Thought Pieces

‘Brexit’, Risk and Culture – A Comment on its Uses and Abuses

The current discussion in the UK about ‘Brexit’ illustrates how important decisions about the future are routinely framed in terms of risk. It also illustrates recognition of how – narrowly framed – risk is utilised instrumentally, but not effectively so. As Mary Douglas pointed out in her ‘cultural’ perspective, risk today is often no more than a ‘resource’ deployed as a proxy for danger. But it fails to engage with how perceptions of risk are really determined by our values and world view, something which even the scariest of numbers do not speak to.

Faced with the uncertain future outcomes of a ‘Brexit’, both sides attempt to turn these into tangible risks, complete with implausibly precise calculations. The ‘Leave’ campaign projected the prospect of the UK falling victim to Turkey joining the EU, adding a further 1 million immigrants to the population. They added that this was based upon the fact of Turkey’s higher birth rate, with the additional edge of worryingly higher gun ownership and criminality among Turkish citizens.[i] Meanwhile the ‘Stay’ campaign highlights the greater risk of economic problems should we leave, producing a succession of large numbers to demonstrate that the UK will suffer from leaving the European Union, in jobs and trade. Chancellor George Osborne warned that he would have to fill a £30bn black hole in the public finances, for example. This follows a pattern of framing other contemporary uncertainties such as obesity as concrete risks, in this case in terms of their projected cost to the NHS. Meta risks like obesity, terrorism and climate change have then competed with each other for policy attention, though generally limited public impact.

A more unusual characteristic of the campaign is how [...]

By |August 3rd, 2016|Thought Pieces|Comments Off on ‘Brexit’, Risk and Culture – A Comment on its Uses and Abuses|

Risk perception – the visible and invisible risks – the risk discourse from a multidisciplinary perspective

Charlotte Fabiansson

College of Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne Australia,

Email: [email protected]

Attitudes, behaviours and actions are habitually influenced by religious beliefs and a person’s social and cultural milieu. A circumstance that is often forgotten when scientific experts and governments promote guidelines for health and wellbeing. Interconnections between technical aspects and social context are largely overlooked within the natural sciences, but so too are people in acknowledging public health risks.

Our modern complex society, where the source of products and the ingredients in processed food are obscure for both a layperson and an expert, social context and sociological risk analysis bridge the gap between expert knowledge and people’s perception of risks. The socio-cultural, risk society and governmentality risk discourses are pertinent in analysing everyday activities, how perception of wellbeing is viewed within a socio-cultural framework, but also how the social and physical environment influence people in adapting to their own social and cultural everyday life.

Risks regarding personal health are increasing not only with a rising obese and overweight global population, but also in harmful effects of process-induced contaminants or dangerous substitution of popular food supplement ingredients.

Excess body weight is a major individual, societal and economic problem of global significance; it is a highly visible and it is a pertinent socio-cultural risk issue (Douglas 1982; Wildavsky and Dake 1990). Even if the increase in the incidences of obesity has levelled in some parts of the world, others have just started the risk trajectory. Excessive weight gain is a slow process, which has diverse and multifactorial health consequences. Obesity places huge financial burdens on governments and individuals and it is estimated to account for up to 21 per cent of the total health care costs in some developed countries (Cawley and [...]

By |June 27th, 2016|Thought Pieces|Comments Off on Risk perception – the visible and invisible risks – the risk discourse from a multidisciplinary perspective|