Democracy in practice? The Norwegian public inquiry of the Alexander L. Kielland North-Sea oil platform disaster
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Critical Realism. 2021, 20 (5), 525-541. 10.1080/14767430.2021.1995688
In March 1980, the oil-platform Alexander L. Kielland capsized in the North Sea resulting in the death of 123 workers. The Norwegian inquiry into the disaster was closed to the public and the survivors’ accounts of the disaster differed considerably from the official account. The inquiry was experienced as undemocratic by those who had been in the disaster. Many of them felt humiliated, claiming that their opinions were not given due weight. We argue that if the inquiry had been more transparent and inclusive, important information would have been made available that might have prevented subsequent disasters. Such transparency would be supported if disaster commissions used a critical realist version of knowledge acquisition based on a layered ontology and grounded in an epistemology that uses retroduction and judgemental rationality. In this article, critical realism is also used to justify the interdisciplinary nature of the research, which starts with historical methods.