Questions of Risk and Regulation

Hegemony, governance and the US chemical industry
  • Frank Pearce
  • Steve Tombs
Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 16)


If, since the second world war, accelerated rates of technological development (and, in particular, the growth of ‘big science’ in the OECD countries) has fulfilled the Enlightenment promise of progress, at the same moment it has called it into question. Developments in the chemical and nuclear industries have helped magnify material wealth but, as the new social movements argued, and recent disasters have demonstrated, they have also created a society where we have an increased susceptibility to large scale disasters and chronic illnesses (Beck 1992a: 1992b). The response of the hegemonic social groups has been to significantly modify the ways in which production takes place, and the ways in which it is regulated. In some ways, at least, within these countries, it is now undertaken more safely than previously, if never as safe as government and corporate propagandists claim. However, the move to produce more basic chemicals in less developed countries where there is usually less regulation both displaces risk by exporting hazard (Ives 1985), and, at the same time, may well, in the long run, contribute to a general lowering of standards in OECD countries too (Pearce and Tombs 1994; Pearce and Snider 1995). In this chapter we will relate the changes in the ways in which chemical production is organised within the U.S. to these changes and to changes in its mode of governance. Overall, we want to argue that there has been effected ‘a passive revolution’ (Gramsci 1971: 119–120; Sassoon 1987: 204–217) in that these changes have occurred through procedures, and through discourses, that marginally modify but crucially sustain both the overall conception of group and societal interests held by the groups comprising the power block and, relatedly, the pre-existing modes of hegemonic dominance. Yet, because of a continuous reconfiguring of social relations and social forces within the American and global context, this new ‘settlement’ is inevitably unstable and recuperable.


Chemical Industry Corporate Crime Risk Society American Enterprise Institute Methyl Isocyanate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Pearce
    • 1
  • Steve Tombs
    • 2
  1. 1.Queens UniversityKingston OntarioCanada
  2. 2.School of Law, Social Work & Social Policy Josephine Butler HouseLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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