From preparedness to risk : from the singular risk of nuclear war to the plurality of all hazards

Deville, Joe and Guggenheim, Michael (2018) From preparedness to risk : from the singular risk of nuclear war to the plurality of all hazards. British Journal of Sociology, 69 (3). pp. 799-824. ISSN 0007-1315

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Debates on risk have largely assumed risk to be the outcome of calculative practices. There is a related assumption that risk objects come only in one form, and that the reason not everything can be transformed into a risk is because of the difficulties in calculating and creating universal quantitative comparisons. In this article, building on recent studies of preparedness that have broadened understandings of risk, we provide an analysis of how preparedness measures might themselves produce risk, in particular through risk’s durable instantiation, or what we call ‘concretisation’. Our empirical focus is on how government agencies in two countries shifted their attention from the risk of nuclear attack during the Cold War to an all hazards approach to preparedness. Comparing the mid- to late-twentieth century histories of the UK and Switzerland, we show that both countries shifted from focusing from a single risk to plural risks. This shift cannot be explained by a change in prevailing calculative practices, or by the fact that the risks changed historically. Instead, it is driven by historically specific changes in how risks are produced and reproduced in relation to how materialisations of risk operate over time.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
British Journal of Sociology
Additional Information:
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Deville, J. and Guggenheim, M. (2018), From preparedness to risk: from the singular risk of nuclear war to the plurality of all hazards. The British Journal of Sociology, 69: 799-824. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12291 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? risknuclear warall hazardsdisastercalculationsociology and political science ??
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Deposited On:
20 Mar 2017 14:10
Last Modified:
09 Jan 2024 00:19