Insurance and Society: Exploring the Relevance of a Neglected Financial Player

Workshop

  • Start: Jun 9, 2021
  • End: Jun 11, 2021
  • Speakers: Sebastian Kohl, Arjen van der Heide
Insurance and Society: Exploring the Relevance of a Neglected Financial Player
Private insurance lies very much in the shadow of social science research when compared to banks, stock markets or the public welfare schemes. This is not only surprising given their considerable size as a financial intermediary, but also given their importance for modern societies and their close connection to institutions such as family, pensions, homeownership or trade − to just name a few.

Seeing that large parts of our everyday lives touch upon insurance, that we are confronted with the option of purchasing insurance in numerous situations, that insurers move vast amounts of investments, the relevance of insurance seems obvious. Insurance is pervasive and ubiquitous, but not necessarily integrative in the strong sense that, for example, Ewald suggests. We therefore propose to focus on the analytical nexus of insurance and society and invite scholars from the broader social sciences to reflect upon how insurance intersects with various spheres of society.

Though there is a long and lively tradition of social scientific research on insurance, this tradition remains somewhat scattered in its approach. Sociologists and historians of insurance, for instance, have studied how insurers ‘make’ risks, how they seek to overcome problems of moral hazard and adverse selection, the role of cultural change in enabling insurance uptake and how this risk making has served as a template for the management of risk in other domains of social and economic life too. Others have rather focused on insurers as investors that aggregate premium income and supply capital capital to governments and businesses alike. Still others focus on the recent emergence of big data analytics and the concomitant challenge that it potentially entails for the risk pooling that is often regarded as constitutive of (private) insurance.

Such studies tend to focus on particular domains of insurance, either focusing on a specific line of business or on a particular national context. With this workshop, we want to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, in an attempt to consolidate disparate research agendas and to identify relevant questions for future research in insurance studies.

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