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Science and Society in Historical Perspective: Implications for Social Theories of Risk

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Over the past decade risk society theory has become increasingly prominent within the field of environmental social theory. This perspective contends that conventional political divisions based on class are becoming less salient and are giving way to a politics predicated upon the distribution of risk. There is much in risk society theory, especially its central contention that public anxieties about high consequence-low probability events undermine the legitimacy of science, that has a distinctly German stamp. Through a comparative analysis of how national context has differently shaped science as a public epistemology this paper suggests we should tread carefully in moving to accept the general applicability of this theoretical approach.

Keywords: Britain; Germany; environmental sociology; public understanding of science; scientific mentality

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-05-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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