Dangerous Events, Risk Communications and Evolutionary Governance Theory

Dangerous Events, Risk Communications and Evolutionary Governance Theory

14 03 2016 | Martijn Duineveld | Presentation @ the SRA-E BENELUX Inaugural Meeting | Brussels, Belgium


This presentation conceptualizes and categorizes the various relationships between dangerous events, the emergence of risk communications and the effects on governance (the taking of collectively binding decisions in a community by a diversity of actors, inside and outside government) from Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT). We present a perspective on dangerous events as shaping risk communications and governance through different pathways. These pathways might involve the construction of risk scenarios, increase or decrease of risk communications and the making of collectively binding decisions.

Five types of ‘dangerous’ events are distinguished: silent, whispering, vigorous, fading and deadly events. These events constitute the spectrum in which dangerous events affect risk communications and risk governance or fail to do so. On the one extreme there are absolute silent events: events that remain unobserved by any social system and hence no risk communications are produced that are coupled with these events. On the other extreme: these events cause a halt to the (risk-) communications within a social system and thereby the social system disappears. Whispering, vigorous and fading we argue can lead to risk communications and change in governance but do not necessary make a difference.

To deepen our understand of the limits and possibilities dangers can(not) make risk communications emerge and create new governance realities we introduce Niklas Luhmanns notion of second order observation as a reflexive tool for risk analysis and making it more unlikely dangers escape observations.