The environmental justice movement as a model politics of risk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Risk carries unique significance for democratic politics today as it faces the challenges of rising inequality, neoliberalism, and systemic racism. To show how, the article divides “risk” into two complementary political models: A technocratic logic of risk allocation, concerned primarily with safety, and a forensic logic of risk attribution, concerned with holding risk takers to account. Both have had pervasive effects on a transformed welfare state, increasingly focused on “personal responsibility” and privatized risk-management. But risk has also played a key role in the way post-1968 movements have organized and challenged the logic of privatization. Risk-basedmovements, the article argues, especially fromthe political margins, are key agents in promoting a new political form founded on risk attribution. The article focuses on the exemplary case of the American environmental justice movement in the 1980s-90s as it reframed social justice around three core demands: Accountability from decision makers, equitable risk distribution, and broad participation in decisions about danger and communities’ well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-644
Number of pages29
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Northeastern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.


  • Environmental justice
  • Inequality
  • Participatory democracy
  • Responsibility
  • Risk
  • Social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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