Risk Professionals, The

Risk Professionals, The

Thomas Dietz
Robert W. Rycroft
Copyright Date: 1987
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 164
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  • Book Info
    Risk Professionals, The
    Book Description:

    In the two decades since a new social movement put environmental issues high on the national policy agenda, Washington has become home to a small group of people-the risk professionals-whose careers center on the identification, assessment, and management of risks to public health and safety. These men and women, experts working in federal agencies, Congress, activist organizations, and corporations, help transform mass concern into government policy, shaping the way our society responds to environmental and technological hazards.

    Based on nearly 230 interviews,The Risk Professionalsprovides the first comprehensive sociological analysis of our "danger establishment." Dietz and Rycroft explore the social, educational, and career profiles of risk professionals; their worldviews and ideologies; their networks and norms. Not content to view risk professionals from a single perspective, the authors build an integrated description that considers commonalities in their subjects' backgrounds, interests, values, and communication patterns. The result is a uniquely revealing look into the heart of the risk policy system, and a broader illumination of the social structures and dynamics that will influence environmental policy for years to come.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation's Social Science Frontiers Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-157-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In June 1983 William Ruckelshaus took office as the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the previous thirty months the agency had been a source of great controversy. The first EPA administrator in the Reagan administration, Anne Gorsuch Burford, and a number of other senior officials had resigned in the midst of allegations of unethical and illegal conduct. Ruckelshaus, a moderate Republican who had served as the first EPA head in the Nixon administration, was appointed to refurbish the agency.

    The first public act of the new administrator was to deliver a speech entitled “Science, Risk, and...

  4. Chapter 2 Risk Professionals as an Elite
    (pp. 11-32)

    Most Americans consider the denizens of Washington a curious and alien species, to be viewed with a mixture of distrust and respect. On the one hand, Washingtonians are seen as power-hungry, self-important, and out of touch with normal life. On the other, even in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate and in the midst of “Contragate,” national pride holds that we send our best daughters and sons to Washington. The mixture of contempt and respect varies over time and among individuals, but the view that those engaged in the policy process are unlike the rest of the nation is widespread,...

  5. Chapter 3 Risk Professionals as a New Class
    (pp. 33-52)

    Radical environmentalists and radical antienvironmentalists have highly critical views of those engaged in the environmental policy process. Antienvironmentalists such as former Interior Secretary James Watt seem convinced that Washington is a den of subversive “greens” who, with the support of liberal intellectuals, are attempting to ruin American society. In contrast, David Foreman, founder of Earth First!, has warned that professional environmentalists may have “a higher loyalty to the political process than to conservation” and have lost sight of the core values of environmentalism.⁴³ In this chapter we explore the worldview of the risk professionals, and examine the degree to which...

  6. Chapter 4 Risk Professionals as an Establishment
    (pp. 53-76)

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, environmentalists joined those protesting the war in Vietnam to accuse “the establishment” of promoting militarism and the exploitation of both people and the natural environment. The establishment, in the view of the activists of that period, was composed of politicians and government officials, including the military, officials in major corporations, and the leaders of other influential organizations. These individuals were seen as controlling the key institutions of American society and of using these institutions to promote their views. In particular, they were perceived as being able to define the terms of political debate,...

  7. Chapter 5 Risk Professionals as a Policy Community
    (pp. 77-102)

    Our fourth perspective for examining the risk professionals emphasizes the importance of “policy communities.” A recent analysis of the energy policy system defines a community in the following terms:

    Policy communities can be viewed as information networks that deal primarily with substantive information and operate with little regard for organizational or hierarchical position. Stable policy communities consist of actors and interests who are continuously engaged in obtaining, digesting, exchanging, or testing information. Thus a very important part of the process by which these policy communities function is communication—through word of mouth, discussions in the workplace, meetings sponsored by professional...

  8. Chapter 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 103-116)

    In his 1984 presidential address to the American Sociological Association, James F. Short, Jr., urged a “social transformation of risk analysis.” He argued that “risk analysis has insisted on its own legitimacy and pressed for policies based on technical analyses, while failing to acknowledge the narrow focus and tenuous quality of those analyses and ignoring the consequences of failed expertise.”¹²⁸ The transformation he had in mind was nothing less than the demystification of risk analysis by embedding it in a broader social context.

    One of the goals of this study is just such a demystification. It is our hope that...

  9. Appendix A Methodology
    (pp. 117-124)
  10. Appendix B Interview Guide
    (pp. 125-144)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-153)