Switzerland’s "Holocaust Assets" Crisis: Its Relevance for
a Theory of Social Order and Disaster*


This paper contains an examination of the Swiss "Holocaust assets" crisis for the purpose of exploring its similarities to and differences from natural disasters. A theory of social order centered on the process of routinization is used to organize this comparative analysis. The routines under threat in the Swiss case, the nature of the threat, and the exception routines employed to deal with the threat are examined first. Then the Swiss case is compared to natural disasters in terms of mitigation, planning and preparedness, response, relief, and rehabilitation and recovery. The overall conclusion is that the Swiss political-economic and cultural crises bear only a metaphorical relationship to disaster. However, the comparison of the Swiss crises and natural disasters forms the basis for a typology of crises.

*Paper presented at the XIVth World Congress of Sociology, Montréal, Québèc, July-August 1998.