What does it truly mean to “trust” someone? To “have confidence” in a peer? To be in a “risky” situation? In this week’s reading, Luhmann provides an eye-opening description of what these words truly mean in relation to one another and the deep connections rooted in them in The Consequences of Modernity.
Giddens introduces the ideals of Luhmann, who believes that whenever trust is given, a risk is taken (pp. 30). When one decides to trust another, he claims, we automatically assume that there are potential risky implications of awarding another party that trust (pp. 31). While “trust” and “confidence” seem synonymous, someone in a situation of confidence does not assume the potential alternatives (pp. 31). Luhmann also addresses the large difference between what it means to run a “risk” and to be in true “danger”; these are words to not be confused or to be used as substitutes for the other (pp. 32).
Personally, I do not entirely agree with the views of Luhmann. While he makes a few valid points (such as giving each of the words discussed its credit and due), I find many of them too extreme and in-depth, especially for our audience—a college English course. I do, however, understand why Giddens would introduce Luhmann’s theories in The Consequences of Modernity. While these words seem commonplace and basic, modernity has shaped its meanings. “Taking a business risk” in today’s world has a much different meaning and implication than it did in the pre-modern or feudalist world. Should the action succumb to the risk, the individual who took the action may find himself in much more danger in our modern world versus another time period.
In the twenty-four years since Anthony Giddens wrote The Consequences of Modernity, our world has completely reinvented itself. While he claims we are not in the post-modern world, he wrote this book before the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, before a deadly war, and before monster storms destroyed parts of the globe. I would even go so far to argue that the key words of this reading section—“trust,” “confidence,” “risk,” and “danger”—have gone through a metamorphosis since 1990. Is a journalist who travels overseas to cover a country’s uprising in 1990 in as much danger or taking as many risks as that same journalist covering the same story, but just a little over two decades later? In my opinion, in this viewpoint, we are in the post-modern world. Technology, increased worldwide education initiatives, and social media has completely transformed what it means to be in true danger in the Middle East or to place your trust in your translator when abroad.
In conclusion, I do believe that Giddens played a powerful card in introducing Luhmann’s thoughts. Words such as “risk” and “confidence” and “trust” are so very meaningful but are rarely given their due. While it can be easy to agree with Giddens that we are still continuing our journey through the modern era, there are striking differences between our 2014-world and his 1990-world, which poses the question: With all the changes in this short yet powerful time period, how are we not considered post-modern?