Socioeconomic Paradigms and the Perception of System Risks: A Study of Attitudes towards Nuclear Power among Polish Business Students

Johannes Platje*, Markus Will, Monika Paradowska, Ynte K. van Dam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Due to anticipated energy shortages and the need to achieve climate goals, there is an urgent requirement for transition towards a green, resilient system of energy provision. This transition is hampered because important players in energy markets (governments and oligopolies), while supporting large-scale solutions, avoid or block systemic changes. This rejection of systemic change is strengthened by the dominant social paradigm, which ignores systemic vulnerabilities, treating resources as solutions and the environment as a sink. In its turn, the dominant social paradigm is contested by the new ecological paradigm and by attitudes towards sustainable business practices. Understanding this framework may be relevant for identifying decision-makers’ perception of system risk, and thus for supporting a transition towards a more decentralized and resilient energy supply. In this context, this paper presents an empirical study among Polish students of a business university (N = 393), trying to discover the relationship between the social paradigms, perceptions of environmental resources and sinks, and systemic risk in large-scale energy production (i.e., nuclear power plants). Although the explained variance is limited, results show that various elements of the dominant social paradigm are related to problem denial. Technological optimism and belief in markets are predictors of optimism about resource shortages and neglect of system risk. This optimism is counteracted by political liberalism, and respondent attitudes towards sustainable business practices. Belief in market forces has an ambivalent effect, tempering technological optimism regarding nuclear energy but also political acknowledgement of the limited resources and sink capacities of the environment. Although the influence of the dominant social paradigm on energy transition can be identified, the results may indicate a decline in belief in market forces and liberal democracy, implying a rethinking of the dominant social paradigm may be needed. The existing relationship between these aspects warrants a critical review and discussion of the central role of the dominant paradigm in current management training. The results indicate that a lack of political liberalism and a negative attitude towards sustainable business practices amplify system risks in, e.g., large-scale nuclear energy projects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7313
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


  • cognitive factors in decision-making
  • decision-making under risk
  • dominant social paradigm
  • energy markets
  • information
  • knowledge
  • new ecological paradigm
  • sustainable development
  • uncertainty


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