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“How Safe is Safe Enough?” Using Beck’s Risk Society Constructs to Facilitate Changes to Unsustainable Notions of Accountability

Parables, Myths and Risks

ISBN: 978-1-78714-534-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-533-7

Publication date: 18 July 2017


Accounting’s definition of accountability should include attributes of socioenvironmental degradation manufactured by unsustainable technologies. Beck argues that emergent accounts should reflect the following primary characteristics of technological degradation: complexity, uncertainty, and diffused responsibility. Financial stewardship accounts and probabilistic assessments of risk, which are traditionally employed to allay the public’s fear of uncontrollable technological hazards, cannot reflect these characteristics because they are constructed to perpetuate the status quo by fabricating certainty and security. The process through which safety thresholds are constructed and contested represents the ultimate form of socialized accountability because these thresholds shape how much risk people consent to be exposed to. Beck’s socialized total accountability is suggested as a way forward: It has two dimensions, extended spatiotemporal responsibility and the psychology of decision-making. These dimensions are teased out from the following constructs of Beck’s Risk Society thesis: manufactured risks and hazards, organized irresponsibility, politics of risk, radical individualization and social learning. These dimensions are then used to critically evaluate the capacity of full cost accounting (FCA), and two emergent socialized risk accounts, to integrate the multiple attributes of sustainability. This critique should inform the journey of constructing more representative accounts of technological degradation.



Saravanamuthu, K. (2017), "“How Safe is Safe Enough?” Using Beck’s Risk Society Constructs to Facilitate Changes to Unsustainable Notions of Accountability", Parables, Myths and Risks (Advances in Public Interest Accounting, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 167-219.



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