We know that alarmism is a problem because we are careful to the social consequences of danger misdiagnoses. On the contrary, we underestimate the social consequences of safety misdiagnoses so much that we have missed the opposite of the word alarmism: ‘reassuranceism.’ Bringing this word to the fore and reflecting on the meaning of the phenomena it indicates is instead crucial because the risk misperception is not just about passive inattention but often involves an underground cultural work of actively constructing false social representations of non-hazardousness. Reassuranceism is not only over-optimism about risk but often implies a more or less conscious way to camouflage dangers. Experts, opinion leaders and politicians may over-reassure in order to follow a charismatic temptation, or because this avoids the social and economic costs of prevention or the costs of retraining obsolete and unsustainable social-energy habits. Or the concealment of risks may also serve to protect economic interests. Not least it’s a relevant question because when diagnoses of safety blur into reassuranceism we end up undermining the precautionary principle that should alert us to the risks of the anthropocene. In short, making reassuranceism means hiding risk, and since hiding risk is dangerous, reassuranceism is dangerous. This text, from a series of examples, aims to propose foundations for an anthropology of this aspect so missed from the risk analysis that there is still no term to designate it.
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