Risk and regulation

Authored by: Alberto Alemanno

Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022867
eBook ISBN: 9781315776835
Adobe ISBN: 9781317691662


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Risk and regulation are two inextricably connected concepts. Risk being an ever-present aspect of life; regulation is centrally concerned with the control of risk (Baldwin et al., 2011: 138). Conversely, today it appears impossible to think about regulation, regardless of whether it is about food safety, medical research, consumer protection, road traffic and environmental protection, without also thinking in terms of risk. So much of law and public policies are driven by current wisdom about perceived threats and hazards that much of the time risk-management considerations are implicit in the regulatory discourse (Heinzerling and Tushnet, 2006). As a result attempts at improving society’s ability to make acceptable-risk decisions occupy today a prominent position among governments’ concerns (for example, Sunstein, 2002: viii). 1 As it was recently stated, ‘health, safety and environmental regulation … are saturated with risk thinking’ (Boyd, 2012: 897). Whilst the language of risk may be relatively new (Fischhoff et al., 1984; Boyd, 2012), the regulation of risk is hardly a new activity for public authorities (Renn, 1998: 50). In response to identified risks, individuals and governments have historically adopted a number of techniques and regulatory instruments for mitigating adverse health effects. People have been dealing with problems of risk, by engaging in embryonic forms of risk assessment and risk management since time immemorial. 2 For example, in ancient times, food safety regimes were aimed at protection against ‘adulteration’, that is the cheapening of products through the addition of impure or inferior ingredients that may cause negative adverse effects to public health (Hutt, 1978). 3

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