Integration of static and dynamic frameworks: why has structural disaster been neglected for so long?

As mentioned, the theoretical foundation for analyzing structural disaster can be outlined as follows:

  • 1 Pulling apart multiple elements involved in the epistemological chicken dispute between SSK and ANT, where epistemological and ontological dimensions are abstracted as rudimentary elements in defining the universe of discourse for examining the sociological theory of structural disaster based on the sociology of science and technology. Six basic terminologies, ranging from individual agents to social systems, are defined to categorize the universe of discourse into four types.
  • 2 As to the static aspect of structural disaster, the sector model shows the importance of a multi-dimensional analysis of such issues within the science-technology-society interface as illustrated in extreme events encompassing war and the Fukushima accident, among others. The term “multidimensional” here means overlapping as well as deviance between the state of the epistemological dimension and the ontological one together with the similarities and differences among sectors. In addition, five types of actors are introduced to articulate multi-dimensionality of extreme events within the science-technology-society interface in order to reveal the dilemma of knowledge commons.
  • 3 The sociologically expanded theory of path-dependency is reformulated to show the generating mechanism and dynamic aspect of structural disaster. In particular, the social process leading to a lock-in state could provide an important focal point of the analysis of the dynamic aspect of the disaster as well as the social process in which network effect, belief effect, and the initial divergence of technology could arise as key factors.

To integrate the static and dynamic parts of structural disaster, it is important to identify presuppositions that will form more elaborate arguments in the following chapters. There are four postulates germane to the integrated analysis of static and dynamic aspects of structural disaster. First, although five elements of structural disaster, ranging from adherence to erroneous precedents to secrecy, can be applied to both static and dynamic aspects, in the following chapters, the five elements are assumed to be basic features of the dynamic process of structural disaster. Associated with this attention to the dynamic process is the end state of structural disaster, which is not confined to events such as the Fukushima accident and the post-Fukushima situation, but rather can include a variety of extreme events taking place across different times, places, and social contexts.

Second, to enable the systematic consistency on mutually heterogeneous cases throughout the exploration of the dynamic aspects of structural disaster, the arguments in the following chapters presuppose the theoretical frameworks presented in this chapter. This does not mean, however, that mechanical application of the frameworks has been made in individual cases; rather, the theoretical frameworks will be embedded in the analyses in the following chapters. In particular, the sector model formulated in this chapter for the static aspects of the sociological theory of structural disaster will be presupposed as the basic ground against which dynamic processes of structural disaster will be discussed. For example, when the sector model is mobilized in Chapter 4, the military sector will be collectively scrutinized via analysis of a hidden accident that happened during mobilization of science and technology in the pre-war period. In other chapters, the governmental, industrial, academic, and citizen sectors will be assumed within the analyses. Third, all of the individual agents will be assumed to be stakeholders in terms of the types of actors, except when otherwise stated.

Finally, although both explosive and creeping aspects of the discussed issues will be equally expected, the focus of attention will be placed on the creeping aspect. The explosive aspect here refers to events constituting causes and effects that happen within well-defined boundaries and within a relatively short time frame, so it is relatively easy to delineate the problem area. Since accidents in various types of plants tend to manifest this aspect, it is named after the often- resulting explosions. What is characteristic of the aspect is that the parties directly concerned, stakeholders, and the third party are responsible for clearly communicating with each other because everything must work in tandem within such small and well-defined boundaries. Conversely, the creeping aspect means that it is difficult to clearly delineate the problem area from other defined areas. Since links between causes and effects in the creeping aspect tend to require an extended time period (sometimes over several generations) and have much more global extension, it is difficult to discern the parties concerned, stakeholders, and the third party because there is no particularly well-defined problem area every actor is clearly involved. In addition, a higher degree of uncertainty is usually present in the creeping aspect, as exemplified by HLW disposal issues, global environmental issues, GMO-related issues, and genomic therapy-related issues. Because the inherent higher uncertainty could generate problems developing over an extended period of time, and therein any sector and/or actor in the science-technology-society interface could become involved at any time, this aspect is named for the often slow process.

Even though the above differentiates both types of aspects, a single extreme event is usually of a bit of both. For example, when looking at a hydrogen explosion, the Fukushima accident appears to exhibit the explosive aspect in this regard, but when looking at the diffusion of radioactive materials, the creeping aspect is involved. Because the explosive aspect of problems is more visible than the creeping aspect, from the viewpoint of the sociology' of science and technology', it is important not to dismiss the existence and functioning of the creeping aspect even if it is not as visible as the explosive aspect. This point is critical to the exploration of structural disaster when the disaster is analyzed through the layers running through heterogeneous cases in this book.

Thus, the arguments in the following chapters have a broad scope and include heterogeneous cases and systematic and in-depth treatment that enables thorough analysis that cuts across different times, places, and social contexts (namely, covering both width and depth). This kind of approach has been rarely explored in previous studies and is considered outside of the general rules of case analysis,28 a fact that could provide one of the key reasons why the existence and functioning of structural disaster has been neglected despite evidence of many unexpected extreme events within the science-technology-society interface, both past and present. When structural disaster occurs, devoting energy to an in-depth case analysis situated in a single time, place, and social context, can make the unexpectedly broad extension of the disaster less invisible. By the same token, confining ourselves to tar-reaching conceptual arguments without in-depth case analyses could result in discarding the unexpectedly deep layers of the disaster. Neither approach can help us to have a well-balanced and full realization of the events and their implications. This is why this book dares to present the concept of structural disaster,29 with arguments that are based on the postulates mentioned above.

3 Institutionalized inaction by compliance

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