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Embracing RiskThe Changing Culture of Insurance and Responsibility$
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Tom Baker and Jonathan Simon

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226035185

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226035178.001.0001

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Risk, Insurance, and the Social Construction of Responsibility

Risk, Insurance, and the Social Construction of Responsibility

(p.33) Two Risk, Insurance, and the Social Construction of Responsibility
Embracing Risk

Tom Baker

University of Chicago Press

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

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