Structural Disaster and Infinite Responsibility behind Institutionalized Forbearance

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 44
Oral Presentation
Miwao MATSUMOTO , The University of Tokyo, Japan
This paper attempts to elucidate the hidden social mechanisms of “structural disasters” involved in the Fukushima nuclear accident with a particular focus on the aspects of problems that go beyond the widespread dichotomous framework of perpetrators versus victims, from the viewpoint of the sociology of science and technology. In particular, the paper brings out the process through which double under-determination has influenced the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of public policies preceding and following the Fukushima accident.  

Three points are made based on the analyses of the guidelines for the utilization of SPEEDI (The System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information), of the organizational structure of the Governmental Examination Committee on the Fukushima accident, and of the siting of facilities for the disposal of HLW (high-level radioactive waste). Firstly, the social mechanism by which “institutionalized forbearance” to secrecy causes serious damage to third parties without breaking laws or moral ethics is revealed. Secondly, the paper illustrates the way in which the organizational structure made up of both investigators and stakeholders tends to carry over structurally originated problems and reproduce them. Thirdly, the paper highlights the possibility that social decision-making, with a very long time horizon and high degree of uncertainty, can bring about infinite responsibility, and eventually lead to collective irresponsibility.

Based on the insight into the novel dimensions of these three social mechanisms, which have been difficult to understand by utilizing the framework of perpetrators versus victims and its variants, the paper argues for the importance of evaluating and allocating social responsibility to ex-ante expertise rather than ex-post expertise provided with hindsight. In conclusion, based on an ongoing project by the special committee on scientific integrity in emergency situation of the Science Council of Japan, a policy proposal to redesign institutional structures after “structural disasters” will be made.