Risk, Insurance, and the Social Construction of Responsibility

Tom Baker

in Embracing Risk

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780226035185
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226035178 | DOI:
Risk, Insurance, and the Social Construction of Responsibility

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Insurance institutions, forms, and technologies depend on shifting cultural conceptions of risk, security, and responsibility. This chapter explores the shifting relationships among these three terms. It describes how ideas about responsibility shape understandings of insurance—in particular by obscuring in the United States the social and collective nature of private insurance—and how insurance institutions in turn shape ideas about responsibility. The chapter addresses various perceptions of insurance, arguing that how we understand it affects how we perceive and reproduce our social reality. It also explores the complex meaning of “responsibility,” dissecting five analytically distinct meanings to explain how insurance distributes responsibility. The dominant insurance vision that the chapter analyzes is only one way of conceiving the complex relation between insurance, risk, and responsibility, and Baker offers alternative visions, such as the Islamic mode of communal social insurance.

Keywords: risk; insurance institutions; responsibility; Islamic insurance; social insurance; security

Chapter.  7849 words. 

Subjects: Company and Commercial Law

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