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Foreseeing and Managing Social Risks

Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
Prévoir et gérer le risque

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1Thanks to local or planetary warnings that have been issued concerning the greenhouse effect, climatic changes, and water and air pollution, scientific research has been organized to describe and evaluate the risks, even predict time frames and the magnitude of probable catastrophes. An interesting consequence for geography is the growing interest of spatial analysts in these processes, in particular at intermediate levels.

2But the barely-begun millennium has brought other catastrophes, real indeed, with heavy human and material consequences, whose significance for the future is no less weighty than the attacks against the environment. Epidemics of tuberculosis and AIDS, the renewed outbreak of famine in various parts of the world, increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth among nations and within cities—all these have been observed through social science research, and are just as disturbing as the September 11 attacks or the wars that are now being fought. Should we move from observation to warning?

3In protected societies, where editorials make hay of the whole complex of security questions during elections, must we be resigned to using (or dare to use!) terms of ‘social risk’ in presenting the analyses of what some call the ‘structural violence’ of societies? Would situations that have the potential to generate conflict, which are in fact systems that have arisen under duress, be more completely diagnosed and their seriousness better determined once they had passed through the sifting process of the actuarial vocabulary...? Should we envisage research that calculates—at what cost?—the risks that make us run to others, and to which others?—to those who impose the violence of war, or the pressures of profit maximisation?—not to mention our innocent individual behaviours, whose infinitesimal combinations produce collective aberrations or abominations... Managing risks in order to recognize crises in advance leads us to orient the reflection of the social sciences towards foresight, prevention and precaution, and to encourage the recognition of social dynamics at different territorial levels, over the mid- and short-term...

4“The nineteenth century is great, the twentieth century will be happy”, wrote the author of Les Misérables. Who can predict to what degree this century, which is not yet two years old, will pull up its collar against the cold, or be over-careful?

5The editorial board of Cybergeo extends to you its very best wishes for the year 2002.

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Denise Pumain, « Foreseeing and Managing Social Risks », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 12 décembre 2001, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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