Actuarial risk assessment: Reflections on an emerging social-scientific tool

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The purpose of this paper is to highlight recent developments in the practice of empirical social research, paying particular attention to the relationship between social-science practice, social-control strategies, and the role of interpretive frameworks. The essay describes how the social-scientific emphasis on quantification within a value-neutral framework corresponds to an overall reluctance within the social sciences to evaluate the phenomena of social life within an historical and moral context. Within this framework, it is argued that actuarial risk assessment, as a social science practice, meets the managerial needs of advanced industrial societies by legitimating interpretive frameworks which focus primarily on prediction as the main criterion in understanding social processes and by producing concrete technologies which facilitate the management effort. This essay calls upon quantitative social scientists to reflect upon the ways in which our practices and products may inadvert-ently project value positions that ought not be promoted without critical evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-143
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Criminology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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