1st Edition

Routledge International Handbook of Failure

    534 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    534 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This Handbook examines the study of failure in social sciences, its manifestations in the contemporary world, and the modalities of dealing with it – both in theory and in practice. It draws together a comprehensive approach to failing, and invisible forms of cancelling out and denial of future perspectives.

    Underlining critical mechanisms for challenging and reimagining norms of success in contemporary society, it allows readers to understand how contemporary regimes of failure are being formed and institutionalized in relation to policy and economic models, such as neo-liberalism. While capturing the diversity of approaches in framing failure, it assesses the conflations and shifts which have occurred in the study of failure over time.

    Intended for scholars who research processes of inequality and invisibility, this Handbook aims to formulate a critical manifesto and activism agenda for contemporary society. Presenting an integrated view about failure, the Handbook will be an essential reading for students in sociology, social theory, anthropology, international relations and development research, organization theory, public policy, management studies, queer theory, disability studies, sports, and performance research.


    1. FAIL! Are We Headed Towards Critical Failure Studies?

    Adriana Mica, Mikołaj Pawlak, Anna Horolets, and Paweł Kubicki

    PART 1: Critical Failure Studies in the Making

    2. Failure in Intercultural Communication

    Milene Mendes de Oliveira

    3. Entrepreneurial Failure Contextualized: Sociocultural Approaches

    Heli Helanummi-Cole and Rohini Jalan

    4. Fear of Failure in Athletes: Fanning the Fire of Sport Desire or Burning Out?

    Henrik Gustafsson, Paul Davis, and Louise Davis

    5. Career Failure: Forms and Levels of Analysis from a Sociological Perspective

    Julia Gruhlich

    6. Sociology of Failures in Clinical Trials

    Amélie Petit

    7. From Varieties of Failure to Failure Judgments: The Sociology of Valuation and Failure Studies

    Thorsten Peetz, Frank Meier, and Désirée Waibel

    PART 2: Failure Regimes and Power

    8. Failed Identities: On the Processes and Meanings of Unformed Alternate Selves

    Susie Scott

    9. The Study of Failures and the Problem of Contingency

    Oliver Kessler

    10. Successful Failure

    Wolfgang Seibel

    11. The Theatre of Failure: Social Media’s Role in Demonstrating Mundane Disruption

    Jess Perriam

    12. Economising Failure and Assembling a Failure Regime

    Liisa Kurunmäki, Andrea Mennicken, and Peter Miller

    13. Foreign Policy Failure: A Narrative Analysis

    Kai Oppermann and Alexander Spencer

    14. Valuing Plurality: Objectivist and Interpretivist Approaches to the Study of Mistakes and Failures in International Relations

    Andreas Kruck

    PART 3: Restoring, Learning and Attributing Blame for Failure

    15. Before Breakdown, After Repair: The Art of Maintenance

    Jérôme Denis and David Pontille

    16. Cloud Backup and Restore: The Infrastructure of Digital Failure

    A. R. E. Taylor

    17. Governance Failure, Metagovernance Failure, and the Pedagogy of Failure

    Bob Jessop

    18. Beyond Policy Accidents: Learning the Lessons of Policy Failures

    Michael Howlett

    19. Market Failures

    Christian Frankel

    20. Preventing Major Disasters: Success and Failure as Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Jan Hayes and Sarah Maslen

    21. Blame Games: Stories of Crises, Causes, and Culprits

    Sandra Resodihardjo

    PART 4: Failure Trouble and Resistance in Neoliberalism

    22. Counter-interpretations of Failure from Literature, Sociology and Social Philosophy

    Jocelyn Pixley

    23. The Material Ecologies of Policy Failure: Ruptures of Bodies and of State

    Kelly Fagan Robinson and Timothy Carroll

    24. Financialization and Failure: Lessons from the Anxious University

    Max Haiven

    25. Market Failures and Failed Marketization: Neoliberalism, Development and Poverty

    Nicholas Bernards

    26. Failing the States: The Fragility of the State-Failure Paradigm

    Raza Saeed

    27. Neoliberalism, Policy Failures, and the COVID-19 Crisis: Going Beyond Hirschman’s Fracasomanía

    Tobias Franz

    PART 5: Post-Failure or Reimagined Failure?

    28. Experiments as Successful Failures

    Matthias Gross

    29. How Science Fails Successfully

    Stuart Firestein

    30. Politics, Sociology, and the "Inevitability" of Failure

    Keith Jacobs and Jeff Malpas

    31. Cripistemologies of the Body: Knowing through Disability

    Susanne Hamscha

    32. Beyond Failure: Queer Theory’s Fallibilities

    Thomas Clément Mercier

    33. Gravity Matters: A Meditation on Falling and Failing

    Ann Cooper Albright

    34. Crashing to Earth: Redefining Failure in a Time of Precarity

    Janet O’Shea


    35. Discovery and Inquiry Pathways to Navigating the Routledge International Handbook of Failure

    Gertrude J. Fraser and Claire Holman Thompson


    Adriana Mica is an assistant professor at the University of Warsaw where she leads the Failure Lab. Her research interests include failure, possibility, ignorance, projectivity, and contingency in policymaking

    Mikołaj Pawlak is an associate professor at the Institute of Social Prevention and Resocialisation, University of Warsaw, where he leads the Chair of Sociology of Norms, Deviance and Social Control. His research interests cover new institutional theory, migration studies, and sociology of knowledge/ignorance.

    Anna Horolets is an associate professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw. Her research interests include critical discourse analysis, anthropology of tourism and migration, and leisure studies. She currently studies migrants’ imaginaries of the good life.

    Paweł Kubicki is an associate professor at the Warsaw School of Economics where he leads the Department of Social Policy. He specializes in public policy analysis, particularly in disability studies, migration studies, and social exclusion, being involved in projects aimed at developing equalizing opportunities for persons with disabilities.

    "Unlike most Handbooks in the social sciences, this one is groundbreaking and meets two difficult goals: one is to provide a comprehensive assessment of the emergent field of failure studies, and the second, which is to use the idea of failure to cast new light on many central problems of the social sciences, such as contingency, accountability, and economization. This Handbook is a milestone which will be widely read by researchers in many fields."

    Arjun Appadurai, Professor Emeritus of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, USA

    "In a comprehensive way, the Routledge International Handbook of Failure provides new insights from different perspectives on the important topic of failure. This handbook is of critical importance because it can help scholars and practitioners overcome a pervasive anti-failure bias that restricts our thinking and actions. I highly recommend this book."

    Dean Shepherd, Ray and Milann Siegfried Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Notre Dame, USA

    "This new book on failure is a welcome addition to this fascinating and important topic. I hope it meets with great success."

    Gary Wickham, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Murdoch University, Australia

    "This handbook highlights what can only be described as a failure of imagination in the social sciences concerning the concept of failure itself. The Handbook’s essays reframe our understanding of what the discourse of failure reveals and obscures. Far from being a self- evident concept—neutrally applied—the application of the pejorative, "failure," can too often prevent us from recognizing and seizing meaningful opportunities for advance or experimentation."

    Ilene Grabel, Distinguished University Professor, University of Denver, USA