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Risk and public problems

Abstract : The study of risk in the French social sciences over the past 10 years draws upon a tradition of policy studies. Following an earlier period during which research focused on major catastrophes and technological risks, studies moved on to a broader range of collective risks. Emphasis was placed on the social construction of risks by social movements, NGOs, experts and counter-experts, whistleblowers, private firms and public administrations. Among these studies, two separate approaches can be observed. A first strand of research focused on how existing risks became public problems, i.e., why and how among the many risks which surround us, some became major issues while others did not. This led to specific interest for processes of problem-building and agenda-setting. In these processes, the role of organizations was closely scrutinized. A second strand of research focused on how existing public problems became framed as risks, i.e., the way in which an issue already on the agenda came to acquire new attributes which, by stressing a number of uncertainties and establishing links with other controversial issues, turned it into a risk. From the sum results of these two strands, a general framework of analysis for the study of risks emerges, which stresses the dynamic nature of their construction processes, the political nature of the controversies which accompany risks on the public agenda, the dimensions of lack of familiarity and control in the risks that emerge, and the crucial importance of debates over calculating the risks.
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Olivier Borraz. Risk and public problems. Journal of Risk Research, 2007, 10 (7), pp.941 - 957. ⟨hal-02316035⟩



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