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Risk of social unrest

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Risks can generally be understood as the potential for experiencing harm (Rowe, 1979; Renn and Zwick, 2008). More specifically it denotes the likelihood of a scenario leading to adverse effects caused by an activity, event or technology. The causal chain is not always one‐directional. In ordinary terms, a risk agent (hazard) impacts on a risk object that is of value to individuals or society as a whole. The impacted risk object can then be the cause of further risks to other objects or even trigger a feed back to the source of the hazard. A good illustration of this two‐way relationship can be found in technologies that pose risks to the environment. If this risk materializes and harms the environment it may pose new risks to others, for example persons who eat contaminated food. Finally, once the risk is acknowledged the technology causing that risk might be abandoned or changed. Moreover, the developer of that technology may face legal actions or other forms of social sanctions. In this way risks are part of an interaction between humans, technology and natural environment. Natural causes (such as earthquakes), technologies such as nuclear power plants but also human activities (such as clearing the rain forest) are good illustrations for this interaction (Beck, 1986; Luhmann, 1985).

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: August 1, 2012


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