Elites and panic: More to fear than fear itself

Lee Clarke, Caron Chess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Attributions of panic are almost exclusively directed at members of the general public. Here, we inquire into the relationships between elites and panic. We review current research and theorizing about panic, including problems of identifying when it has occurred. We propose three relationships: elites fearing panic, elites causing panic and elites panicking. We use numerous examples, including our own research on the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, to illustrate how these relationships operate. The argument is evocative, not definitive. However, the conceptual utility of explicitly theorizing the relationships between elites and panic shows, among other things, how power works in disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1014
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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