- Risk and Social Theory: the legitimacy of risks and risk as a tool of legitimation
- Health, Risk & Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 16 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
In this editorial, I introduce the first in a new series of special issues on social theoretical perspectives towards risk and uncertainty. These will appear annually, with each issue addressing a specific theoretical or conceptual theme, or problem, pertaining to social scientific studies of risk and uncertainty. The articles included in this first collection are intended to demonstrate variation in the field of social theories of risk and uncertainty, though each of the articles speaks in different ways to concerns regarding the legitimacy of risks and/or policies oriented to risk. This editorial introduces the four contributions in the special issue, while also considering some broader dimensions of legitimacy as a means of locating some cross-cutting themes that connect the articles and their respective theoretical orientations. I outline a framework by which different configurations of risk, authority and consensus are considered in their generation of legitimacy, or in the lack thereof. Risks can form the basis of effective governance by existing authorities in line with general consensus (authority + consensus = legitimate risk), notions of risk can be harnessed by existing authorities to foster consensus (authority + risk = legitimate consensus), invoking notions of risk in line with popular consensus can bolster authority (consensus + risk = legitimate authority), but ‘risks’ with neither consensus nor links to authority fail to become legitimate. These primary understandings are developed and nuanced further by the four articles, in an array of theoretical directions. The editorial closes by looking towards the Risk and Social Theory special issue for 2015, which will focus on theories of risk and uncertainty in non-Western contexts.
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