Book Section

Crises punctuate our world. Their causes and consequences are woven through complex, interconnected social and technological systems. Consider these three recent events, each of which dramatically upended expectations about risk: • In the fall of 2008, the global financial system experienced a full-blown panic. Credit flows seized up, ushering in the worst global recession since the 1930s and leading newspapers to convey the resulting “shocks” to financial markets. • In April 2010, a blowout at the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon drilling platform killed eleven workers and triggered a three-month-long oil spill, sending nearly five million barrels of crude into the Northern Gulf of Mexico, which fouled beaches, estuaries, and fishing grounds. • In March 2011, an earthquake and a resulting tsunami killed 20,000 people in Japan. The natural disaster also caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, unleashing a long-term leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean and creating a daunting set of challenges as officials sought to stabilize pools of spent fuel rods and protect local populations from radioactive fallout. Each of these three recent events attracted extraordinary attention from the media and the global public, raising concerns about dangers that may lurk within the complex technological and social systems on which we depend to sustain our economy and way of life. They also generated criticisms of the regulatory systems that were supposed to prevent such failures, as well as demands for new regulatory actions to reduce the risks that the crises had brought into sharp relief. In the aftermath, policy elites and the broader public ponder the meaning of such events and look for appropriate responses. Once a consensus emerges that they indeed constitute crises (and sometimes even before), government agencies, legislative committees, think tanks, citizens’ groups, scholars, and often official commissions begin to investigate their causes, consider whether better policy might have prevented them, and debate what regulatory adjustments governments should adopt, if any.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Balleisen, EJ; Bennear, LS; Krawiec, KD; Wiener, JB

Published Date

  • January 1, 2017

Book Title

  • Policy Shock: Recalibrating Risk and Regulation after Oil Spills, Nuclear Accidents and Financial Crises

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 40

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107140219

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/9781316492635.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus