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Risk Culture during the Last 2000 Years—From an Aleatory Society to the Illusion of Risk Control


  • Udo Milkau

    (DZ BANK AG, F/TM, Frankfurt 60265, Germany
    House of Finance, Goethe University, Frankfurt 60323, Germany)


The culture of risk is 2000 years old, although the term “risk” developed much later. The culture of merchants making decisions under uncertainty and taking the individual responsibility for the uncertain future started with the Roman “Aleatory Society”, continued with medieval sea merchants, who made business “ad risicum et fortunam”, and sustained to the culture of entrepreneurs in times of industrialisation and dynamic economic changes in the 18th and 19th century. For all long-term commercial relationships, the culture of honourable merchants with personal decision-making and individual responsibility worked well. The successful development of sciences, statistics and engineering within the last 100 years led to the conjecture that men can “construct” an economical system with a pre-defined “clockwork” behaviour. Since probability distributions could be calculated ex-post, an illusion to control risk ex-ante became a pattern in business and banking. Based on the recent experiences with the financial crisis, a “risk culture” should understand that human “Strength of Knowledge” is limited and the “unknown unknown” can materialise. As all decisions and all commercial agreements are made under uncertainty, the culture of honourable merchants is key to achieve trust in long-term economic relations with individual responsibility, flexibility to adapt and resilience against the unknown.

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  • Udo Milkau, 2017. "Risk Culture during the Last 2000 Years—From an Aleatory Society to the Illusion of Risk Control," IJFS, MDPI, vol. 5(4), pages 1-20, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jijfss:v:5:y:2017:i:4:p:31-:d:121071

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    Cited by:

    1. Jürgen Bott & Udo Milkau, 2018. "Risk Culture and the Role Model of the Honorable Merchant," JRFM, MDPI, vol. 11(3), pages 1-11, July.
    2. Leunglung Chan, 2018. "Editorial for Special Issue “Finance, Financial Risk Management and their Applications”," IJFS, MDPI, vol. 6(4), pages 1-3, October.

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