Searching for Safety
Protecting ourselves against the risks associated with 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 and exposes the high risk of avoiding change. The book covers a wide range, including how the human body, as well as plants, animals, and insects, cope with danger. Wildavsky asks whether piling on safety measures actually improves safety. While he agrees that society should sometimes try to prevent large-scale harm, he explains why a strategy of resilience—learning from error how to bounce back in better shape—is usually better. His intention is to shift the debate about risk from passive prevention of harm to an active search for safety. This book will be of special interest to those concerned with risk involving technology, health, safety, environmental protection, regulation, and more.
Introduction: The Jogger’s Dilemma or What Should We Do When the Safe and the Dangerous are Inextricably Intertwined?
SECTION I: STRATEGIES
1. Trial and Error Versus Trial Without Error
2. Opportunity Benefits Versus Opportunity Risks
3. Richer Is Sicker Versus Richer Is Safer
4. Anticipation Versus Resilience
SECTION II: CONDITIONS
5. Nonhuman Life Forms Cope with Danger
6. Does Adding Safety Devices Increase Safety in Nuclear Power Plants? (with Elizabeth Nichols, and an appendix by Robert Budnitz)
7. The Battle Within: How the Human Body Defends Itself (with Dennis J. Coyle)
8. From Resilience to Anticipation: Why the Tort Law is Unsafe (with Daniel Polisar)
SECTION III: PRINCIPLES
9. Why Less is More: A Taxonomy of Error (with William R. Havender)
10. The Secret of Safety Lies in Danger
Searching for Safety is a bold, multifaceted statement about how to improve safety and health. . . . Wildavsky has issued a ringing, impassioned challenge to the field. . . . We should be deeply indebted to Wildavsky for forcing us to search for difficult answers by asking tough questions.
Jerome Rothenberg, Critical Review
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