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Berke, J.H. (2003). The Right to be at Risk. Free Associations, 10(4):420-430.

(2003). Free Associations, 10(4):420-430

The Right to be at Risk1

Joseph H. Berke

What is a Risk? Well, it is usually seen as any action or potential action that may serve as a threat or danger to life and limb, for oneself or to another. ‘Risk’ carries a negative connotation. Something ‘bad’ may happen.

In a larger sense, ‘risk’ refers to a change of state or status. This may be positive or negative. Really, we are talking about the process of being alive.

To be at risk is to risk to be alive. At any moment the consequence of being alive entails sudden unforeseen changes which may enhance or endanger health.

But since risks involve people, it is important to ask, who is at risk? Well, children are at risk when they go out to play, they may get run over by a car, or just when they play at home. Lots of kids are injured or killed in common household accidents. Then parents are at risk for having children and for losing them. Marriage is a big risk. For wives: that their husbands will beat them. For husbands: that their wives will nag them to death. Similarly slaves used to be at risk of having sadistic owners and owners used to be at risk that their slaves, that is, their capital, would run away.

As we can see, ‘risk’ is not a self-enclosed entity. In human terms it is something that happens to someone but inevitably severely affects another. Risk involves a subject and object. In other words, it is a vectored event. Hence one person's injury is always another person's misery.

In many countries teenagers take big risks by having to undergo military service (injury or death) or by not choosing to undergo military service (social rejection, impoverishment).

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