Social Theories of Risk

Social Theories of Risk

Social Theories of Risk

Social Theories of Risk

Synopsis

This volume traces the development of risk theory's dominant conceptual frameworks by using leading theorists' own accounts of how they formed their perspectives. It examines from the vantage point of social sciences the fundamental bases and theoretical foundations of risk analysis. The phenomenon of risk is considered, accordingly, in its psychological, social, and cultural connotations. The complexity of issues, the tensions among interested parties, the uncertainties, and the human response to risk are explored, for the first time in a single volume, by leading theorists in the field.

Excerpt

The field of risk studies grew out of the practical needs of industrialized societies to regulate technology and to protect their citizenry from natural and technological hazards. From its inception the study of risk was positioned at the intersection of academic, governmental, and industrial interests. Rising public concern about environmental hazards, in conjunction with growing corporate fears about liability, brought risk assessment and risk management to the foreground in the public and private sectors.

In large measure, the practical and theoretical approaches to risk have progressed in parallel fashion. Theory has been informed by practice, and occasionally, practice has been guided by theory. A sign that the field of risk studies has matured over the past two decades is the appearance of distinct paradigms, models, and conceptual frameworks that provide coherence to a field that abounds in scientific studies, case analyses, and empirical findings. Other indicators of the maturation of risk scholarship are the emergence of professional societies, specialized journals, and academic programs of study. Nonetheless, there are no books that trace the social and intellectual history of the dominant and emerging paradigms, their underlying assumptions, and the foundational issues they seek to address. This book is intended, therefore, to fill an important gap in the scholarship of risk studies.

To initiate the preparation of this book, the editors convened a workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in January 1990. Several of the leading proponents of and adherents to the established and emerging paradigms were invited to prepare papers for discussion. The workshop was intended as a first step, and the papers were subject to a searching review and have been substantially revised since the workshop was held. Additional contributions were solicited to fill intellectual gaps and to ensure the comprehensive coverage of the principal paradigms in the field.

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