To live in the universe of high modernity is to live in an environment of chance and risk, the ineveitable concomitants of a system geared to the domination of nature and the reflexive making of history. Fate and destiny have no formal part to play in such a system, which operates (as a matter of principle) via what I shall call open human control of the natural and social worlds.
Thinking in terms of risk certainly has its unsettling aspects (...), but it is also a means of seeking to stabilise outcomes, a mode of colonising the future. The more or less constant, profound and rapid momentum of change characteristic of modern institutions, coupled with structured reflexivity, mean that on the level of everyday practice as well as philosophical [Seitenwechsel] interpretation, nothing can be taken for granted. What is acceptable/appropriate/recommended behaviour today may be seen differently tomorrow in the light of altered circumstances or incoming knowledge-claims.
A lifestyle involves a cluster of habits and orientations, and hence has a certain unity - important to a continuing sense of ontological security - that connects options in a more or less ordered pattern. (...) [T]he selection or creation of lifestyles is influenced by group pressures and the visibility of role models, as well as by socioeconomic circumstances.
Lifestyles are routined practices, the routines incorporated into habits of dress, eating, modes of acting and favoured milieux for encountering others; but the routines followed are reflexively open to change in the light of the mobile nature of self-identity.
The flow of action continually produces consequences which are unintended by actors, and these unintended consequences also may form unacknowledged conditions of actions in a feedback fashion. Human history is created by intentional activities but is not an intended project; it persistently eludes efforts to bring it under conscious direction.
To a greater or lesser degree, the project of the self becomes translated into one of the possession of desired goods and the pursuit of artificially framed styles of life. (...) Not just lifestyles, but self-actualisation is packaged and distributed according to market criteria.
High-consequence risks form one particular segment of the generalised 'climate of risk' characteristic of late modernity - one characterised by regular shifts in knowledge-claims as mediated by expert systems.