“Structural disaster” behind extreme events: sociological reflection on Fukushima and beyond

Extreme events are typically placed outside the range of sociology and social sciences literature, as researchers attempt to explore risk as well as decision-making under uncertainty (Clarke 2008). The term “extreme events” indicates severe incidents with a low probability of occurrence; however, when extreme events actually occur and when resulting damage is suspected to be incurred and amplified by social factors in addition to and/or in combination with natural disasters, relevant sociological frameworks to discern and specify these social factors should be explored. This book presents a new sociological framework to explore extreme events occurring within the nature-artifacts-society interface, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident, that focuses on the intersection of risk sociology and the sociology of science and technology.

The concept of a risk society, as well as the various arguments developed from this concept, is one of the most influential intellectual resources in a post- Fukushima world. In practical terms, recovery from the accident has required urgent and ongoing support for the victims of the accident, utilizing all available intellectual resource. Behind the serious and urgent questions regarding recovery and resilience, however, are subtle yet important sociological stories that have not been told and are difficult to reveal without devising a new narrative that differs from those typically used in the sociology of both risk and science and technology. Extreme events leading to a disaster can be a “melting pot,” where anything heterogeneous - be it modern, post-modern, or non-modern - is mixed together, creating a new output that is difficult to identify via the use of earlier intellectual resources. This book seeks to take the lid off of this melting pot in a scholarly fashion in order to create a new horizon for reconciling techno-science and democracy in a fruitful way.

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