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Community and Life-Chances: Risk Movements in the United States and Germany

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The connotations attached to the concept of 'risk' have changed over the last several decades. In particular, the image of risk, at least in the world's most economically advanced countries, has turned from predominantly positive to highly critical. A sociological look at this historic change reveals the emergence of a plurality of risk definitions that can be attributed to different risk cultures. We can distinguish risk cultures by their proximity to the dominant social practice of risk taking; namely risk cultures belong either to the centre or the periphery of society. Social movements that resist risky technologies are examples of a peripheral risk culture. Due to a certain concept of social community their perception of risk differs fundamentally from that of the centre. In addition, cultural variation across countries leads to different representations of risk-avoidance in social movements. This contribution illustrates these differences by comparing the American and German anti-nuclear movements.

Keywords: community; life-chances; risk cultures; risk movements

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1999

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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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