Sociological implications of structural disaster as a new framework

It is appropriate in this context to examine the applicability of structural disaster to other kinds of disasters from a comparative perspective. If the elements of structural disaster can be substantiated in other independent cases, then pertinent sociological implications from the Fukushima accident (as a structural disaster) can be obtained, and these implications can be extended to potential future extreme events. To this end, an almost unknown accident that happened long before Fukushima deserves mention because it epitomizes the sociological nature of the institutionalized secrecy that is involved in structural disaster.

The accident involves standard military technology developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy' that occurred immediately before the outbreak of World War II

(VVWII). Looking through the lens of structural disaster, this accident reveals that the science-technology-society interface was already sustained by institutionalized secrecy in critical, national decision-making during the pre-war period. The sociological implications of this accident originate within a social context, in which organizational errors arose and were kept secret in relation to wartime mobilization of science and technology. As will be detailed in Chapter 4, the accident was classified as top secret and was never disclosed either within or without the military-industrial-university complex at the time of the submitted final reports on November 2, 1938. Neither the Imperial Diet nor other agents of the military- industrial-university complex were aware of the accident or remediation measures.13

This functional disintegration of the relationships between the military and other sectors was occurring at this time, when the structural integration of the military-industrial-university complex was formally being reinforced by the Wartime Mobilization Law and the Research Mobilization Ordinance. Such a coupling of structural integration and functional disintegration could provide a suitable perspective for understanding structural disaster in the current context. For example, if the Fukushima accident can be considered a structural disaster from such a perspective, it should also contain the coupling of structural integration and functional disintegration. In this case, functional disintegration of the relationships linking Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials and the reactor designers of heavy electric equipment manufacturers could have been taking place at the time when the structural integration of the government-industrial-university complex was formally reinforced by the laws revolving around the “double-check” system within a single ministry in the past and between the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the Ministry of the Environment today.

By comparing the pre-war social context of wartime mobilization of science and technology and the current social and historical context of the Fukushima accident through the concept of structural disaster, basic questions about the concept are due to be re-examined. First, what constitutes a “disaster” and what makes it “structural”? In light of the five characteristics of structural disaster defined earlier as well as the historical perspective mentioned above, the concept implies that an institutionally legitimized collective action can generate and/or amplify devastating outcomes. Institutionalized secrecy bears on institutional interaction between science, technology, and society through the exchange of money, information, goods, and human resources. What makes a situation a “disaster” is the sharp contrast between the legitimate working of institutionalized collective action and unintended but devastating outcomes imposed on individuals. Relatedlv, this book highlights the coexistence of the legitimate working of institutionalized collective action and unintended but devastating outcomes whose damage tends to surpass the institutional capability of the relevant systems. This book uses the term “disaster” in this connotation.14

What makes a disaster structural is the state in which devastating outcomes result not from outside but from within. The possibility of functional disintegration through structural integration coupled with the suppression of negative information under the guise of communication activities could manifest the symptom of “structural” in the current context of the Fukushima accident. While Cafe Scientifique was designed to facilitate communication between science, technology, and society well before the Fukushima accident,15 it turns out only one previous Cafe Scientifique event series had been held on anything nuclear (held on July 24,2010) out of the 253 carried out in the Tohoku district, including the Fukushima prefecture, and had nothing to do with the risks of nuclear power plants (Matsumoto 2012: 166-167, 2014: 211).16 The institutionalized activities designed to facilitate communication between science, technology, and society, then, played no active role in early warning, nor in managing the social factors that influenced responses to the warning (Mileti 1999: 191-192).

The intention of comparing the pre-war social context of wartime mobilization of science and technology and the current social context of the Fukushima accident through the lens of structural disaster is not to associate the nuclear village with pre-w'ar Japanese militarism; rather, the intent of this book is to clarify the structural similarity of the behavior patterns among heterogeneous organizations and social factors interacting with techno-scientific systems by employing the comparative perspective of a nuclear village in the current context and the military-industrial- university complex in the context of wartime mobilization in pre-war Japan.

The nuclear village in this book indicates that the governmental-industrial- university complex functions to blur the conflicts of interest between the promotion and regulation of nuclear pow'er generation through the institutionally legitimized bureaucratic control that is specific to Japanese customs and traditions, such as retired government officials landing jobs in the governmental and/or industrial sector (amakudari) (Congressional Research Service 2011). However, cross-cutting heterogeneous agents (for example, nuclear village in this sense), the renewable energy regime, and the military-industrial-university complex through the concept of structural disaster does not provide an explanation by appealing to Japanese culture. On the contrary, this book show's that the concept can serve as a tool to go beyond cultural essentialism into factors that are intrinsic to the agents involved, by delving into much deeper socio-historical factors for explanation.

As to the usage of the term “structural disaster,” focusing on the Fukushima accident alone will not, in itself, prove this book’s primary argument. Rather, focusing on w'hat the Fukushima accident means is dependent on singling out conceptual frameworks. According to the conceptual framework of structural disaster, not only the coverage of arguments but their depth could be made richer by using more than a single issue-oriented approach due to the integration of seemingly heterogeneous issues within the common conceptual framework of structural disaster. For example, the concept allow's a significant and meaningful link to other structural disasters after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 (see Chapter 3), the above-mentioned hidden military accident in pre-war Japan (see Chapter 4), renewable energy issues such as ocean energy (see Chapter 5) and wind turbines (see Chapter 6), as well as HLW disposal issues (see Chapter 7), among others.

The reason why the concept of structural disaster can enrich such links is that there is a strong structural similarity of the social mechanisms throughout nuclear villages and other social institutions such as renewable energy regimes, longstanding national research institutes, the military-industrial-university complex, and others. For example, regarding the renewable energy regime, wind turbine development and generation was deemed infeasible in Japan, and this myth was reinforced through a subsequent path-dependent social process. A similar social mechanism can be detected in the myth of safety in nuclear power generation and the subsequent path-dependent social process that reinforces this myth. The result is a state of “lock-in” where retreat from renewable energy occurs and a trend toward nuclear power coexisted, which eventually formed the primary social background of the devastating Fukushima accident. However, there are dimensions to be carefully considered before drawing sociological implications from structural disasters, such as the distinction between slow and fast; dynamic and static; short-term and long-term; universal and local; and equilibrium and non-equilibrium.

As to the distinction between slow and fast,17 what is structural corresponds more naturally to the “slow”; however, this designation is dependent on whether the process in which events unfold is accumulative or not. If accumulative, the essential features of events that happened in the past provides social context in which other, subsequent events occur so that the features will be remembered/ accumulated and form a structure for the process. In such a case, structural disaster corresponds to slow, extreme events. If each event, however, happens and develops independently of one another to form a random stochastic process, then slowness simply means that events happen and develop slowly without accrued meaning of the formation of structure in the process. In addition, as far as the mode in which extreme events happen and develop is concerned, the concept of structural disaster is presented here in such a way to simultaneously include “explosive” and “creeping” as different aspects of a single disaster (Matsumoto 2002,2012).18 In the aftermath ofFukushima, the above discrimination deserves careful attention with deliberate reflection on multiple socio-historical factors involved in order to investigate and understand the long-term outcomes of the Fukushima accident.

As to the distinction between dynamic and static categories, structural disaster contains both, as is detailed in Chapter 2. When the term “structural” is interpreted in the sociological context, it means relatively stable patterns of interaction of agents, which tend to crystalize in a configuration of social roles in a given social situation. Thus, “structural” corresponds to the static aspect, as exemplified above by the institutional design that stipulated the social role of the utilization of SPEEDI in an emergency situation. Conversely, because such an institutional design is not pre-ordained but rather created by due social process, we can ask what kind of social process is involved in creating a particular institutional design. In this context, “structural” means a dynamic social process and related social conditions, through which relatively stable patterns of agents’ interactions emerge and crystalize in a particular institution. For this reason, “structural” in this book signifies both static and dynamic categories depending on the phase being discussed within the broader process in which events unfold. The patterns of behavior among heterogeneous agents, which are the key to disclosing a structural similarity across heterogeneous cases, are structural in this sense.

Another meaning of the term “structure” is relevant due to the way in which static aspects get coupled with dynamic ones. If a static aspect of structure indicates relatively stable patterns of agents’ interactions together with a tendency to crystalize in a configuration of social roles in a given social situation, structure, then, should function as a guiding rule to condition the behaviors of the agents involved. Since die possible courses of behavior are omnifarious from one particular social situation to another, structure provides agents with “heuristics” (Martin 2009: 16-20) that enable them to find a plausible course of behaviors and associated meaning in exchange for accepting constraints on the vast meaning of lived experience. In other words, the wide range of meaningful lived experience is repressed by structure in a static sense and therefore will inevitably seek an outlet for expressing itself.

Going back to the example of using the SPEEDI, those in charge of utilizing this tool must have faced a virtual dilemma: whether to help people in designated areas evacuate by immediately making public the prediction of SPEEDI, even though such a behavior would deviate from the stipulated institutional design for which they were working. Under such a dilemma, the repressed meaning of a lived experience could provide potential energy for justifying a course of behaviors already taken, rather than soliciting a reflexive way of thinking that would change the institutional design under which many stakeholders are obliged to work. Namely, the static aspect of structure tends to generate a significant amount of energy' from the lived experience of agents involved, and the energy tends to be dynamically mobilized to reinforce the given structure rather than to change it. This is another reason why the path-dependent process could be regarded as a basic social mechanism that would eventually lead to structural disaster. The overall foundation of this mechanism is described in detail in Chapter 2.

There are also two different ways to understand structure when referring to the distinction between something universal and something local. The way to regard structure as universal is evident in structuralism ranging from the social sciences, such as anthropology (Lcvi-Strauss 1958), sociology' (Merton 1957), linguistics (Saussure 1916; Chomsky 1975), to physics (Poincare 1902; Kuhn 1962), among others. In anthropology', observers can deduce the kinship structure that spans different communities; in sociology', the configuration of expectations, roles, and statuses constitute social structures throughout different societies; in linguistics, the distinctive features of particular words in phonology or the transformational and/ or generative grammar at the syntactical level can determine linguistic structures; in physics, the structure of symbolic generalization is preserved from one operation to another in the deduction process or in multiple problem areas. The common thread throughout this way of understanding structure is the idea that the concept indicates something universal being constant throughout time, space, and/or the rules of transformation. In this understanding, structural disaster means that universal characteristics are observable over time, space, and social contexts even in abstract forms, which represent the unfolding process of a series of events taking place in these contexts.

At the other end of the spectrum, locally contingent and specified senses of structure can be found in relational sociology that can be traced back to Georg Simmel ([1908] 1950). Contrary to a popular perception of formal sociology, “relationships” in relational sociology make sense only in a setting where an individual has a specific interaction with another particular individual in a specific social situation, as exemplified by friendships and patronage. Structure, then, is understood within the particular patterns of concatenation of concretely bound relationships that can change incessantly over a relatively short period of time only within localized settings (that is to say, within a microscopic world). Network analysis based on graph theory (Gould 1991) and/or ethnomethodological conversation analysis (Suchman 1987) can provide tools to depict a snapshot of such a structure bound within a relatively short period of time.19

In addition, a universal structure entails abstract features appearing throughout a relatively long time period, while local structure entails concrete features detectable within a relatively short time period. The usage of such concepts in this book verges on universal structure rather than local with a couple of modifications: first, structure is universal but not pre-ordained, so that it has its own process by which it can emerge; second, structure is open to change over a long time period. Therefore, structure in this book has both a universal and dynamic nature; for the latter, this means that it is open to change and is quite different from the adjustment process from a non-equilibrium to equilibrium state.

To further clarify the nature of the arguments asserted in this book, the sociological standpoint employed implies that it is difficult to make a distinction between the science-technology-society interface in wartime and that in peacetime by appealing to the contrastive purposes of war and commercialism. Evidence to support this includes the institutional design of the science- technology-society interface created during the wartime mobilization of science and technology, which has undergone a spin-off to accommodate nuclear energy generation in post-war Japan (Matsumoto 2012) as well as a complex combination of “spin-on and de facto spin-off’ (Matsumoto 2006: 111), which can be observed in different social contexts.

Based on this confirmation and elaboration of the sociological implications of structural disaster, heterogeneous historical cases will be examined, and the common features and differences of the relevant social processes involved will illustrate social mechanisms generating and working with structural disaster. The reason for investigating the nature of structural disaster in such a scrupulous manner is because a failure to break the social mechanisms can lead to structural disaster because of face-saving measures taken in the public sphere, where a higher type-two underdetermination resides. This could generate a devastating event that is uncontrollable and irreversible for all agents.

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