Society, Regulation and Governance
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Society, Regulation and Governance

New Modes of Shaping Social Change?

Edited by Regine Paul, Marc Mölders, Alfons Bora, Michael Huber and Peter Münte

Society, Regulation and Governance brings together sociologists, political scientists, legal scholars and historians for an interdisciplinary critical evaluation of alleged ‘new modes’ of social change, specifically risk, publics and participation. The editors’ aim is to refocus scholarly attention on the possibility of intentional social change in contemporary society which underpin all novelty claims in regulation and governance research and practice. This book gives significant insight into the new methods of social change, suiting a wide range of social science academics due to its collaborative nature.
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Chapter 3: Risk: new issue or new tool in regulation and governance research?

Regine Paul


Risk has been a prime carrier of novelty claims in social sciences studies on societal decision-making over the last couple of decades. Yet, in addition to the conceptual ambiguities associated with regulation and governance more generally discussed in this volume, conceptualizations of risk have been equally ambiguous. Some see risks as intrinsically unstable ever emerging regulatory problems, others discuss the need to develop ever new regulatory tools and governance arrangements to deal with risk complexity, yet others see risk as a new regulatory heuristic which can itself contribute a new “lens through which to view the world” (Bridget Hutter) in regulation and governance. As an effect, research exchange across conceptual and analytical barriers is greatly hampered. This contribution examines the use of risk concepts in regulation and governance studies with the dual aim of (a) mapping and evaluating analytical cleavages and (b) establishing the potential for exchange about new modes of intentional societal change beyond such cleavages. It hence also sets the terrain for the volume’s subsequent two empirical chapters. Based on a comprehensive conceptual review of existing research the chapter identifies a four-fold distinction of analytical approaches which is shaped by variation across two dimensions: the conceptualization of intervention (as information-theoretical or decision-theoretical) and the analytical relationship between risk and political decision-making (risk as issue or tool for interventions). The emerging approaches – risk regulation, risk governance, risk-based regulation and the governance analysis of risk regulation – are discussed and compared in depth to inform a discussion of the value and limits of the resulting division of research labor and respective novelty claims.

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