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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by Akademie Verlag November 23, 2016

Von der Unmöglichkeit nicht zu kommunizieren

Unternehmerische Kommunikation nach industriellen Unfällen, BASF 1921 und Hoffmann-La Roche 1976

Katja Patzel-Mattern


The paper examines corporate communication after industrial accidents and the media reception of this communication. It compares the accident at BASF in 1921 with that of 1976 at Meda, better known as the Seveso disaster. The leading thesis is that patriarchal concepts of corporate governance marked the companies’ communications in both cases. They were instrumental, alongside strategic and legal considerations, to the communicative appropriation of actions taken, as well as for public activities of the managements. However, a different configuration of the patriarchal concept of communication on the one hand and changing social conditions on the other, effected a shift in the perception of communicative action in public media. The comparison shows two things. First, successful crisis communication in the sense of social acceptance requires that concepts of order, which define the communicative behavior of companies, match those that characterize societal expectations. And second, the comparison reveals that any kind of corporate activity after industrial accidents, even public restraint, is conceived as an act of communication in a mass media society.

JEL Classification: B 50; N 44; N 84
Published Online: 2016-11-23
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston