Getting to Catastrophe: Concentrations, Complexity and Coupling

Publication Date: 
December 2012
The Montréal Review.

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“Perrow’s 1984 book Normal Accidents and his many publications analyzing how and why technological systems are vulnerable to disaster have achieved iconic status.”

–The American Prospect Magazine

Complex Organizations was a serial of sorts. The first edition (1972) argued for the importance of bureaucracy in organizations - in contrast, most notably, to the human relations school that was then dominant - and for the importance of organizations in shaping society. True to the subtitle, A Critical Essay, its chapter on the institutional school argued that power played a larger role than the institutional school, and my mentor, Philip Selznick, admitted to. The 1979 installment expanded and sharpened the 1972 chapter on the environment; critically examined a new boy on the block, the population-ecology school; but gushed over another new entry, network analysis. In the last installment in 1986 the serial finally found the implicit theme in the previous ones and pushed for a power analysis of both the internal operation of organizations and especially their role in society. I have not moved from a power analysis since. Read More >>