Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities

Law, John (2006). Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities. In: Červinková, Alice and Šaldová, Kateřina eds. Science Studies Opens the Black Box: Spring School of Science Studies Proceedings. Prague: Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, pp. 65–83.

URL: http://www.soc.cas.cz/articles/en/20012/3037/Scien...


This paper is an exploration of the dynamics of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001. Following Perrow's analysis of the catastrophic breakdown of technological systems, the author treats the UK agricultural system as a set of flows that are both tightly coupled and complex. This suggests that the stability of the agricultural system is precarious, and that when it is disrupted (as it was with the arrival of the foot and mouth virus) the consequences may be large scale and catastrophic. The foot and mouth outbreak, and more generally, aspects of global agriculture, are thus understood as `normal accidents'.

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