Risk, Skepticism and Politics 5/15/2013 6:03:00 AM
Klienman – how can you improve decision making by getting more people involved.
Collins & Evans – limit the role of ordinary people, restricted to political phase (except when
they have experience (contributory expertise). What‟s important to expertise is the
experience doing something – key were trying to get from experts. These are embodied in
tacit skills that they have from social emersion. This is something ordinary people cannot
access without being introduced into the social group (socialization process) – being subject
to authoritarian teacher.
Political phase : everyone should have a say
Technical phase: only contributory experts with qualifications should be doing the
work but they can be accompanied by contributory experts who have experience.
Risk, Skepticism, Politics
The idea of science being certain is a myth – both Klienman and Collins and Evans.
Collins and Evans blame the ordinary people for the myth of certainty (b/c people are
socially naive) [Similar to Douglas].
Klienman doesn‟t blame the lay people, he blames the scientists for being to arrogant
(under or over estimate risk) [Similar to Beck].
Evidence is not black and white, and neither is proof (drop the term proof and use evidence,
how much evidence does one offer to justify ..).
Mary Douglas – anthropology of science: how to think about the culture we live in. Can our
society with different values help to determine what is a risk
Ulrich Beck: writing about the idea that we live in a risk society (meaning there ha been a
shift in the kind of world we live in – no longer mostly concerned with producing goods and
benefits but b/c of industrial activity we have started doing things which government are no
longer able to keep up with the products of science of industry. What‟s happened is we have
shifted to a society managing bads (being produced with science & industry). Shift to a
management of bads only. We live in a risk society bc science and industry are constantly
Popkin on Skepticism:
Dogmatists: something can be known.
Academic skepticism: nothing is certain, nothing can be known (Collins and Evans are
dogmatic but also academic scepticism b/c they say when we (or experts) know something
we don‟t not know them with certainty.) Pyrrhonian skepticism: suspend judgment on all questions where there is conflicting
evidence (quietude) (Klienman is a lot closer to this, he applies this to the experts but not
to the ordinary public).
Talking about risk:
The stories we tell about risk are massively individualistic (when I think about risk we focus
only on the I of risk). Risk as our Faustian Bargain? Faustian Bargain: a person offers
his/her soul in exchange for diabolical favours.
Different Kinds of risk:
Individualist (often political move – costs are normally borne through large amounts of ppl)
Risks generated by individual choice
I weight cost and benefits
Voluntarily chosen risk
Imposed risk unjustified
Working with known probabilities
Aggregate costs and benefits
Individual trade offs
o Downside risks traded off against upside payoffs
Both benefits and costs apply only to the individual
Complete risk-aversion is irrational and probably boring too
Scale does NOT matter to morality
Same standards individuals/group
Maximize benefits (make risk decisions by maximizing benefits)
Risks generated by collective choice (social/collective – groups)
Unanimous and informed consent?
Imposed risk sometimes needed?
Decision-making under uncertainty
Social response to risks
Just distribution of risks
o Beck: „wealth accumulates at the top, risk at the bottom‟ Asymmetry in choice and distribution (not all of us have equal power to affect the
distribution of risk/ choices we take – risk not distributed equally.)
Violating trusteeship relations via risk displacement unjustified (sometimes there is nothing
boring about not taking a risk b/c accidents happen and trustee relations are violated).
Scale DOES matter to morality
Questions change: to the idea of collective rights? (right to assume that a risk I
think is right should be imposed on others)
Rawlsian Maximin rule
Avoid worst possible outcome (the most moral decision for the collective is to
avoid the worst possible outcome for the collective).
Mary Douglas: Grids/Groups Theory - the idea behind this is our social life (the
collective) can be thought of as divided into groups that hold different values and
prefaces (multiple world views –