The Exxon Valdez Disaster as Localized Environmental Catastrophe: Dissimilarities to Risk Society Theory

  • J. Steven Picou
  • Duane A. Gill


Contemporary social theorists have begun to devote increasing attention to the sources, nature, and consequences of ecological degradation in the modern world.’ This work has begun to amend the historically conditioned social science view of the natural environment as an ‘objective reality.’ The pre-existing perspective legitimized opportunities for control by human social organization and created a theoretical void concerning the social risks posed by massive environmental catastrophes and global environmental damage.’ As such, recent conceptualizations of the environment—society relationship have provided both theoretical and empirical direction regarding the economic, social, and psychological consequences of contamination to the biosphere. The emergence of environmental harm as a barometer for the distribution of technological risks represents a paradigmatic shift in social theory to a more ‘analytical heuristic’ concern with global environmental degradation and its attendant social consequences. Although the latter issue is inextricably interwoven with postmodern thought, several European sociologists have begun to focus on technological risk and catastrophe, as well as on the emergence of a modern ‘consciousness of threat,’ as one perspective for explaining the demise of classical industrial society.3


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Steven Picou
  • Duane A. Gill

There are no affiliations available

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