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How should we deal with societal ills such as crime, poverty, pollution, terrorism, and corruption? A Harvard professor and former Detective Chief Inspector of the British Police, Malcolm Sparrow argues that control or mitigation of these and other "bad" things involves distinctive patterns of thought and action which turn out to be broadly applicable across a range of human endeavors, and which need to be better understood. In this provocative new book, he demonstrates that an explicit focus on the bads, rather than on the countervailing goods (safety, prosperity, environmental stewardship, etc.) can provide rich opportunities for surgically efficient and effective interventions - an approach which he terms "the sabotage of harms." Drawing from Sparrow's rich background and unique experiences in law enforcement, this book makes a powerful case for this new approach to tackling the complex problems facing society.Read more
- Provocative new approach to risk management based on extensive professional experience and world-class academic research
- Applicable across public, private and not-for-profit sectors
- Jargon-free style with numerous practical examples
Reviews & endorsements
"I was amazed, reading Malcolm Sparrow's book, at how powerfully a careful, focused definition of a problem can open the way to novel solutions. Sparrow makes clear that we often need to reverse direction, shifting the focus from promoting the general good to addressing specific harms. He shows how to do that, and how to proceed from there. It is a joy to read someone who, through practical experience, really knows what he is talking about."
Professor Tom Schelling, University of Maryland, Nobel-Laureate in EconomicsSee more reviews
"A fascinating, timely, and important study of risk, harms, and regulatory interventions, with a wonderfully broad range of topics and examples, and a great deal of common sense. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the topic of precautions."
Professor Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago
"Malcolm Sparrow provides a clear, readable account of approaches to controlling harms, threats and risks in modern society. His skillful combination of academic literatures and practical examples presents a strong argument for evidence based action. In particular his cross domain approach should attract a wide readership ranging as it does from issues of world poverty to harm reduction in individual organizations. It will appeal to academics and practitioners alike."
Professor Bridget Hutter, London School of Economics
"Today's environmental problems, as Sparrow teaches, really do come in a daunting array of shapes and sizes. At the EPA we have discovered that organizing our compliance programs around specific problems, analyzing their causes and contours and developing customized strategies for each, the way Sparrow proposes in this book, represents a profoundly difficult but highly rewarding departure from traditional operations. The Character of Harms will deeply affect anyone working to make the world safer, better, and more secure."
Michael Stahl, Director of Compliance, United States Environmental Protection Agency
"Harms have an intricate character that must be studied, Malcolm Sparrow tells us. This is a remarkable book for people whose job is to control harms. It supplies nuanced reflection on how to pick problems apart and fix them. Sparrow is one of our great public policy thinkers. Here he advances the art of being evidence-based in public policy with wisdom about just what kind of artistry is involved."
Professor John Braithwaite, Australian National University
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- Date Published: May 2008
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521872102
- length: 271 pages
- dimensions: 234 x 160 x 23 mm
- weight: 0.57kg
- contains: 5 b/w illus. 1 table
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
List of figures and tables
Part I. The Nature of the Control Task:
1. Which way up, and does it matter?
2. A different kind of work
3. Defining problems: setting the scale
4. Defining problems: picking the dimensions
5. Patterns of thought and action
6. Puzzles of measurement
7. Structures, protocols and interactions
Part II. Special Categories of Harm:
8. Invisible harms
9. Conscious opponents
10. Catastrophic harms
11. Harms in equilibrium
12. Performance-enhancing risks
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