This special issue of Health Sociology Review (ISBN 0-977524-25-6) is based on a workshop held in Sydney in June 2006 which was sponsored by the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia, with further support from the Social Justice Social Change Research Centre of the University of Western Sydney. Entitled ‘Risking Birth: Culture, Technology and Politics in 21st Century Maternity Care’, the workshop brought together a multidisciplinary group of scholars and health professionals to discuss the salience of contemporary social theory to the politics of maternity care provision. Central to much of the debate was an exploration of the social and cultural factors which contribute to the current dilemmas facing maternity services within Australia – rising rates of costly technological intervention in the physiological processes of pregnancy and childbirth, staffing problems, and changes in professional roles and in models of service delivery. Despite the many governmental enquiries, subsequent recommendations and policy proposals, intervention rates have continued to climb to the point where some predict that, in a few years, a generation of healthy women will be having most of their babies by surgical means.