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Aircraft noise and risk politics

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Air mobility spans most of the globe, but its side effects are concentrated in relatively small localities. In this paper aircraft noise annoyance is interpreted from the perspective of risk society theory as described by Ulrich Beck. With the increase in air mobility, side effects like noise nuisance gradually dominate the air mobility discussions. The logic of wealth distribution is thereby replaced by the logic of risk distribution. General annoyance statistics support this interpretation. But these statistics actually construct noise annoyance in the first place. Airport planners and professionals intentionally introduced the issue of noise annoyance to a wider audience. This exemplifies the ambivalence of risk theory as proposed by Beck. He employs a constructivist perspective, however he has a tendency to naturalize hazards. The dynamics that Beck describes as reflexive thrive on the inherent capacity of pollutants to confront the society that brought them forth. This article uses a constructivist perspective, argumentative discourse analysis, to investigate how policy practices turned aircraft sound into noise annoyance. Noise policies predate the 'unintended consequences' Beck speaks about. Once established, aircraft noise policies are a political opportunity for mobilization.

Keywords: Aircraft noise; Beck; discourse analysis; policy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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