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Risk Society - Essay Example

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The government of risk points to the ways in which the various agencies of the state intersect to promote greater stability and predictability in human behavior.
The question that will be answered in this paper is whether justice is still present in a risk society. This is a response to the concepts that Barbara Hudson forwards in her composition 'Justice in the Risk Society'. The question that will be answered is whether the notion of basing justice on risks and employing preemptive measure constitutes the true notion of justice.
Analysis of risk provides a context for more thoroughly understanding why criminal justice institutions and actors behave the way they do. Most important, criminal justice institutions exist principally to manage risk. During the past few centuries prior to modernity, the meaning of the concept Risk was neutral, possessing neither a positive nor negative connotation (Fox, 1999; O'Malley, 2000).
To engage in a risky act meant that one could either attain significant gain or experience a painful loss. With the transition to modernity, however, the concept risk assumed an almost exclusively negative connotation. The term risk is now synonymous with hazard or danger (Douglas, 1990; Fox, 1999).
To be labeled a risk typically invokes institutional mandates to monitor, control, and in some way remove the risky act and actor from dominant culture. Similar to Garland (2001), Fox (1999) contended that being labeled "a risk" implied a moral judgment. That means that the receiver of the label must in some way correct the risky behavior or expects cultural sanctions, sometimes in the form of punishment.
Douglas (1990) explained that risk is the perfect forensic category for a new global society. She claimed that a "culture needs a common forensic vocabulary with which to hold persons accountable" (p. 1). Given the ubiquitous nature of the concept, it can be applied to virtually any behavior in any global context. Decisions made to prohibit immigration, or to use excessive force against protesters in Seattle, Washington, each rely on the forensic vocabulary of risk.
Criminal justice agencies now make use of actuarial models to stimulate greater social control over perceived risk. In his review of the risk literature, Rigakos (1999) identified five characteristics that appear to run through each scholarly and political account. Briefly they are: a) noninvasive, routinized forms of discipline and surveillance, b) an acceleration in the assembly of knowledge in order to manage populations, c) adoption of "insurance-based" management regimen, d) social control strategies are considered moral because they reflect dominant cultural values and e) risk becomes symbolic.
Although each characteristic deserves attention, I direct my emphasis to the first, third, and fourth points.

Abuse of Power in the Search for Risks
To efficiently manage a diverse culture, mechanisms of social control and surveillance must be noninvasive. Hegemonic control (Gramsci, 1971), therefore, must manifest in seemingly benign patterns of behavioral regulation. These will ...Show more
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A risk society is a society defined by its efforts to manage risk (O'Malley, 2000). Managing risk is away of "ordering reality, of rendering it into a calculable form" (Dean, 1999, p. 131). As a concept, and as a unifying political philosophy, the search for order is the driving spirit behind all risk management strategies.
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