Frail Lives. Risk and vulnerability: educational practices and social interventions

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In the last few years sociologists have frequently used the concept of vulnerability to define the precarious circumstances affecting an ever-growing number of individuals and families, whose causes lie beyond those traditionally dealt with by the welfare systems through proven intervention practices. The social positions that used to be taken for granted are now undermined by the financial crisis, which means that events once considered natural (the birth of a child, an illness, the aging process) may suddenly lead to the poverty threshold; besides, the complex issues affecting today’s families often find them unprepared or lacking the necessary resources (competence, know-how, time, money) to manage their new situation. Vulnerability can be regarded as a direct consequence of the onset of the so-called risk society. As it is well-known, several contemporary sociologists see risk as a typical feature of our time: each action or decision presents some form of hazard; the number of factors to be considered when trying to forecast events and make them risk-free is apparently infinite. Survival in a risk society depends on finding suitable resources to meet challenges at different levels of complexity: the continuing tension between challenges and resources is inevitable; their possible combinations are endless and no individual solution can be effective. Moreover, the financial crisis has prevented increasing numbers of people from accessing some essential resources. Risk is, in itself, a situation of uncertainty; it invites vulnerability in the absence of some basic requirements and the discernment necessary for choosing among different options. What is certain is that traditional interventions and services are now inadequate: the management of new forms of discomfort can no longer be delegated to experts but requires the activation of persons and communities to devise new solutions. This change, however, will only be viable through the creation of new competencies, that is, by expanding educational practices and turn them into instruments enabling people to confront the risks affecting their everyday life. As some steps have already been taken in this direction, it is important to detect and study the practices which have proved most innovative and effective. The main educational task at hand seems to consist in empowering people to meet challenges: this is inevitable in any action aimed at promoting welfare, even in a condition of vulnerability. Accordingly, this volume focuses on specific areas in order to indicate those challenges likely to produce vulnerability in persons and families, as well as highlighting some empowering practices.
Lingua originaleEnglish
EditoreEducational Section of the Italian Sociological Association
Numero di pagine269
ISBN (stampa)N/A
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2013


  • education
  • frail family
  • risk
  • social intervention


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