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Informal logics of risk: contingency and modes of practical reasoning

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Discussions about the rationality or irrationality displayed by actors with regard to risk often assume an implicit canonical conception of reason. However, when actors engage with the practicalities of risk issues, in their specific contexts, a diversity of informal modes of reasoning may be seen to inform their actions. This paper argues that such reasoning practices, rather than constituting anomalous exceptions to mainstream theoretical accounts of risk phenomena, need to be recognized as an important topic for investigation in their own right. Indeed, examining this sphere of interaction patterns seems to shed light on mechanisms that generate the distinctive characteristics of risk issues in human experience. The growth in importance of the technical discourse of risk in professional practice creates an increasing number of situations where the micro-politics of contingency overlaps with formal audit controls, so raising important questions about the character of risk reasoning by experts and lay people alike.

Keywords: expertise; micro-politics; practical reasoning; rationality; risk contingency; sense-making

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Cardiff University School of Social Sciences Glamorgan Building King Edward VII Avenue Cardiff CF10 3WT UK

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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