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The meaning of risk-taking – key concepts and dimensions

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Author list: Zinn, Jens

Publication year: 2017

Start page: 1

End page: 15

Number of pages: 15

ISSN: 1366-9877

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2017.1351465


Abstract

Dealing with and taking risks are central issues of current societies which had been characterised by heightened debates and conflicts about risk (Beck, Giddens). Even though there is good knowledge available, policies and strategies to reduce people’s risk-taking are often less successful than expected. Experts are puzzled about common people not following good advice presuming people’s lack of understanding. While this might be true in many cases a growing body of research shows, rather than being merely ignorant or misinformed, people often have good knowledge when taking risks. A growing body of research provides knowledge about the complexities, dynamics and contradictions of people’s risk-taking. However, there have been little attempts to systematise this body of knowledge. This article contributes to such an enterprise. It suggests distinguishing between different motives for risk-taking, different levels of control and a number of ways how reflexivity about risk is rooted in the social realm. It also explores how risk-taking is part of developing and protecting a valued identity. The article concludes, across different domains there is good evidence for how structural and cultural forces combine and shape risk-taking while people take risks to develop a valued identity and to protect it. Advancing expert’s understanding of risk-taking and change people’s risk-taking require considering and approaching the larger social contexts and individual risk practices in everyday life.


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