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Anatomy of a disaster: why some accidents are unavoidable

Downer, John (2010) Anatomy of a disaster: why some accidents are unavoidable. CARR Discussion Papers, DP 61. Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK. ISBN 9780853284031

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Abstract

This paper looks at the fateful 1988 fuselage failure of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 to suggest and illustrate a new perspective on the sociology of technological failure and the question of whether such failures are potentially avoidable. Drawing on core insights from the sociology of scientific knowledge, it highlights, and then challenges, a fundamental principle underlying our understanding of technological risk: idea that 'failures' always connote 'errors' and are, in principle, foreseeable. From here, it suggests a new conceptual tool for Disaster Theory, by proposing a novel category of man-made calamity: what it calls the 'Epistemic Accident'. It concludes by exploring the implications of Epistemic Accidents and sketching their relationship to broader issues concerning technology and society, and social theory's approach to failure.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL: http://www.lse.ac.uk/CARR
Additional Information: © 2010 The Author
Library of Congress subject classification: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Journal of Economic Literature Classification System: H - Public Economics > H0 - General
Sets: Research centres and groups > Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR)
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Identification Number: DP 61
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2011 10:06
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/36542/

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