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The Politics of Risk Allocation Why is Socialization of Risks Difficult in a Risk Society?

Jiro Yamaguchi

CSGR Working Paper No. 172/05

Provision against risk can be a good reason to champion equality in modern times. No one is free from such risks as disease, aging, caring for old parents, and raising children. Since human beings are vulnerable by nature, they fall victim to various risks regardless of their wealth or social status. If one considers others’ hardships as one’s own, one would naturally support policies that socialize risks. The socialization of risk is closely related therefore to the idea of equality because it compensates those who fall victim to risk. Today risks are growing due to the fierce competition brought about by globalization. People have come to realize their lives are at risk. Even diligent and honest people are dismissed from their jobs for reasons beyond their control when their employers try to cut wages. Many ordinary students have great difficulty finding a job. As advanced societies age, the people are more concerned about their lives after retirement, especially in terms of pensions and medical insurance. In the United States, where there is no public health insuranc e system, more people suffer the risk of sickness.

This short paper aims to consider why neo-liberals are still popular among people in such a risk- filled society. In other words, why don’t the people elect the Left or Social Democrats in Western Europe and the Liberals in the United States, whose traditional agenda is the enhancement of equality, and thereby relieve themselves of these concerns? This article attempts to answer this question by looking at the variety and gradation of risks.


Keywords: Risk, Socialization, Social Democracy, Globalisation