Quantarelli’s Formula

I have always been of the opinion that even in the worst sistuations, just like this Covid-19 pandemic, there is something positive, a hope. The experience of disasters, somehow, often promotes social changes and, why not, the coming together of communities in order to help one another. Quantarelli explained this through a simple formula: the worse the situation is, the better people become.

Enrico Quarantelli was not a utopian, but an American sociologist, specialized in the study of reactions to disasters. He started with a tornado in Arkansas in 1952 and went on with dozens of cases.

It was after the great earthquake in Alaska in 1964 that, having noticed the same recurrent behaviors, he drew the first conclusions: catastrophic events bring the best out of humanity. It is not true that we react hysterically. Solidarity prevails over conflict. Society becomes more democratic. Class inequalities and distinctions vanish, at least temporarily.

We suffer and work together. Governments and bureaucracies that impose rigid rules and never improvise often remain helpless. That is the moment when spontaneous organizations of citizens arise, a sort of civic response immune to evil, thus becoming closer to the sense of things and of ourselves.

In normal times we suffer alone, the experience of vulnerability marginalizes us and makes us feel discriminated against and resentful towards those who are spared. Disasters unite, remove what is superficial, leaving the essence.

To those who asked him why we tend to think the opposite of what his research showed, Quarantelli replied: “It is difficult to accept that goodness is normal, it is too reassuring a truth”.


P.S. Three posts ago (February 26 th) the cases in Italy were 378 and 12 deaths. Two posts ago (March 8th)  they had raised to 5883 and  the deaths to 223. One post ago (March 13th) we reached 15.113 cases and 1.054 deaths. Today’s bulletin is: 23.073 cases and 2.158 deaths.“Things are going so fast that this article will be old by the time I post it, that is: now.” We must all stay at home.


14 thoughts on “Quantarelli’s Formula

  1. I feel this positive point here in Germany obviously. The German unfortunately mostly have rarely interests in what is with the neighbouring but now they began to think about it 🤗 still be safe and take care dearest ❤❤❤

    • Unfortunately it is not . It’ s now two weeks that I’ve been on lockdown and I may say that it is all so surreal. Despite all our efforts the death toll increases as the number of the infected. I’m afraid we’ll have to spend more weeks if not months in this condition. Thank you for your kind thought and I hope everything is fine with you and your family.

  2. Hi Stefy:
    Glad to hear you are healthy and staying positive — so difficult when the world is awash with not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but the brutal pandemic of fear and anxiety. Over the last few decades, due to the influence of social media (the need to promote one’s own narrative) and technology (people absorbed and addicted to their phones, unable to engage face-to-face with others), the world has become a bit more polarized, narcissistic, and isolated. The current pandemic is a sort of a reset for humanity — a lowly virus shocks us to realize the inescapable reality that humans are interdependent. For the first time, people are being considerate on a mass scale; our survival depends on thinking of others first, and changing our behavior accordingly. If one can find a silver lining to this insidious disease it is this: the pandemic has saved us from drowning in isolation and narcissism. We will survive by being considerate, by working together, by cherishing how dependent we are on one another, regardless of our differences. Cheers. Alex

    • Hi, Alexander. Sorry I haven’t been more prompt in replying, but online teaching takes amost all my time these days. In a certain way, I could see this pandemic as a sort of reset, but what I don’t trust is human nature. After a while everything will be the same. Forgotten. If ,of course, everything comes to an end. Hope you are fine and have a thoughtless Easter.

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