In a risk society as well as a regulatory state

 

Risk is not only concerned with health problems for nature and mankind, but the social, economic and political consequences of their side effects such as collapsing markets, devaluation of capitals, bureaucratic checks on plant decisions, and the opening of new markets. Christopher Hood argues that ‘advanced modernity produces side effect risks that need specialized expertise to assess and recognize that risks are collective, global and irreversible in their impact and therefore potentially catastrophic on a scale that has never been seen before which is a profound feature of the risk society.

It is argued that we are living in a risk society because risk management systems are all encompassing since we are now caused to deal with a murderous crime rate in which the most vulnerable groups in society have fallen prey to. Children especially are no longer speared from the wiles of the guns, knives and machete criminals. The Jamaican experience echoes the outrage of the risk society.

The rape and murder of six year old Shanique Wilson; the screams of a burning nine year old along with the rest of her family trapped in her flaming home, had to be ignored as gunmen open fire on her potential rescuers preventing them from doing so until it was too late; the brutal slaying of three siblings in Kilancholly district; the report of a teenager dragged from class and gang raped are just a few of the horrific realities that have moved the Jamaican government to seriously contemplate warranting the death penalty in response to the atrocities of the risk society.

Dr. Jessica Byron recounts a visit to the St. Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago where the incidence of kidnapping has become rampant; she recalls a strange convergence of university students (Indians in particular) in the yard waiting to be picked up by parents instead of heading home on their own like the typical university student. Parents fear losing their children to the spiraling incidence of kidnapping and insisted on picking them up after school. This feature is a product of the risk society where children have become a prime target.

For many persons the events of 9/11 have been indelibly marked in our minds forever, as on that fateful day millions of viewers across the world glued to their television sets witnessed the murder of thousands of innocent victims as terrorists hijacked and crashed two commercial airlines into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and a third close to the Pentagon. Even more recently the London train bombings which also claimed thousands of lives – these events have come to characterize the notion of a risk society.

We live in a risk society because risks transcends national borders and efforts to deal with them requires international cooperation which has led to the creation environmental and other risk management institutions as well as early warning system likely to reduce the probable impacts of a hazard. The perceptive notion of a risk society is what has led to the development of insurance companies that allows for the citizens, businesses, and government to insure selves and properties against future indemnities. Governments act to prevent all imaginable dangers in response to the risk society.

This explains why a nation capitalizes on its net foreign reserves to ward off potential risk to their economies. Someone once said that if “the United States cough, Jamaica gets the flu” which emphasizes the level of vulnerability the risk society poses. Take for example the impact rising oil prices have on the Jamaican currency as a result of the US invasion of Iraq. The sugar industry is about to collapse because of unfavorable conditions in the world market. Ecological disaster and atomic fallout ignore the borders of nations.

Even the rich and powerful are not safe from them, as they are not only hazards to health, but also to legitimation, property and profit (Beck: 1992:23). Natural risk has the tendency to produce new international inequalities between the Third World and the industrial states and secondly between the industrial states themselves. These risks undermine the order of national jurisdictions as natural disasters can cause considerable damage with potentially severe economic consequences. Rates of property insurance in the Caribbean started creeping up in 1989 triggered by reinsurance as a result of Hurricanes Gilbert (1988) and Hugo (1989).

Taboroff in Kreimer’s Managing Disaster Risk in Emerging Economies argues that, cultural heritage, encompassing the archaeological ands historical built environment and movable heritage is at risk from natural disasters, especially in low income countries (2000:71). These risks are essentially posed by fires, earthquakes, flooding, tsunami, land and mudslides, winds, tropical storms and avalanches are among the major causes of damage. Even though these cannot be prevented people in the risk society devise early warning systems and implement disaster mitigation measures to ward off their adverse effects to some extent.

Probably one of the largest ever human crises in recent times as a result of natural occurrences has been the Asian tsunami which took thousands of lives in several Asian states in East Asia. The risk society’s pervasive nature is also evident in the Caribbean’s vulnerability to hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Not many persons will forget that a significant portion of the famous Port Royal is under the sea as a result of the 1892 earthquake. The Caribbean region has been prone to a number of hurricanes and tropical storms, and especially in the current Atlantic hurricane season.

Volcanic activities are also a present feature of the risk society – Soufriere Hill’s volcano in Montserrat. The El Salvador earthquake, Hurricane Katherina in New Orleans, Ivan in Grenada and Jamaica are just some of what the risk society is poised to deal with. Are we living in a regulatory state? According to Martin Loughlin (1996:205) there has been a discernible shift towards regulatory modes of governance which has inspired discussions about the emergence of the regulatory state.

Loughlin defines ‘regulation’ as “an attempt to modify the socially-valued behaviour of others by the promulgation and enforcement of systems of rules, typically by establishing an institutionally distinct regulator. ” It is argued that we live in a regulatory state because much of our activities are governed by formal and informal systems of rules and by institutions created to enforce compliance, where necessary. Every social aspect of human life is governed by some form of regulation even in economic and political spheres.

According to Giandomenico Majone, “since the late 1970s European governments have been forced to change their traditional modes of governance in response to increasing international competition and deepening economic integration with the European Union. It is as a result of this shift and various policy innovations associated with the New Public Management Paradigm that has lent momentum to the development of the regulatory state. Martin Loughlin contends that the increasing use of regulation as a formal instrument of government arose because of the reform impetus that governments should ‘steer’ not ‘row’.

As regulator, risk and safety becomes paramount regulatory growth points for government. The regulatory state is concerned with administrative decentralization and regionalization; the breakdown of formerly monolithic entities into single purpose units with their own budgets (as in the Ministry of Health), the separation of provision from production, or policy making from operational tasks associated with the production of utility services have been assigned both to new regulatory agencies.

We live in a regulatory state because contemporary public sector management and public policies are concerned with correcting market failure through rule making, which has led to the creation of ‘Next Step’ programmes or executive agencies, leaving policy making with the parent departments, through a series of reforms. As such the state has been involved in regulating business activities through management information systems, performance appraisals, standard setting and accounting systems in an effort to promote efficiency and accountability.

Efforts to regulate these activities are visible as a consequence of the growing importance of regulation within government to oversee the public sector. One such entity is the Public Accounts Committee which oversees the appropriation of public money, the Bureau of Standards is responsible for standard setting, the OUR acts as a complaint agency of last resort for customers who have exhausted the complaint handling machinery of utility companies and remained dissatisfied, and the Ombudsman who oversees electoral proceedings.

Privatization is an important aspect of the regulatory state where there is an ensuing move to privatize governmental resources and contract them out to private entities, for example JPS was sold to Mirant while the government retains minimal say in its operations. There has been a displacement of the welfare state model of government which had been a service delivery state in which government assumed responsibility not only for the provision of a wide range of services but also for their production. Governments have since moved away from this notion and have assumed a role more concerned with ‘steering’ rather than ‘rowing’.

There has been to a large extent decentralization taking place in the regulatory state particularly in the health sector in Jamaica, which now performs many of its functions through regional health departments in several parishes. The National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA) was created in response to air pollution and other forms of environmental hazards in an effort to reduce it as much as possible. One of its primary goals is “to reduce dangerous substances in the atmosphere to a level that will not adversely affect human health” (Sunstein: 1990:414).

We live in a regulatory state because even markets are controlled through monetary or fiscal policies. The regulatory state is characterized by “states which assume an overall monitoring role which emphasizes procedural values and which permits and encourages private interest to police each other, where centres maintain strategic control and inspection” (Power: 1997:53). The notion of a risk regulatory state describes a response to risk and regulatory failure through generalized systems of control.

The ODPEM is institutional machinery used to handle natural risk and disaster hazards in the regulatory state. “For some hazards governments adopt heavy-duty anticipative and intrusive regulatory arrangements of the draconian measures taken by early modern states to control plague”- Michael Foucault 1997:195-200 in his work Discipline and Punishment. Evidence of this anticipative and intrusive risk regulation include the ill- fated attempt to immunize every man, woman and child in response to a number of diseases. Conclusion

In concluding I reaffirm the view that we do exist in a ‘risk society’ as well as a ‘regulatory state’, not so much for the number of risks with which we must deal with but largely as a result of how this exposure has come to define how we perceive and prepare for risk. The two notions ‘risk society’ and ‘regulatory state’ are mutually reinforcing given that risk and safety are the primary propellers for the regulatory state. It is as a result of the acceptability of a risk society that has given rise to a regulatory state aimed at creating risk management systems for dealing with and preventing that which can be prevented.

Humans are constantly preparing for potential hazards because of their susceptibility to such risks, hence the reason for the number of insurance companies and other institutions created to ward off the adverse effects of the ‘risk society’.

References Beck, Ulrich. (1992) Risk Society. London: Sage ——- (1999) World Risk Society. Malden: Polity Press Douglas, Mary. (1985) Risk Acceptability According to Social Sciences. London: Routledge —- and Wildavsky A. (1982) Risk and Culture. London: University of California Press Majone, Giandomenico.

(1997) “From the Positive to the Regulatory State” in Journal of Public Policy. Vol. 17, No. 2, 139-167 Hood, Christopher. et al. (2001). The Government of Risk. Oxford: Oxford University Press ——- “Where Risk Society Meets the Regulatory State” in Risk Management: An International Journal. Vol. 1, No. 1 January 1999 Kreimer, Alcirca and Arnold M. (eds. ) (2001) Managing Disaster Risk in Emerging Economies. Washington D. C. : World Bank Loughlin, Martin. (1996) The Regulatory State. Macmillan Power, Michael. (1997) The Audit Society.

Oxford: Oxford University Press Sunstein, Cass. (1990) ‘Paradoxes of the Regulatory State’ University of Chicago Law Review 407-441 Taboroff, June. (2001) “Cultural Heritage and Natural Disasters: Incentives for Risk Management and Mitigation. ” in Kreimer Wildavsky, Aaron. (1988) Searching for Safety. New Brunswick: Transaction Books “Making Sense of the ‘risk society’” (2001) Available@ http://www. hero. ac. uk/uk/research/archives/2001/making_sense_of_the__risk1007. cfm – 23k – 17 Nov 2005 1 Giddens 1999:3 @ http://www. wikipedia. org. wiki/RiskSociety.

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