Title

Risk Ritual and the Management of Control and Anxiety in Medical Culture

Publication Date

10-1-2004

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Medical culture in advanced technological societies is characterized by an abundance of warnings about health hazards, along with an equally abundant flow of prescriptive advice for protecting individuals against them. Knowledge of health hazards also defines living and working environments and has spawned a politics of regulatory control. These features of contemporary health consciousness and action, along with deepening insecurities in the larger body politic, precipitate a spiral of anxiety and control. The spiral disrupts the presumed security derived from medical knowledge and medically informed behaviors and threatens to erode the boundaries of sanctioned action for health protection. In the context of the volatile political economy of health, the spiral, with its excesses of anxiety and demands for unauthorized controls, elicits efforts to contain it. I explore the symbolic dimensions of risk, what I call 'risk ritual' - the prevailing form of managing this troublesome contradiction.

Publication Title

Health

Volume

8

Issue

4

First Page

505

Last Page

528

DOI

10.1177/136345304045701

Version

pre-print, post-print with 12-month embargo

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