Pro-Market Policies and Major Industrial Disasters—A Dangerous Combination?


Industrial disasters are tragically frequent events, yet little systematic research has been devoted to the factors that contribute to their occurrence. Seeking broader insights into the causes of major industrial disasters, we focus on the role of state policies, particularly the effect of neoliberal policy prescriptions. We formulate and test several related hypotheses that delineate how a pro-market policy environment, specifically a “business-friendly” regulatory approach, openness to global trade and capital flows, and a smaller and less economically intrusive state, affect the probability of major industrial disasters. To test these claims, we gathered time-series cross-sectional data for 127 countries for the period 1981–2011. Results point to a significant positive association between pro-market reforms and major industrial disasters. Specifically, we find that economic liberalization in general as well as the two aspects of liberalization—business regulatory environment and economic openness—are positively and significantly related to the occurrence of major industrial disasters.

Publication Title

Sociological Forum