Trust us and be scared: the changing nature of contemporary risk

Handmer, J and James, P 2007, 'Trust us and be scared: the changing nature of contemporary risk', Global Society, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 119-130.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Trust us and be scared: the changing nature of contemporary risk
Author(s) Handmer, J
James, P
Year 2007
Journal name Global Society
Volume number 21
Issue number 1
Start page 119
End page 130
Total pages 12
Publisher Routledge
Abstract The contemporary Western preoccupation with risk assessment is profound. However, this does not mean that the concept of risk is a useful theoretical tool for understanding contemporary society in general. The talk of a risk society is part of a tendency to take risk as an all-embracing category with little attention paid either to the distinction between abstract risk and risk assessment, or to different formations of risk in time and place. We argue that a fundamental shift in the communication of risk has also emerged, particularly in the context of the war on terror. Most of the classical risk communication literature is concerned with persuading people that the authorities or companies have the expertise to take care of some problem: "there is a risk", it says, we can never manage it completely, but be reassured that we are taking care of it on your behalf". With the emergence of the war on terror, a number of changes have occurred. Governments in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere stress the novelty and radical emergence of terrorism-as-risk, in part by ignoring history and concentrating on the symptoms to maintain a continuing sense of danger. Second, the prior emphasis on experts and expert systems for generating risk assessment is being actively undermined by ideologues. These changes represent a disturbing shift from the dominance of the Enlightenment idea of trusting in science and knowledge to accepting a post-Enlightenment idea that authority and ideology are all that can ever underpin the assessment of abstract risk, particularly in the case of terrorism.
Subject Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Risk
danger
DOI - identifier 10.1080/13600820601116609
ISSN 1360-0826
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