An Outline of the Cultural Theory of Risk

Thompson, M. (1980). An Outline of the Cultural Theory of Risk. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-80-177

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This is one of a set of three working papers concerned with the System and Decision Sciences task on Institutional Aspects of Risk Management.

Even a cursory comparison of the way the same technological risks are handled reveals that things get done differently in different countries. And, within any one country, the debate about how to improve the handling of those risks is often a debate between the advocates of several of these different ways of doing things.

To understand these differences we need to develop a cultural theory about the appropriateness and the credibility of risk-handling institutions. Since to invoke gross differences between national cultures would be to ignore the polarized debates within each nation, we need rather the idea of cultural bias -- the contradictory predilections, ideas of nature, and personal strategies to which different individuals in the same society can adhere. In this way the cultural approach goes beyond the comparative study of institutions to investigate the social processes responsible for the ebb and flow of support between alternative institutional frameworks.

The first paper, "Political Culture: an Introduction," provides some of the intuitive background for this approach. The second paper, "An Outline of the Cultural Theory of Risk," gives a more formal treatment of this cultural theory as it emerges in the particular context with which we are concerned: risk. The third paper, "Beyond Self-Interest: A Cultural Analysis of a Risk Debate," is an attempt to apply this theory to one of the case studies currently being assembled by the Management and Technology group that is investigating the ways in which the risks inherent in Liquid Energy Gases are handled in the process of terminal siting.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: System and Decision Sciences - Core (SDS)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:47
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:09

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