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Rationalizing risk

Arguing over safety on the Firth of Forth

Achim Schlüter and Peter Phillimore

This article examines the centrality of 'safety' in Grangemouth's recent politics. Scotland's main petrochemical center is a town dominated for well over fifty years by a major BP complex. In a context of extensive redundancies at BP, new insecurities surrounding the future of the company's Grangemouth site, and a series of recent accidents, as well as controversy over planning applications from other chemical companies, the town has been pushed into unusually searching questioning about both safety and economic security. This article explores the different lines of reasoning and rationalization on risk, safety, and the future advanced by regulators, BP, and residents and their political representatives. We emphasize how important the familiarity of petrochemical technology has been in public responses to the question of safety, in contrast to many environmental risk controversies. And we argue that safety has provided a focus for social, moral, economic, and political perspectives on the town's present circumstances and future prospects to be played out.

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From Risk to Resistance

Girls and Technologies of Nonviolence

Laurel Hart

From Mumbai to New York, and from Cape Town to Moscow, cell phones and other devices are becoming ubiquitous in people’s everyday lives alongside the use of various social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Despite their pervasiveness, the application of these technologies to addressing pressing global concerns such as violence toward girls and women (in universities, on the streets, in schools, and so on) is vastly under realized. Indeed, much of the work to date on mobile and social media in relation to such violence has been on its threats and harmful effects, particularly in the context of cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment (Hart and Mitchell 2015). But what are the possibilities for turning these technologies into technologies of nonviolence?

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Rights and Risks

Evenki Concerns Regarding the Proposed Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline

Gail Fondahl and Anna Sirina

Indigenous peoples' rights to a healthy environment and to be able to participate in decisions affecting their environment are increasingly recognized in Russian law. In this article we explore the case of the Evenki living at the north end of Lake Baikal, who are faced with the construction of an oil pipeline through their home-land. The Evenki perceive significant potential risks to their livelihoods and lifeways due to potential environmental degradation from the pipeline, risks that destabilize their substantive rights. They also express frustration over their inability to participate in the pipeline planning—their procedural rights to decision making are not being realized. While the pipeline project is currently stymied over environmental concerns, environmental and cultural justice concerns of indigenous peoples could pose considerable de jure obstacles to its future progress, given the pipeline construction company's disregard of indigenous rights.

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Teppo Eskelinen

This article focuses in the allocation of financial risks from the viewpoint of social justice. In contemporary society, finance and the related risk allocation patterns have become highly important in determining the social positions of individuals. Yet it is somewhat unclear how ‘financial risks’ should be understood in normative theory and to what extent their allocation is a specific problem of justice. This article consists of a definition of this category and a typology of three different and distinctive perspectives to financial risks and social justice, out of which a synthesis is drawn. The contribution of the article is to propose a normative basis for a research programme on risks and justice in the society of high financialisation.

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Jonathan Skinner

Risk and Sociocultural Theory: New Directions and Perspectives. Edited by Deborah Lupton Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, ix, 185pp., paperback £19.99. ISBN 0-521-64554-9.

Trade and Trade-offs: Using Resources, Making Choices, and Taking Risks. By Estellie Smith. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 2000, x, 185pp., glossary, annotated bibliogr., paperback $20.95. ISBN: 1-57766-092-7.

Hitting the Jackpot: Lives of Lottery Millionaires. By Pasi Falk and Pasi Maenpaa. Oxford: Berg, 1999, 168pp., appendices, bibliogr., £15.99. ISBN 9781859733059.

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Christian Büscher and Aldo Mascareño

Historically, risk assessment and the concept of risk itself have been dominated by environmental, engineering, and economic sciences. Consequently, in analyzing risk production in modern cities, a rather technical view emerges on risks and urban dynamics. Though scientifically grounded and practically useful, this view fails to capture the social complexity of the city, its paradoxes and causalities. Elaborating on the hypothesis that the life-supporting mechanisms in modern cities are simultaneously life-endangering mechanisms, the article aims to develop a sociological framework to comprehend the dynamics of systematic risk production in the urban milieu. Methodologically, to illustrate the functioning of such mechanisms, we will use historical references and several empirical analyses related to urban research.

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Peter R.A. Oeij, Steven Dhondt and Noortje M. Wiezer

The European situation of new forms of work organisation and stress risks in jobs are described against the 'decentralisation-human factor orientation model', which discerns types of work organisation. 'Flexible firms' based on lean production have the highest probability of high strain jobs, predicting negative health effects. Among European employees, those working in high strain work organisations report the highest number of complaints with musculoskeletal problems, allergies and asthma and stress-related problems. Although new forms of work organisation are limited in occurrence, most of them tend towards lean production, indicating growing stress risks for employees. The authors suggest to reduce stress risks in jobs by redesigning those organisational conditions labelled as sources for these risks into work situations with a better balance in job demands and job control.

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Comparing Risk Regulation in the United States and France

Asbestos, Aids and Genetically Modified Agriculture

David Vogel and Jabril Bensedrine

This article compares three health, safety and environmental policies in France and the United States: the regulation of asbestos, the regulatory impact of the health crisis associated with AIDS, and the regulation of genetically modified foods and seeds. These cases illustrate the evolution of regulatory policies and politics in France and the United States over the last three decades. In brief, risk management policies have become less politicized and risk averse in the United States, while they have become more politicized and risk averse in France. In many respects, regulatory politics and policies in France during the 1990s resemble those of the United States from the 1960s and through the late 1980s.

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Ken MacLean

This article examines current debates for and against Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) in Myanmar. The analysis, based on interviews with key local, national, and international actors involved in HMA, reveals why so many of them regard the mapping and removal of “nuisance” landmines as posing a security threat to the peace process. (Landmines deny people access to territory; when conflict ends, these landmines no longer serve a strategic purpose and thus become a dangerous nuisance.) These same debates also shed light on the growing role risk management approaches now take in Myanmar as a response to decades of authoritarian misrule by a succession of military regimes. The landmines, although buried in the ground, actively unsettle such good governance initiatives and the neoliberal development projects to which they are often linked, most often by reterritorializing military, humanitarian, political, and economic authority in overlapping and conflicting ways at multiple scales. The findings reveal why HMA actors resist labeling the crisis landmine contamination poses to civilians as a “crisis” that requires immediate humanitarian action.

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Vyacheslav Nikolayevitch Bobkov, Olesya Veredyuk and Ulvi Aliyev

This article exposes criterial bases of the development of social quality in the USSR and Russia. The causes of the increased volatility of the state-monopoly capitalism emerging in Russia from the 1990s and in the first decade of the twenty-first century are analyzed. Characteristics of social quality such as a high proportion of low-paid employees, a low standard of living and a high economic inequality are considered. The impact of the precarity of employment on these processes is demonstrated. Risk factors of precarity of employment such as type of labor contract, form of employment, working conditions and wages (in particular, volatility and discreteness of payments) are analyzed. The evaluation of scale of the precarity of employment in the formal sector in Russia is made; the distribution of workers in precarity of employment by kinds of economic activity and the deviation of their average wages are introduced. Overcoming the instability of development is linked to the transition to a society of people-humanistic socialism.