The Rational Actor Paradigm in Risk Theories: Analysis and Critique

  • Ortwin Renn
  • Carlo C. Jaeger
  • Eugene A. Rosa
  • Thomas Webler


Coping with risk has captured the attention of policy-makers and laypersons alike to become a pivotal topic for technological elites, as well as social thinkers. Technical experts — engineers, toxicologists, epidemiologists, and social scientists — and social theorists have been competing for public attention in the risk arena.1 A model of coexistence juxtaposing the technical understanding of risk and the social science perspective has emerged over the last two decades. Risk in this sense can be summarized as both a potential for harm, as well as a social construction of worry.2 Defining risk as a combination of hazard and outrage, as Peter Sandman has suggested, has been the fragile but prevailing compromise in this debate, at least in the United States.3 Although the formula of ‘risk equals hazard plus outrage’ does not provide answers of how to combine scientific assessments with public perceptions, it seemed to please the professional audience and was accepted as a conceptual guideline for risk management agencies. These agencies were well-advised to base their decisions on both expert assessments and public concerns, which was a common practice in risk analysis and management.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ortwin Renn
  • Carlo C. Jaeger
  • Eugene A. Rosa
  • Thomas Webler

There are no affiliations available

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