Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural Theory

Voorkant
Routledge, 1994 - 323 pagina's
The idea of risk has recently risen to prominence in political debate and in matters of public policy. Cognitive psychology treats decision-making as a private personal act. But in real life dangers are presented in standardized forms which pre-code the individual's choices. This collection follows on from the programme for studying risk and blame that was implied in Purity and Danger and has been developed in subsequent publications. Its first six essays argue that any analysis of risk perception that ignores cultural and political bias is worthless. For the sake of a mistaken idea of objectivity, research on risk perception tries to avoid politics, but the idea of nature is inherently politicized. The study of risk needs a systematic framework of political and cultural comparison. The next five essays range over questions in cultural theory. A culture is viewed as a way of life which standardizes concepts and values. It is held steady by the institutions in which it is articulated. Questions of autonomy, credibility and gullibility, the social origins of wants, and the recognition of distinctive thought styles are at present only beginning to be treated systematically in a framework of cultural analysis. Now that risk is moving centre-stage as the dominant idiom of policy analysis, many other key topics, such as the notion of the self, will need to be radically revised. In Risk and Blame, Mary Douglas argues that the prominence of risk discourse will force upon the social sciences a programme of rethinking and consolidation which will include the anthropological approaches studied in these pages.

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Over de auteur (1994)

Born in Italy, Mary Douglas was educated at Oxford University and began her career as a civil servant in 1943. Her first field research was carried out in what was then the Belgian Congo and she taught at Oxford and the University of London before moving to the United States in 1977. Purity and Danger (1966) is an essay about the logic of pollution beliefs, suggesting that ideas about dirt and disorder outline and reinforce particular social orders. Her other essays exploring the implicit meanings of cultural symbols follow a similar Durkheimian format. Her recent interests have turned to analysis of risk behavior and cross-cultural attitudes about food and alcohol.

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