Introduction: Failed! The Sociological Analysis of Failure


  • Filippo Barbera Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, University of Turin; Collegio Carlo Alberto, Turin
  • Ian Rees Jones School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University



Failure, Winner takes all, Capitalism, Normality, Power


In recent years the social sciences have been paying closer attention to failure, to its manifestations in the contemporary world and to the modalities of dealing with it both in theory and in practice. An emergent and interdisciplinary field of analysis has been consolidating under the label of failure studies reflecting a number of social trends. These include the instability of winner-take-all systems, the ubiquity of the new spirit of capitalism, metric-based forms of governmentality, platformization, and changes in cultural attitudes to failure. We argue that the normality of failure calls for a better conceptualization of it. What is needed is a clearer thinking about what failure really means, a better understanding of the mechanisms that generate, reproduce, and terminate it as a normal part of life. The essays collected for this symposium offer fresh insights on the analysis of failure. Taking different areas of social life as a focus, they critically examine the failures of large complex socio-technical systems; the purposefully agency of players in systems failure; the failures of governance and metagovernance; new meanings of policy failures; kaleidoscopic failure; network failure and the moral economy of failure. In doing so they we suggest that a sociology of failure needs to be built on socio-historical understandings of failure in different contexts, cultures, and environments.


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How to Cite

Barbera, F., & Rees Jones, I. (2024). Introduction: Failed! The Sociological Analysis of Failure. Sociologica, 17(3), 1–5.