. With an emphasis on central conceptual and empirical topics, the course provides and introduction to the main theories surrounding risk as a sociocultural concept, including concepts of modernity and consequences of the "risk society". The course also addresses ethics and ethical dilemmas related to risk regulation and societal safety and security. Given the cross disciplinary nature of risk and safety studies, bringing together different scientific approaches is a significant issue, the course will focus on concepts and frameworks for understanding the role of, and ways of bringing together, different disciplines and perspectives.

Course description for study year 2024-2025. Please note that changes may occur.


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Semester tution start


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The focus of the course is how risk, societal safety and security relate to philosophy of social science.The course gives a historical account and introduces some fundamentals of philosophy of social science, risk, risk governance, societal safety and security. Topics covered include main principles of philosophy of social science, modernity, risk society, governmentality, safety and ethical dilemmas associated with risk, risk governance, societal safety and security. The course also covers ethics in risk management, risk governance as well as ethics as general norms. Furthermore, the course discusses dilemmas applying precautionary principles in societal safety and security as well as discussing generic and practical tradeoffs between liberty and safety/security.

The course gives an overview of different approaches to risk and societal safety related to philosophical foundations. Issues covered include

  • realism versus constructivism,
  • individual versus collective risk,
  • conceptual versus empirical topics in societal safety and security.

The course also includes conceptual topics and focus on how to understand risk, safety and security in relation to different institutional and organizational contexts. This includes discussing studies of human behavior, the operation of technological systems and role of regulation and social institutions. It also includes in depth discussions of approaches to some of the major contemporary crisis and challenges such as climate change and digitalization.

Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course, students should have acquired the following knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • Recognize and be able to explain how social science approaches to risk, safety and security have developed historically and in recent years
  • Know and understand how philosophy of social science relates to different approaches to risk, societal safety and security.
  • Recognize and explain how different perspectives on risk, safety and security relates to philosophy of social science.
  • Have knowledge about different concepts within risk, societal safety and security
  • Have knowledge about different how concepts of risk, societal safety and security relates to empirical research in risk governance and societal safety
  • Have knowledge about how norms of ethics and how ethical dilemmas relates to risk governance and societal safety and security.


  • Relate different theories and concepts to fundamental principles in philosophies of science
  • Participate in the theoretical and conceptual discourses in the fields of risk, safety and security
  • Be able to reflect and describe

    • The difference between realism and constructivism
    • The difference between early modernity, late modernity, and risk society
    • The relationships between governance, regulation and governmentality related to risk.
    • Ethical behaviour and ethical dilemmas associated with risks

General competence

Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Update their knowledge of theories and concepts as well as research methodology and methods for studying risk, safety and security
  • Critically evaluate their own discipline
  • Be better equipped for completing their master thesis

Required prerequisite knowledge



Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Written exam 1/1 5 Hours Letter grades Dictionary

The written exam is conducted digitally.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Ole Andreas Hegland Engen

Method of work


Open for

Admission to Single Courses at the Faculty of Science and Technology
Societal Safety - Master's Degree Programme

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course supervisor, the student union representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital subject evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


The syllabus can be found in Leganto