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Storytelling or theory building? Hopkins’ sociology of safety

Abstract : In the past two decades, Andrew Hopkins has been a very successful analyst of technological disasters and an acclaimed storyteller. In this article, I argue that he is also a theorist, and that he has developed over 40 years a normative sociological model of safety for studying major events. To do so, I first situate his contribution through a historical perspective going back to the 1970s and 1980s, a time during which Hopkins established core elements of a research program on catastrophic events subsequently deployed in late the 1990s onwards. Initially inspired in the 1970s and 1980s by the crime of the powerful, white-collar crime literature and a Marxist socio-legal perspective of society, he developed what I define as a white-collar crime accident model (WCC-AM). He then moves in the 1990s and 2000s on to a more organisational and practical sociology of safety elaborated in his retrospective accounts of disasters. To ground this assertion, I explain how his storytelling success results from the invention of a specific narrative structure which is based on a repeated sequence of description (1), assumption (2), explanation (3), comparison (4), recommendation (5) and counterfactual reasoning (6), applied to many articulated topics. From there, I extract a normative sociological model of safety built over two decades, and then discuss some of the findings of this study.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 11, 2021 - 4:23:31 PM
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Jean-Christophe Le Coze. Storytelling or theory building? Hopkins’ sociology of safety. Safety Science, Elsevier, 2019, 120, pp.735-744. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2019.08.003⟩. ⟨ineris-03319110⟩

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