The risk renaissance

a historical review of risk and risk management

Hooman Attar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


This paper provides a comprehensive literature review of risk and risk management theories and their historical evolution. It first groups risk theories into narrow technocratic and broader critical/skeptical views and then constructs seven categories for the latter: (i) heroic firefighting, (ii) system accidents, (iii) high reliability and mindfulness, (iv) cultural theory of risk, (v) governmentality and normalization, (vi) risk society, and (vii) the new conservatism. Each category is a major theme around which there are many variations. All together, the paper uses this eight-category scheme as a roadmap for discussion of managing risk in contemporary societies for two purposes. First, it clarifies the current state of a complex literature, explores core contributions and the prevailing tendencies, and briefly examines limitations in each category. Second, the paper contends that, at the end of the day, despite their different perspectives on risk management, proponents of technocratic and critical/skeptical views hold one key assumption in common – to develop a practical framework for the reflective (not knee-jerk reflex type) practice of risk management under conditions of uncertainty, one that has been subjected to systematic critique by broader views. The broader critical views do not provide a coherent practical framework but they set the stage for such an attempt. The paper calls for a more detailed examination and elaboration of the nature of Knightian uncertainty, and its importance as a decisive factor for formulating a practical approach for the reflective practice of risk management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2011 Academy of Management Annual Meeting proceedings
PublisherAcademy of Management
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAcademy of Management Annual Meeting 2011 - San Antiono, Texas
Duration: 12 Aug 201116 Aug 2011


ConferenceAcademy of Management Annual Meeting 2011
CitySan Antiono, Texas


  • Risk
  • Uncertainty
  • Risk Management

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