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Risk and Blame : Essays in Cultural Theory

Very slight wear on the corners and edges. Ships with Tracking Number! May not contain Access Codes or Supplements. May be ex-library. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Risk and Blame Essays in Cultural Theory. Mary Douglas. Publisher: Routledge , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. In order to ensure more complex realities it is necessary to observe continuously the outcomes. The uncertainty of the future is used to open opportunities for action, but the observation of the results is needed in order to intervene if it seems to be reasonable.

However, in the perspective of system theory, such strategies do not lead to definite solutions but to new uncertainties. In his view trust is needed to generate readiness for risk-taking. Only with prevention but without trust, there are no chances to learn, and only hope or belief but no risky advance concession would be made JAPP , p. Under such conditions the ability to act can only be protected by trust, for example, in systems as science, technology or government due to a lack of information or of transparency ESPOSITO This leads to the dilemma that trust is quite rational and necessary but also dangerous.

However, not to trust and therefore not to act would be dangerous as well! In most theoretical thinking risk is reasonably understood in relation to uncertainty. This is the case for a societal approach on risk in the context of modernisation theory where risk is seen as one special rational strategy to transform unmanageable contingency into manageable complexity BONSS , p. It is also valid for the governmentality approach, even though it is quite a current development to acknowledge theoretically the significance of uncertainty as such as well.


In system theory the distinction between risk and danger is introduced to approach the problem of uncertainty as a problem of responsibility. In the perspective of decision making the world is understood as inherently contingent. In order to act contingency has to be transformed into a manageable complexity, but when a decision is made there is again the uncertainty whether one took the right decision and whether the outcomes will occur as expected.

It seems to become generally accepted that the rational calculation of risk is uncertain, too. What follows from this is not a general rejection of rationality but a situated use of statistical strategies. Other strategies are used to cope with risk and uncertainty. Since uncertainty cannot be resolved ultimately and is sometimes also understood just like risk as something positive, many approaches converge more or less explicitly on the acknowledgement of uncertainty as a basic experience of modernity.

That is, because most problems are not constituted as clear risk problems but as problems of unsolvable uncertainty. Since uncertainty cannot be solved by objective strategies alone, moral and political aspects become more important. Even though there are better and worse scientific expertise and better or worse informed public, most sociological approaches rely on a "weak" constructivism as their normal epistemological approach to risk.

Risk is understood as socially constructed but there is a world "out there" even though we have no direct access to it. The demand for higher risk-taking is as misleading as a maximisation of precaution as long as both are understood as positions which have to be supported or refused in general.

There is no general rationality available. Instead, risks have to be managed and valued case-by-case. If the British public currently seems to be more risk-averse to governmental decisions, this must not be interpreted as irrational, but as rational response to the strategies the government has recently used in order to publicly manage risks e. To rebuilt trust is a long and difficult task. Currently some similarities as mentioned are observable and we can hope that more integrated theoretical work will be developed in the future.

So far there have been only few systematic links developed between media research and risk research. Often the sociological assumptions about the impact of the media ignore the already developed knowledge in media research. Even fewer links have been developed between biographical research and risk research. The biographical concept of the subject in biographical approaches can be used to inform research on the influence of social contexts as media, social class and their response to risk.

The biographical approach also opens connections to psychological and economical approaches to risk. By including biographical aspects, psychology, as well as economics, would gain a more dynamic model of the self and its development. Since there are several quite different impacts of sociology on risk research one specific contribution can be hardly pointed out. However, the most important tribute of sociology to this topic has been certainly the linkage of risk problems to society in general.

The acknowledgement that risk problems are deeply embedded in the society we live in and that they cannot be coped with by objective and technical risk assessment was the initial trigger for risk-sociology. In this context especially failures of governmental risk-management have shown that there is such a thing as society which needs to be taken into account. Even more, it has been shown that manifold risk-knowledge is available in society, and scientific risk knowledge is not necessarily prior to local as well as lay-people knowledge WYNNE , , Therefore risk-management has to recognise the different forms and levels of knowledge if it wants to be successful.

Sociology also contributes to risk research a critical distance to our normative implications. It discovers the normative idea, that uncertainties have to be transformed in certainties by rational strategies, as a modern ideology with some unforeseen and also dangerous outcomes. The problem of "second order dangers", the management of ignorance and the at least unsolvable uncertainty in societal development are core issues which secure that risk research reflects upon their implicit assumptions narrowing their perspective.

Sociology shows that neither a one-sided increase of precautions nor of undamped scientific development can be recommended. Taking account of societal concerns about risk. Foucault and political reason. London: UCL Press. Beck, Ulrich Risikogesellschaft: auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Risk society: towards a new modernity. London: Sage. World risk society. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Entgrenzung und Entscheidung.

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Douglas, Mary Purity and danger: An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Praeger. Risk and blame: Essays in cultural theory.

Anthropology Shorts: Mary Douglas on Purity and Danger

London, New York: Routledge. Risk and culture: an essay on the selection of technical and environmental dangers. Berkeley: University of California Press. Esposito, Elena Soziale Systeme , 3 , Foucault, Michel Furedi, Frank The culture of fear. London; New York: Continuum. The precautionary principle in the 20th century: Late lessons from early warnings. Hier, Sean P. Canadian Journal of Sociology , 27 , Hobson-West, Pru Understanding vaccination resistance: moving beyond risk. Japp, Klaus Peter Soziologische Risikotheorie. Weinheim: Juventa. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. Lash, Scott Risk culture. Critical issues for social theory pp. Latour, Bruno We have never been modern. Cambridge, Mass. Luhmann, Niklas Stuttgart: F. Lupton, Deborah London: Routledge. Lyng, Stephen The sociology of risk-taking. New York; London: Routledge.

Mitchell, Wendy A. Situating young people's experiences of risk and identity. O'Malley, Pat Risk, uncertainty and government. London: Glashouse Press. O'Malley, Pat , in preparation. Governmentality and risk. In Jens O. Zinn Ed.