This fascinating book analyzes 13 control failures in human history, from Robespierre's promotion of the French Revolution, to Hoover's efforts to stop the Great Depression, to the intelligence failures of 9/11. Assessing the causes of 10 additional historical cases, the author's comparative analysis shows how each leadership failure was caused by an expansion of the range of control attempts, their scope, and/or their diversity. A leader's or other actor's attempts to broaden the range of control targets have been most important in causing great human failures. The analysis is timely during an era when war, global warming, and other vexing problems plague our society.
"Over the years, Jack Gibbs has taken me step-by-step through an elaboration of the concept of social control to his argument that control should be sociology's central notion to his formulation of a theory about control. His latest installment, Colossal Control Failures, should draw the greatest attention because it addresses historical events and issues that are important to both scholars and the general public, ranging from failures in attempted control by Julius Caesar, three presidents and a variety of dictators to revolutionaries and the attempt to control AIDS. His treatment of
9/11 is enlightening and should be required reading for anyone who would like some guidance on how to avoid such colossal failures in the future."
—Gary F. Jensen, Vanderbilt University
The hallmark of this trenchant analysis of colossal control failures is Gibbs' insistence on conceptual clarity and rigorous analysis, a welcome change from facile claims based on preconceived and politically motivated prescriptions and proscriptions. From Julius Caesar to "America's Worst Day" (9/11) this book is a timely warning against the hubris of political, economic, and religious exceptionalism. Gibbs strengthens his claim for control as the central notion of sociology.
—James F. Short, Jr., Washington State University
PREFACE; Part I: PRELIMINARY MATTERS; Chapter 1: The Ubiquity of Control Failures, the Nature of Attempted Control, and Some Control Principles; Chapter 2: Control over Human Behavior and the Notion of Power; Part II: COLOSSAL CONTROL FAILURES OF THREE PRESIDENTS; Chapter 3: Herbert Hoover's Nightmare; Chapter 4: FDR's Ineffective Attempt to Pack the Supreme Court; Chapter 5: Richard Nixon's Stonewalling; Part III: COLOSSAL CONTROL FAILURES OF THREE REVOLUTIONARIES; Chapter 6: Robespierre Reaches Far Too Far; Chapter 7: Trotsky's Fatal Misperception of Stalin; Chapter 8: "Che" Guevara: An Iconic but Failed Revolutionary; Part IV: COLOSSAL CONTROL FAILURES OF TWO DICTATORS; Chapter 9: Caesar Crosses the Rubicon; Chapter 10: Hitler's Putsch and His Invasion of the U.S.S.R.; Part V: SOME OTHER COLOSSAL CONTROL FAILURES; Chapter 11: The Juice Walks: Prosecutorial Control Failures in O.J. Simpson's Trial; Chapter 12: AIDS: A Global Threat with No End in Sight; Chapter 13: Great Control Failures and 9/11, America's Worst Day; Part VI: MAJOR IMPLICATIONS; Chapter 14: Some Hopefully Significant Comparisons; Chapter 15: Bearing on the Future: Optimism and Pessimism; APPENDIX A: Inanimate Control; APPENDIX B: Biotic Control; REFERENCES; NAME INDEX; SUBJECT INDEX.