Invisible Risk. The Social Construction of Security
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Nicolaus Copernicus University
Publication date: 2008-04-03
Polish Sociological Review 2008;161(1):55–72
Several empirical studies of the social construction of risk have been conducted within the risk study paradigm but little attention has been paid so far to the flip side of this process, i.e., exclusion of risk from social consciousness by deliberately or involuntarily rendering it invisible, disregarding or marginalising it. This article, based on the concept of risk proposed by Ulrich Beck, Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky and the findings of the sociology of scientific ignorance, introduces the “risk-concealment category.” This category applies to the mechanisms and processes underlying the social definition and construction of risk. It then presents the main functional areas of the mechanisms of risk-concealment in social practice and identifies the basic types of mechanisms which can be found at various stages of social risk definition and which lead to the social construction of the sense of security. The status of this text is projective and the possible paths of further exploration of the subject are outlined. The purpose of this article is to suggest a new research area focusing on the various aspects of risk-concealment and the underlying mechanisms, rules and action strategies. The mechanisms of risk assessment, political-economical risk definition and risk discourse are discussed.
This article was supported by a grant from the Foundation for Polish Science and Nicolaus Copernicus University research grant no. 372-H.