Historical Challenges to the Idea, Principles and Practice of Insurance

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Adam BURGESS, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Despite its fundamentally economic character, the business of insurance has historically had to engage in an ideological contest both with other ideas and with alternative means of risk management to establish its principles and necessity. Focusing particularly on life insurance the paper considers continues to do so in parts of the world such as China and the Islamic world, where these run counter to existing practices, ideas and even taboos. Drawing together a range of historical and sociological literature, it will explore the changing character of its challenges and emphasize the defensive character of its engagement and limits of success. In more contemporary terms, the paper will also consider the challenges it faces in its historic heartlands where new technologies and ‘big data’ question working principles of the pooling of collective risk. In doing so the paper seeks to redirect attention to a neglected sociology of insurance and indicate the useful role it can play reconnected to the sociology of risk, providing a core historical thread that places ideas and their interaction with changing social realities to the fore.