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Insuring Risk

Vivek Kumar

By David Denney
Sage Publications, London, 2005, pp. 220, £19.99


Risk has come to dominate individual and collective consciousness in the twenty-first century. Although global insecurity has been created by terrorism, pollution, global epidemics, and famine risks involved in aspects of everyday life such as food, sunlight and travel have become major preoccupations.   The book under review deals with interrelationship between risk and society. According to the author, ‘The term “risk” is a concept which was developed in the 16th and 17th centuries and was first coined by the early western explorers. . . The term was . . . widened to refer to other situations of uncertainty . . . the founding fathers of Sociology were, in their own ways, concerned with questions related to risk. Marx drew attention to the instabilities and miseries created by the capitalist mode of production. The consequences of the Industrial Revolution brought new risks as the population became urbanized and worked with often dangerous machinery. Durkhiem was concerned with the danger of society disintegrating as an over-emphasis on economic development led to the breakdown of moral regulation. Weber analysed risks that were associated with the growth of bureaucratic organizations which emerged as a result of industrialization’ (p. 9).   In contemporary society one can easily define risk associated with chance, hazard, probability, eventuality and randomness on the one hand, and loss and damage on the other. Further, ‘Risk . . . is concerned with the likelihood of mass exposure to physical or psychological harm, as distinct form of danger and hazard to an individual’ (p. 10). However interestingly the author evaluates risk not only as negative but also as positive force which, ‘is a core element in the relation of a dynamic and innovative society . . . the driving force behind capitalist development . . . and a prerequisite to participation in technologically based global era’ (p. 11). That is why the author says that the anticipation and prevention of risk has taken the form of an industry.   The writer critically examines the social construction of risk by considering a range of social theories, addressing the literature and providing an authoritative guide to the key issues related to the notion of risk in every day life. That is why the book under review has a multidisciplinary appeal. Hence students from sociology, international relations, media, culture and communication will find this book meaningful for their respective disciplines.   Along with a small introduction the book contains fourteen chapters which have been broadly divided into three parts. The three parts are ‘Understanding Risk’, which examines the ...

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