Sociology and politics of risk

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Abstract

The concept of risk plays a central role in many contemporary policy debates, but social scientists have observed a paradoxical quality to the social treatment of risk in recent decades. On the one hand, there appears to have been a trend towards the taming of risk; understanding of probability and chance has grown, and certain forms of risk exposure (to some illnesses and natural hazards, for example) have declined. But modernist confidence about the prospects for the control of risk has been moderated and to some extent undermined by related developments. As an example, twentieth-century technologies were associated with new forms of risk, including risks to the whole ecosystem. It seemed that the forces of progress could lead to novel hazards as well as to enhanced security. Furthermore, the legal frameworks and intellectual tools developed for the regulation of risk made it possible to elaborate arguments about risk in ever more sophisticated ways, often challenging ‘establishment’ interpretations of safety, and thus engendering a more vivid appreciation of risk. The ubiquity of contentious claims about risk and safety has even led some scientists to characterize high modern cultures as ‘risk societies’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral
EditorsJames D Wright
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Pages706-710
Number of pages5
Edition2nd
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2015

Keywords

  • averaging
  • costs and benefits
  • enviromental justice
  • harm
  • hazard
  • ignorance
  • interdeterminacy
  • risk
  • risk assessment
  • risk society
  • uncertainty
  • unknowns

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