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Assessing Contemporary Crises: Aligning Safety Science and Security Studies  

Bibi van den Berg, Ruth Prins, and Sanneke Kuipers

Security and safety are key topics of concern in the globalized and interconnected world. While the terms “safety” and “security” are often used interchangeably in everyday life, in academia, security is mostly studied in the social sciences, while safety is predominantly studied in the natural sciences, engineering, and medicine. However, developments and incidents that negatively affect society increasingly contain both safety and security aspects. Therefore, an integrated perspective on security and safety is beneficial. Such a perspective studies hazardous and harmful events and phenomena in the full breadth of their complexity—including the cause of the event, the target that is harmed, and whether the harm is direct or indirect. This leads to a richer understanding of the nature of incidents and the effects they may have on individuals, collectives, societies, nation-states, and the world at large.

Article

Crisis Development: Normal Accidents and Beyond  

Jean-Christophe Le Coze

Our current era is one of profound changes and uncertainties, and one issue is to understand their implications for high-risk systems and critical infrastructures (e.g., nuclear power plants, ships, hospitals, trains, chemical plants). Normal Accidents (NA), Perrow’s classic published in 1984, is a useful guide to explore the contemporary epoch, in the third decade of the 21st century. One reason is that this landmark book has triggered a sustained interest by scholars who have debated, challenged, rejected, refined, or expanded its core thesis over almost now 40 years. With La Porte’s, Sagan’s, Vaughan’s, and Hopkins’s contributions into what can be described as the “standard NA debate” in the late 20th century and the more recent “new controversies and debates” by Downer, Pritchard, or Le Coze in the early 21st century, the book can still resonate with current changes in the 2020s. These changes include phenomena as large, massive, intertwined, consequential, and diverse as the advent of internet and of digital societies, the increase of transnational flows of diverse nature (people, data, capital, images, goods) and the ecological crisis captured by a notion such as the Anthropocene. Taking stock, historicizing, and revisiting NA with such debates and changes in mind leads to characterize a post-NA narrative.