Law, Comparative Legal Study, and Disaster Taxonomy

November 1989 (VOL. 7, NO. 3)

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This paper examines the problem of taxonomy in disaster research from the point of view of a lawyer who makes no claims to being a social scientist. It reflects the perspective of one who has been, for over a decade, what sociologists once called a participant observer of disaster research. My perspective, no doubt is influenced by my rejection of the plea that law is itself a science. From this point of view, the taxonomy of disaster research is not a problem for purely legal inquiry. I do not reject, however, that a taxonomy could be helpful to our understanding of law as a social institution. I will no doubt have ventured beyond my expertise, but perhaps any naivete will be offset by the benefits of a fresh perspective.