Perspectives on Politics

Review Essay

Between Market and State: Directions in Social Science Research on Disaster

Daniel P. Aldricha1

a1 Purdue University

Governing after Crisis: The Politics of Investigation, Accountability, and Learning. Edited by Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, and Paul 'T Hart. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 336p. $99.00 cloth, $34.99 paper.

Learning from Catastrophes: Strategies for Reaction and Response. Edited by Howard Kunreuther and Micheel Useem. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing, 2010. 352p. $37.99 paper.

The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters. By Charles Perrow. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. 388p. $29.95 paper.

Developed and developing nations alike face low-probability but high-consequence exogenous shocks, including ice storms, chemical spills, terrorist attacks, and regional blackouts. Recently, “natural” disasters have dominated the airwaves; mega-catastrophes that claim more than 1,000 lives have become an almost yearly occurrence. In 2010, the Haiti and Chile earthquakes killed more than 200,000 people between them and felt all too familiar to many observers in the West. Before them were Cyclone Nargis in Burma, which took 130,000 lives in 2008; Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,500 New Orleans residents and left 80% of the city flooded in 2005; and the Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed roughly a quarter of a million lives in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand in 2004.

(Online publication March 15 2011)

Daniel P. Aldrich is Assistant Professor of political science and public policy at Purdue University.


The author thanks Howard Aldrich, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Erik Cleven, Paul Danyi, Aaron Hoffman, Jeffrey Isaac, and Rieko Kage for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.