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Risk and Risk Management: The Theoretical Approaches of Different Disciplines and Their Relevance to the Empirical Study of Rural Vulnerability in West Africa

  • 2008
  • Working Paper
Kielland, Anne

Publication Title: Review Literature And Arts Of The Americas

Abstract: In 1999 the World Bank released the first in a series of working papers and scientific articles on risk written by economists Robert Holzmann and Steen Lau Jørgensen. The publications came to constitute the conceptual framework for the social protection sector strategy of the institution; “Social Protection as Social Risk Management.” The framework is very practical, and thus attractive as point of departure for applied research. However, its scientific references are kept strictly to the economic discipline, and no mentioning is made of some critical aspects brought forward by what was at that time a considerable field of sociological risk research. In this paper, I briefly present the background and essence of Holzmann and Jørgensen’s economist take on risk and risk management for the poor. I then provide a brief overview of the three main approaches to risk in the sociological theory as summarized by Lupton (1999), Zinn and Taylor-Gooby (2006), and Zinn (2008). These are first, risk within modernization theory, represented by central sociological scholars like Ulrich Beck, Zygmunt Baumann and Anthony Giddens; second, the Governmentality approach developed by philosopher Michel Foucault; and finally, the cultural theories of risk fronted by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky.


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