Talk:Cultural theory of risk

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Confusion with Cultural theory[edit]

I am a non-specialist. Can someone who knows what they are talking about sort out the confusion between this article and the possibly unrelated article Cultural theory? If the two subjects do relate, then they should be linked in some way. If they do not, then I recommend setting up a disambiguation page to clear this up.Testbed (talk) 03:18, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Cultural Theory of Risk uses individual's perceptions of risk (to some concern: Nature, Morality etc) and their interpretation of those risks to then explain how societies chose their cultural objects and practices more generally (laws, aesthetics, dietary practices) (don't eat pig you'll be polluted, don't wear read with green).

Cultural theory is more general than that, and is an academic or even scientific practice/s and schools of thought, which may or may not use a Cultural Theory of Risk to explain culture, (so long as they do not feel polluted by it I guess). Cultural theory would be broad enough to include Sociology, and Anthropology.

Linking them would be a bold thing to do, but only because it may pollute me, my purity may be lost...

Though the key point is that the Cultural Theory of Risk has a different focus, say, to an Economic Theory of Risk, or a Game Theory of Risk... i.e. it is a Cultural Theory of Risk, not a Cultural Theory of Risk.

OR a more practical example is risk management.

The contrast is not with cultural theory but other uses of risk which are more quantifiable and less focussed on what someone feels the risk is depending on their bias, which will be genetic, social and personal in basis. EG Do you think/feel Nature is a) fragile b) robust c)robust within limits or d) completely and utterly random. --Meika (talk) 04:43, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Thank you. I think I am beginning to understand. My suggestions for improving the situation from a Wikipedia persepctive:
1) Add a disambiguation page (i.e. a page which separates CTofRisk from ct and provides links to both pages)
2) Include something in the CTofRisk article such as "(not to be confused with Cultural theory)"
3) Include something at the top of the ct page along these lines: "For the theory of risk known as Cultural Theory, see Cultural Theory of risk"
If you agree I can do this. Testbed (talk) 07:50, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Could be helpful, though the For the theory of risk known as Cultural Theory isn't quite right as it isn't a theory of risk, i.e. it's not a theory about risk, it's a theory about culture, in that it uses perceptions of risk held by individuals to map cultural change and attitudes.

I just hope I haven't contradicted myself her, or appear to. --Meika (talk) 09:35, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Well, if you haven't contradicted yourself, what did you mean when you wrote earlier "i.e. it is a Cultural Theory of Risk"? I'm not smart enough to follow what you're saying, sorry. Testbed (talk) 00:54, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, apologies if I appear to contradict myself, trying to capture my speech in italics doesn't always work I'm afraid. Key point is that here 'perceptions of risk' by individuals are mapped to cultural objects... it's not about the risk itself in absolute terms as might be used in various risk analysis matrices... looks like it could be a bad name that's stuck... --Meika (talk) 12:49, 3 May 2008 (UTC)
OK, I've had a go at making the distinction clear for Wikipedia users Testbed (talk) 12:31, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Text wrongly included in Culture theory article[edit]

This text below was recently substituted for the article on Culture theory by a new editor. It seems that his/her editing mistakes could be the result of inexperience, and so I have moved the contribution here in case another editor wants to comment/use.

One branch of "cultural theory," known as "group / grid theory," seeks to operationalize the abstract notion of culture. As Mary Douglas has noted, the original aim of group / grid theory was to overcome the limitations of psychological explanations of human behavior and decision making. An emphasis is placed on social organization and norms over individual psyche. The central task of the theory is to plot the social relationship between ideas and moral norms, and social organization [1].
Cultural / grid theory begins with accessing social pressures and normative behavior. A continuum of social organization is plotted. On one hand there are low levels of social pressure on individuals. On the other hand, there are high levels of social pressure and rule-based governance. Grid theory addresses the intersection of social institutions, ideas and values. The object of analysis need not be a "culture" per se, but could include a wide range of possibilities. For example, one might apply cultural / grid theory to decision making in financial institutions, a convent, a military establishment or a hospital. A detailed, accessible course by Mary Douglas on Group / Grid Theory can be found at The Open Semiotics Resource Center. ttp://
Cultural Theory has developed in an interdisciplinary fashion. It has been been advanced by anthropologists, sociologists and semioticians, among others. --Duncan.thaw.lanark (talk) 20:06, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

Testbed (talk) 05:55, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it was right to delete that. It is a bit mixed up.

The exact expression is usually “grid-group theory”. It’s not a “branch”. Cultural Theory is the name of Thompson, Ellis and Wildavsky’s 1990 book, which explains GG theory and applies it perhaps more broadly than previously. It’s the textbook and not a dead easy read. They bestowed the new name but people went on calling it grid-group theory. The term “Cultural Theory” is now pretty well synonymous. A problem is that “Cultural Theory” is somewhat presumptuous and (like GG theory) conveys little.

Calling it “Cultural Theory of Risk” is a novel (Wikipedia) twist. Certainly GG theory (or CT) has been often applied to risk – possibly its most popular application – but the theory is more general. It states that there are four “ways of life”, ie, four social structures (how people interact with each other), four corresponding worldviews (morals, values) and four corresponding modes of behaviour (taste in dress, décor). Douglas deduced these four ways of life from two dichotomised dimensions: high and low grid (coercive environment) and high and low group (collective environment).

With exceptions, anthropology has never had much time for it. Its following would be mostly in political science. The four types, in political terms are:

Individualist: dry, free market right

Egalitarian: left, progressive

Hierarchist: wet, traditional conservative right

Fatalist: populism, proletariat

Merely keeping in mind that there are two distinct kinds of political right can often clarify political understanding.

The clearest reference to GG theory would be Douglas’s “Cultural bias” a 1978 Royal Anthropological Society paper. It was reprinted in: Douglas, Mary 1982, "In the active voice", London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Her most famous work, "Purity and Danger", is not really relevant here. (talk) 05:02, 16 October 2008 (UTC) Pepper


I've added some references & will work some more on this. For consistency, and to avoid potential confusion associated with changing the form of the citation in subsequent references for authorities cited more than once, I propose to change the format to short-form footnotes with a separate references list that provides complete citation information. In the course of this, I'll likely move some of the "further reading" references into notes. Let me know if objections. Likebirds (talk) 20:57, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

Note 24 isn't listed in the references section. I assume it's Claire Marris, Ian H. Langford, Timothy O'Riordan (1998) A Quantitative Test of the Cultural Theory of Risk Perceptions: Comparison with the Psychometric Paradigm Risk Analysis Vol.18, No. 5: 635-647 Fourcultures (talk) 05:11, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Also, Christopher Hood's book, The Art of the State, was published in 1998, not 1988. Fourcultures (talk) 05:14, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Proposing Significant Revisions[edit]

I am proposing major revisions along the lines below. There are two reasons: (1) the entry as it stands fails to explicate the main features of CTR with precision or to show how it relates to other theories of risk perception; and (2) the entry as it stands contains many interpretive asides that are not backed up with citations. I have aimed to construct an entry that is informative but sparing on interpretation (and in this respect more forthcoming about the contested status of the theory in the field of risk perception)

If there are objections to an overhaul of this nature, please let me know. Of course feel free to make or propose revisions to my proposed revision.

Major Revisions[edit]

I have now implemented the proposed change. Likebirds (talk) 06:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Criticism of Criticism section[edit]

Another feature of the theory that limits its appeal among contemporary social scientists is its embrace of functionalism, a largely discredited mode of analysis that sees the needs of collective entities ..., rather than the decisions of individuals about how to pursue their own ends, as the principal causal force in social relations.

I am skeptical about the phrase largely discredited. It's general and backed up with just a single reference which, though I haven't read it, probably doesn't establish that it is discredited. I also think that the characterisation of functionalism is not correct, and certainly not correct in the way Cultural Theory embraces it. An individual's decisions are influenced by their ways of thinking (myths of nature, for example) and their ways of organising (individuals do not operate in a social vacuum but in larger social structures such as hierarchical organisations). A functional explanation points to the existence of feedback loops from social structures to individual decisions. In fact you could say that the idea that individual decisions are the principal causal force in social relations is based on a discredited ideology of individualism (c.f. Margaret Thatcher's statement that there is no such thing as society).

Some of that is my opinion, perhaps. I doubt it is factual to say that functionalism has been largely discredited. Perhaps we could say that CT has attempted to revive functionalism but specific critics remain unconvinced? Fairtlough (talk) 17:26, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

For what it's worth, I pretty much agree with this point. Certainly the claim of "largely discredited" declares a winner in a debate many would insist is ongoing. It would be more impartial to describe functionalism as "rejected by most social scientists" or something to that effect. Citations could be added to support that characterization. Moreover, I think even Cultural Theorists would accept it: Douglas, who defended functionalism in How Institutions Think (1986), and Thompson, Ellis & Wildvasky who did so in Cultural Theory (1990), all quite cheerfully acknowledged that they were taking on what had become (and remains) an orthodox social science commitment to "methodological individualism." The "pretty much" qualification that I would make is that I think functionalism involves more than feedback loops; there's no inconsistency between functionalism and feedback dynamics of the sort you describe, yet functionalism does assert the existence and causal primacy of collective entities of one sort or another. Likewise, methodological individualism can be reconciled with myriad social influences that involve feedback effects between the behavior of individuals and collections of others -- but it still insists that the behavior of individuals is the bedrock explanatory force in social behavior. Perhaps dogma and scholasticism have set in! But I think this is a fair description of how the protagonists see things. Jon Elster in Making Sense of Marx (1985) has a good account of these points (including feedback effects and other psychological phenomena as devices for enriching methodological individualism and saving "ideology" from funcationalism); Douglas in How Institutions Think actually responds to Elster's account of what a functionalist account would have to do to be taken seriously. Do you think this is fair? I'm happy to try to make the language of this section consistent with these points -- and in *many fewer* words than I've just used -- if you & others think this sounds right. Of course I'd also be delighted were you or anyone else to make whatever changes seem appropriate for this portion of the entry, which I agree is deficient for the reasons you state. Likebirds (talk) 00:42, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
Gave it a shot! Likebirds (talk) 15:57, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

I think what you say sounds fair and I appreciate your concern to give an exact account of the differing positions under disussion. I'd appreciate it if you could make the edits you propose. It seems unlikely anyone else will! Fairtlough (talk) 10:35, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

  • Here is some more criticism. The current version says that some criticizes the theory for this reason and other for that. But this seems a bit misleading as the "some" and "others" are actually the same book written by the same person, i.e Bohlon? (talk) 10:03, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Requested move 24 July 2017[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Move. Cúchullain t/c 18:34, 31 July 2017 (UTC)

Cultural Theory of riskCultural theory of risk – From the inconsistent throwing about of caps in the section titles on this page, I can see that there's confusion among some editors. For what it's worth, WP:MOSCAPS is quite clear that this sort of item should be downcased (outside any use in third-party quotes, etc).

Here's the result of an ngram search. Tony (talk) 06:00, 24 July 2017 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

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