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

3.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520050631
ISBN-10: 0520050630
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

From the Inside Flap

"Poses an important question. Why do people emphasize certain risks while ignoring others? In particular, why have so many in our society singled out pollution as a source of concern? . . . Offering what they call a 'cultural theory of risk perception,' the authors suggest that people's 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 Book Review
 
"The authors call into question the presumed scientific objectivity of environmental risk assessment. Risk and Culture is a brief book organized around the premise that the selection of particular single issues (such as nuclear power or exposure to asbestos or ionizing radiation) as environmental hazards is culturally determined. The wellsprings of environmentalism in this and other nations, therefore, are not objective, empirical, rational, or free of value judgements; rather, environmentalism reflects moral, economic, political, and other value-laden factors. Judgments about what is or is not a danger are socially selected. . . . this is a first-rate critical analysis."
--New England Journal of Medicine
 
"This view of risk as a socially constructed phenomenon is a creative and refreshing addition to the risk analysis literature."
--Nature
 
"A shrewd and provocative book." 
--National Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 27, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520050630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520050631
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dan Kahan on July 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
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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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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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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For class.
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