Searching for Safety
Nuclear power plants, new vaccines and drugs, pesticides designed to improve agricultural production, and a plethora of other technological advances hold great promise of improving the quality of human life, but also pose great risks to human well-being. Protecting ourselves against the risks associated with these modern technologies has emerged as a major public concern throughout the industrialized world.
Searching for Safety is unique in its exposition of a theory that explains how and why risk taking makes life safer. It also exposes the high risk in backwardness, whether it is a result of policy or inadvertent. The book covers a wide range, including how the human body, as well as plants, animals, and insects, cope with danger. Wildavsky addresses the master dilemma head on, asking whether piling on safety measures actually improves safety. While he agrees that society should sometimes try to prevent large harms from occurring, he explains why such anticipatory measures are usually inferior to a strategy of resilience -learning from error how to bounce back in better shape. His purpose is to shift the risk debate from passive prevention of harm to active search for safety.
Written for the intelligent layman, the book will be of special interest to individuals concerned with risk, technology, health, safety, environmental protection, regulation, and analysis of systems for making decisions.
“This is a fascinating attack on some of the conventional wisdom regarding safety. Wildavsky counterposes the ideas of anticipation (in which serious dangers have been eliminated in advance) and resilience (in which experimentation courts danger and safety simultaneously). In a well-written discourse, Wildavsky argues this latter, counterintuitive, case at length and in persuasive logical detail... Most highly recommended for collections in regulation, environmental protection, and public policy. For upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.”
—E. Lewis, Choice