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On Resilience

This commentary reviews key themes posed in a special ssue of the journal, Social Sciences, and points to open questions. For example, does resilience in socio-technical systems degrade with use or, like immune systems, is resilience upgraded with use? Similarly, is resilience about responding in the face of the rare event? Or, is it being prepared for the rare event? Is it useful to think about the evolution of resilience? What are the risks posed by models of risk? That is, do models to reduce vulnerability to risk, increase vulnerability? What is the role of reflexivity in the analysis of resilience?

Social Science 2014, 3, 60–70; doi:10.3390/socsci3010060.

Crisis, Recovery, Innovation: Responsive Organization after September 11

On December 5, 2001, Columbia's Center on Organizational Innovation organized a roundtable discussion with senior executives and contingency planning specialists from key World Trade Center firms. This paper with John Kelly reports on that meeting and other interviews that our research team conducted in the early weeks after 9/11. It documents the importance of strong personal ties, lateral self-organization, and nonhierarchical relations in the recovery process. As a response to uncertainty, organizational factors that explain recovery are similar to those that generate innovation.

Environment and Planning A, September 2002, 34(9):1523-33.

Resolving Identities: Successive Crises in a Trading Room after 9/11

How do organizations cope with extraordinary crisis? In the second paper about the experiences of our Wall Street traders after September 11th, Daniel Beunza and I report on the process whereby they returned to their restored trading room in the World Financial Center. The trading room did not face one crisis – the immediate aftermath of September 11th – but many: anxiety about additional attacks, questions of professional identity, doubts about the future of the firm, and ambiguities about the future re-location of the trading room. A given crisis was resolved by restoring identities; but identities, once restored, redefined the situation and lead to new crises. That is, the successive waves of crisis were produced by each success in managing crisis.

Pp. 293-320 in Nancy Foner, Wounded City: The Social Impact of 9/11. New York, Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2005.

The Organization of Responsiveness: Innovation and Recovery in the Trading Rooms of Lower Manhattan

The September 11th attack on the World Trade Center destroyed the trading room where Daniel Beunza and I had been conducting ethnographic research. The traders invited us to witness their recovery, and so Daniel was with them already during the first week after they resumed trading on September 17th. This paper reports on our observations in their makeshift trading room in New Jersey. The breakdown of technology, we argue, is society made visible.

Socio-Economic Review 2003, 1(2):135-164.