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Extra info for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance
March sounds like those nineteenth-century ministers who refused to put lightning rods on church steeples, because doing so might defy Providence. Although that kind of imprudent piety was rare by 1890, the lingering sense that some accidents are sacred signs that should not be questioned, let alone thwarted, reemerges in March’s crude attempt to distinguish providential chance from the human-made variety. When accidents are neither controlled by identifiable and culpable agents nor surrendered to the jurisdiction of a superintending deity, they lodge ineradicably in precisely those social and economic dynamics that March detests as secondary, human made, or artificial.
The remaining four went to the gallows on the morning November 11, 1887. This show trial is widely regarded as one of the most scandalous injustices in American legal history, for in the throes of the anti-red hysteria that gripped Chicago in the summer of 1886, few voices resisted the inexorable march to the gallows or opposed convictions based on little more than guilt by association. 4 But from that date, critics have long recognized a clear shift of emphasis in his work, as Annie Kilburn (1888) and then A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) took a greater interest in the working class, more overtly addressed jarring social and economic changes, and more openly engaged, without exactly embracing, the appeal of socialism.
So while technical and statistical methods certainly exerted immense influence over social structures and taxonomies, to say nothing of large-scale political movements and institutions, we ignore a crucial stage of that process if we exclude equally important qualitative and literary developments, which produced a concept of chance well suited to sustaining viable modes of liberal interdependence. It is not just that mathematics and statistics Introduction tame chance, then, but also that American writers defined a great deal of violence as chancy in order to legitimize new modes of socialization.