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Alaszewski & Burgess (2007). Risk, time & reason

Bibliographic details:

Alaszewski, A., & Burgess, A. (2007). Risk, Time & Reason. Health, Risk & Society, 9(4), 349-358.


Over time, a number of alternative approaches to risk have developed and, while these co-exist, they structure time in different ways and are grounded in different combinations of cognitive rationality and affect. The initial conceptualization of risk, which remains prominent, was based on the use of knowledge from past events to provide the context for choices which minimize harm in the future. It underpins structured approaches to decision making based on use of statistics as a means of calculating the probability of future outcomes. This approach has been challenged by the development of a more forensic approach in which the emphasis is on identifying the specific causes of disasters using hindsight and from the analysis of specific cases making recommendations to prevent future disasters. While this approach has a rational basis, it also addresses the collective emotional responses to disaster and provides a cathartic function. In the late twentieth century a more precautionary approach has emerged, in which the fear of future is given precedence over evidence or lack of evidence of past harm. The precautionary approach is future oriented and casts the future principally in negative, potentially catastrophic terms.