Thinking culturally about risk

Burgess, Adam (2011) Thinking culturally about risk. International Journal of Law in Context, 7 (2). pp. 249-256. ISSN 1744-5531. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/S1744552311000073) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1744552311000073

Abstract

Risk Perception, Culture, and Legal Change: A Comparative Study of Food Safety in the Wake of the Mad Cow Crisis. By Matteo Ferrari, Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. 216 pp. ISBN 978-0-7546-7811-3 Ferrari's book is a welcome addition to the still limited literature on the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) experience which, unlike any other specific response to a disease, played an important role in reshaping modern governance and consolidating key assumptions about the world around us. The ‘mad cow’ crisis began in 1986 when the unfathomable bovine brain disease was identified, but was then reignited with the shocking discovery a decade later that it could pass, and had passed, to humans despite the controls put in place. Scientific confirmation in 1996 that there was a human form of BSE led to political panic and further undermined the then exhausted Conservative Party rule. The retrospective lessons of the experience went far beyond agriculture. The problem was perceived to be one of openness and independence: perhaps government was too dependent upon lobbies and financial interests such as agriculture and, whilst utilising scientific advice, did not allow their independent voice to have influence. Less widely recognised, but even more importantly, the political lesson of the BSE experience was to henceforth tend to avoid being seen to downplay risk, based on the retrospective view that the danger could, and should, have been announced before it was scientifically confirmed. Better to overestimate even apparently limited risks than be caught again committing the now cardinal sin of downplaying them, or simply remaining silent. This is not so much a new-found principle of risk aversion as a variation on an age-old political truism of, above all, making sure that the next crisis is ‘not on my watch’.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Mita Mondal
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2013 12:31 UTC
Last Modified: 13 May 2014 13:47 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/36203 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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