The Biographical Management of Risk and Uncertainty—British Veterans


  • Jens O. Zinn University of Melbourne



veterans, soldiers, certainty culture, risk, biography, military culture


How individuals deal with risk and uncertainties in the context of an organizational culture is a neglected area in the sociology of risk and uncertainty. This contribution reports from an explorative qualitative study (n=14) which examines the intersection of biographical experiences and organizational culture in the perspective of risk and uncertainty. This study with ex-serviceman of the British Armed Forces shows that coming from different biographical contexts, young adults become soldiers for different reasons and they experience their time as soldiers differently. Some chose the certainty culture of the military as a life perspective; others see it rather as a stage in their life. It is the group which assimilates most into military culture which has serious problems with the transition into civil life. But these problems seem to be rooted in the way in which soldiers adopt the military certainty culture rather than the transition itself. Soldiers who maintain competing interpretations and biographical projects are less assimilated but better prepared to deal with all kinds of issues such as drinking culture, ethical and life and death issues. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1001102


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Author Biography

Jens O. Zinn, University of Melbourne

Jens O. ZINN, Dr. phil., Dipl.-Soz., is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Melbourne. His main research interests are the societal construction and management of risk and uncertainty. He is particularly interested in theoretical and methodological issues and individual management of risk and uncertainty in a biographical and life course perspective. Other publications to biography, risk and uncertainty: 2005, The biographical approach—a better way to understand behaviour in health and illness?, Health, Risk & Society, 7(1), 1-9; 2004, Health, risk and uncertainty in the life course: A typology of biographical certainty constructions. Social Theory & Health, 2, 199-221. Some major publications on risk: 2008, Social theories of risk and uncertainty. Oxford: Blackwell; with Peter Taylor-Gooby (Eds.) 2006, Risk in social sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press; (Eds.) 2006, Learning about risk. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(1),


How to Cite

Zinn, J. O. (2010). The Biographical Management of Risk and Uncertainty—British Veterans. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(1).