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Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers [Paperback]

by Mary Douglas, Aaron Wildavsky
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 27, 1983 0520050630 978-0520050631
The concern of many Americans with dangers to the natural environment is not justified rationally, according to the authors, but results from American cultural biases and the political goals of environmentalists.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers + Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (Published in association with Theory, Culture & Society) + World at Risk
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Editorial Reviews


Offering what they call a cultural theory of risk perception, the authors suggest that peoples complaints about hazards should never be taken at face value. One must look further to discover what forms of social organization are being defended or attacked. -- New York Times

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 27, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520050630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520050631
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic July 18, 2005
This book is a classic in the study of risk perception. It is the genesis of the so-called "cultural theory of risk," which is an alternative to the dominant rational-actor and psychometric theories of risk perception. Douglas and Wildavsky's basic claim is that individuals conform their perceptions of various societal and personal risks to their preferred visions of a good society. Although (as noted by Gintis in his review) Risk and Culture is only casually empirical, it furnished a blueprint for a subsequent program of rigorous empirical study that is by now very far advanced and that corroborates Douglas's and Wildavsky's account.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant But Dated November 30, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting work on culturally selected fears, but dated. This was originally published in 1982 so many of the example make the work seem more than a little out of step with current fears (justified or not). Still, the core argument remains valid.

However, I would not recommend this work because of its dated examples and argument.

On The Kindle Edition

Once again the quality of this Kindle edition is frighteningly pathetic. If you want a good e-copy give this edition a pass.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Douglas & Wildavsky Risk and Culture is Accurate January 3, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think most of the critical reviews are "bothered" because of the book's criticism of environmentalism. In an other place, Douglas referred to environmentalism as a "cult." If you read most of the Blogs and books which support climate change are cultish. This is what is happening because we believe the models (?). The recent IPCC summary which seems to say that the climate is cooler because the heat is hiding in the Oceans ready to come out again.
I think she is dead on.
While I am an economist and computer scientist, I have read and studied Anthropology. Cultural anthropology always refers to the past, the present. Look at Diamond Jenness' studies of the Eskimo. It is in the anthropological present even though the book refers to his studies in the present tense. "Dated" is irrelevant.
To study the "Great Recession," I had my students read the books from the Depression era. Can we learn from Keynes, Hayek, Robbins, of course we can and we did.
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