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The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters Paperback – February 27, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

"[Perrow's] 1984 book Normal Accidents and his many publications analyzing how and why technological systems are vulnerable to disaster have achieved iconic status. In The Next Catastrophe, Perrow extends his analysis to incorporate 'natural' disasters and terrorism more fully."--American Prospect

"Perrow amply describes the failure of governmental agencies to anticipate, plan for and effectively respond to a whole series of very serious threats to our well being, if not to our very survival. . . . This is a sobering book. If enough people hear Perrow's message, the future might be ever so slightly less catastrophic."--Social Forces

"The threefold demographic vulnerabilities to disasters [described by Perrow] are well stated and merit continuing attention from scientists, engineers, emergency management practitioners, and policy makers."--American Journal of Sociology

"This book proposes a bold new way of thinking about disaster preparedness...Focusing on three causes of disaster--natural, organizational, and deliberate--he shows that our best hope lies in the deconcentration of high-risk populations, corporate power, and critical infrastructures. He also provides the first comprehensive history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and examines why these agencies are so ill equipped to protect U.S. citizens."--Natural Hazards Observer

"Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks have exposed the U.S.'s vulnerabilities to natural and unnatural disasters. What should be done to prevent such catastrophes in the future? Acclaimed sociologist and systems analyst Perrow, addresses this question...The book is written in a highly readable prose that is accessible to general audiences. Indispensable for undergraduate/graduate collections in disaster management studies and risk assessment studies, and extremely useful for environmental studies and environmental sociology."--T. Niazi, Choice

"The Next Catastrophe is an important and far-reaching book that, in arguing for the reduction of vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure to natural, industrial, and terrorist disasters, tackles issues of high significance to us all. It must be hoped that the readership of this book includes not only researchers and industrial safety practitioners but also executives along with politicians at all levels and that its message is acted upon."--David M. Clarke, Risk Analysis

From the Inside Flap

"The Next Catastrophe is the work of the master at his formidable best--a dazzling array of learning, perspective, good sense, and, above all, command."--Kai Erikson, Yale University

"From the opening pages, The Next Catastrophe is riveting, eye-opening, and haunting. The causes of disasters go far beyond random acts of nature or terrorism; they reflect underlying systemic and managerial issues that we must confront in order to ensure our safety. Luckily, Charles Perrow digs deeply to find some difficult but promising solutions. Concerned citizens must join the experts in reading this brilliant book."--Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, best-selling author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End

"A profound and vital book, The Next Catastrophe provides a devastating indictment of the U.S. government's response to the deep organizational faults revealed by the September 11 attacks and Katrina. Perrow shows in fascinating detail how our politicians allow human disasters to be transformed into opportunities for profiteering and politicking, and routinely substitute wasteful bureaucracies for smart plans to reorganize fragile systems. The fundamental answer, Perrow writes, is to discard the profit- and power-driven ideologies in favor of our nation's traditional common-sense approach to the challenges of our all-too-real world."--Barry C. Lynn, author of End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation

"A profound meditation on the paradox that modern technological and management orthodoxies have taken us down an increasingly perilous path. In the name of efficiency, sensitive industries are now so concentrated that they can be crippled at a single blow, from nature, accidents, or acts of terrorism. The mantra of asserting 'central control' in response to catastrophes only makes things worse, Perrow notes, as hierarchies strangle grassroots networks of local responders that might do some good. A trenchant, troubling study."--John Arquilla, Naval Postgraduate School

"The Next Catastrophe is a fascinating, stimulating, and far-reaching work. Perrow's signature themes are here--the role of political and economic institutions, the reach of their power into organizations, and the inevitability of major organizational failures. The basic argument will stir discussion, and the feasibility of Perrow's proposed solutions is sure to provoke controversy."--Lynn Eden, author of Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation

"Perrow's thesis is laudable and his execution is strong. When he discusses the mistakes still being made in the way the U.S. has set up FEMA and Homeland Security, he is especially strong balanced, thoughtful, and convincing--and his explanation of the Enron debacle is one of the clearest ever presented. Overall, he analyzes how our organizations fail, why it is that regulation doesn't solve the problems, and how susceptible we have become as a result, doing so in a way that is just plain splendid."--William R. Freudenburg, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Charles Perrow is the undisputed 'master of disaster.' In this timely and well-written book, Perrow offers not only a shrewd sociological diagnosis of the looming threat of (un)natural disasters, but, lo and behold, in arguing for us to shrink targets and disperse risk, he actually provides a bold yet feasible policy solution to what will surely be a growing threat to our way of life."--Dalton Conley, author of The Pecking Order: A Bold New Look at How Family and Society Determine Who We Become

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691150168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691150161
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Perrow is professor emeritus of sociology at Yale University and visiting professor at Stanford University. His interests include the development of bureaucracy in the 19th century, protecting the nation's critical infrastructure, the prospects for democratic work organizations, and the origins of American capitalism.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kevin MacG Adams on February 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Perrow has done another good job with a difficult and immediate problem. The book is very qualitative and does not touch on many of the quantitative methods available to model threats and how these risks are evaluated by the government and insurance companies. A mention of these methods and techniques, with appropriate references, would add immensely to this book.

Kevin MacG. Adams, Ph.D.
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By Peter Boyum on October 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
Excellent book. I nearly read it through at my first sitting. Clear and concise, it explains in detail what has gone before and what may very well happen in the future.
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34 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Perrow's book, Normal Accidents, is a classic in its field. I purchased The Next Catastrophe assuming that it would be a worthy successor. Boy, was I disappointed. Instead of careful argumentation, Perrow gives political commentary, based on nothing more than his own biases and preconceived notions. Normal Accidents was marred in a few places by clear political bias, but the overall analysis of the book was so well-done that overlooking those few places was easy. This is not true of The Next Catastrophe, in which good analysis and argumentation is hard to find amidst the diatribe. If you are interested in knowing about Perrow's political views, buy this book; otherwise, do not waste your money.
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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amazon destroyed this review in error and I failed to keep a file copy. This is a reconstructed review--not nearly as good as the original--nothing I can do about it.

----------reconstructed review-------------

This book is a learned essay, and I immediately discerned (I tend to read the index and bibliographies first, to understand the provenance of the author's knowledge) that the author has excelled at both casting a very wide net for sources, and at distilling and presenting those sources in a useful new manner with added insights.

Key points:

Natural disasters impact on 6 times more people than all the conflict on the planet.

Industrial irresponsibility, especially in the nuclear, chemical, and biological industries, is legion, and much more potentially catastrophic than any terrorist attack. Of special concern is the storage of large amounts of toxic, flammable, volatile, or reactive materials outside the security perimeters--this includes spent nuclear fuel rods, railcars with 90,000 tons of chlorine that if combined with fire would put millions at risk.

The entire book is an indictment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which the author says was designed for permanent failure (at the same time that it took over and then gutted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)).

The author focuses on how concentrations of people, energy, and high-value economic targets make us more vulnerable than we need to be. Dispersal, and moving small amounts of toxic materials (just enough just in time, rather than a year's supply on site), can help.
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