Social action and catastrophe

Nature, Knowledge and Negation

ISBN: 978-1-84950-605-2, eISBN: 978-1-84950-606-9

ISSN: 0278-1204

Publication date: 26 November 2009


This chapter addresses the topic of social action in catastrophic situations. The main phenomenon to be explained is how social actors cope and adjust to a sudden and unexpected change in the ecological pressures around them, such as during natural and technological disasters, in war zones, in the aftermath of accidents, and so on.1 Using interpretative and phenomenological methods (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998), this chapter builds toward a Weberian kind of “ideal type” model outlining key sociological variables that try to explain differential social responses from human beings as they experience catastrophic circumstances.2 Human beings must act very differently during catastrophes than they do during normal life. Just why is it that some people just succumb to the elements, whereas others struggle to persevere? How do some social actors manage to rely on their intelligence, resources, skill sets and other assets to control an otherwise hostile environment while others fail to do so?


Harrison, D.M. (2009), "Social action and catastrophe", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) Nature, Knowledge and Negation (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 161-186.

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