SAP sponsored event: Social Risk. Contours of a New Paradigm?

The last decades have seen an increasing interest of philosophers and social theorists in the analysis of risk. Wide-ranging research has significantly advanced our understanding of the empirical, normative, and conceptual dimensions of risk. The growing interest in risk has been closely linked to a societal awareness of the possibly harmful or even disastrous effects that accompany the employment of new technologies. Public debates surrounding the nuclear power plant in the late 1970’s and 1980’s are an important example. More recently, discussions on risks have focused on issues such as climate change or financial risk, moving from technical to social risks.

The notions of technological and social risk pose many questions regarding their conceptual, empirical and normative dimensions. It seems that social risks differ markedly from technical risks. While technical risks stem primarily from insufficient control over technologies by the agents who apply them, this seems not to be true for social risks. They rather originate from a lack of control over the actions of other agents and the often unpredictable results of their (joint) actions. While a certain lack of control is independent of human agency in the case of technical risks, human agency seems to be the very origin of social risks.

The aim of this conference is to explore the conceptual, empirical and normative contours of social risks:
– Is the distinction between social and technological risks warranted? Are our current theories of risk able to account for this difference or do we need new theoretical tools? How do the notions of social and technical risk relate to other notions such as hazard, danger or threat?
– Are there empirical grounds that prompt a differentiation between social and technological risk? Is there a difference in the way people communicate about social and technological risks? How is the social perception of risk influencing risk identification?
– Is the normative dimension in technical risks different from the normative dimension in social risks? Risky technologies can be banned and certain risky actions can be prohibited, but what is the expected response? Do technical and social risks call for different techniques of risk management or risk regulation?

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This workshop is part of the research project Big Risks. Perception and Management of Neuralgic Societal Risks in the 21st Century funded by the FUNK-Foundation.