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Institutionalized Ignorance as a Precondition for Rational Risk Expertise

Authors

  • Henrik Merkelsen

    Corresponding author
      Address correspondence to Henrik Merkelsen, Copenhagen Business School, Dalgas Have 15, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark; tel: + 45 3815 3168; hm.ikk@cbs.dk.
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    • Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark.


Address correspondence to Henrik Merkelsen, Copenhagen Business School, Dalgas Have 15, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark; tel: + 45 3815 3168; hm.ikk@cbs.dk.

Abstract

The present case study seeks to explain the conditions for experts’ rational risk perception by analyzing the institutional contexts that constitute a field of food safety expertise in Denmark. The study highlights the role of risk reporting and how contextual factors affect risk reporting from the lowest organizational level, where concrete risks occur, to the highest organizational level, where the body of professional risk expertise is situated. The article emphasizes the role of knowledge, responsibility, loyalty, and trust as risk-attenuation factors and concludes by suggesting that the preconditions for the expert's rationality may rather be a lack of risk-specific knowledge due to poor risk reporting than a superior level of risk knowledge.

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