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Ideals of Governability in Risk Regulation. Or Where do Risk-Based Decision-Making Frameworks Come From?

Dr David Demortain
IFRIS – University Paris-Est
Date: 31 January 2012
Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Venue: KSW 3.01


Characteristic of an era of risk regulation is the proliferation of managerial frameworks that describe the ideal ways of making decisions about risks - including public decisions. A team of Canadian officials counted as many as twenty such « risk management frameworks for human health and environmental risks » internationally (Jardine et al. 2003). Such frameworks capture the generic processes by which one can organise interventions on risk issues in a supposedly optimal and generally applicable way. They are generally designed by specialists of health and environmental risks, with expertise in natural sciences, decision sciences but also with regulatory experience. What are the political reasons for the prevalence of this attitude of modelling government and decision-making? A genealogy of one of the most famous and successful frameworks of this sort – the "risk analysis framework" put forward by the US National Research Council in 1983 –, undertaken with the historian of science Soraya Boudia, helps showing that they are less the consequence of a technocratic domination, than the perpetuation of ideals of governability originating in fields of expertise that span science, administration and industry.

About the speaker 

David Demortain is a political scientist with IFRIS (Université Paris-Est) and a CARR research associate. His research interests broadly concern the relationship between knowledge and regulation. He has worked on the shaping of international standards by collectives of scientific experts, and is now carrying out a study of the generic value of risk assessment as a regulatory instrument. His most recent publication is a book titled Scientists and the regulation of risk. Standardising control (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011).