Culture and Risk

Culture and Risk


Douglas and Wildavsky’s book Risk and Culture (1982) proposes the “Cultural Theory of risk”. The authors suggest the views of risk are culturally embedded into a society, and that these views are both produced by and support social structures.


If the prospect of climate change and resource scarcity is real then it is quite likely that risk will feature more prominently in our future world view than it may have done over the past few decades. The Cultural Theory of risk could be useful in considering how this future world view may evolve as individuals and communities begin to deal with the risks associated with climate change and significantly higher energy costs.


It can be argued that New Zealanders, until the late 1980’s, accepted a hierarchistic world view, whereby the State assumed a great deal of risk collectively and on behalf of individuals. But in exchange for this assumption of risk, the society created was quite regulated.


The market liberalisations of the late 1980’s and 1990’s brought about an individualist focus to risk whereby the government focused on reducing their risk to markets -the public accepted more responsibility for risk.


When we begin to face the risks associated with climate change and energy scarcity it appears we go in one of two directions - toward fatalism or egalitarianism. There may not be a shift into one camp or the other but a split response.

Alan Johnson (2006) Forces Shaping the 21st Century: World Views