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‘Building back better’ is neoliberal post-disaster reconstruction
journal contributionposted on 18.06.2021, 07:48 by Wesley Webb Cheek, Ksenia ChmutinaKsenia Chmutina
Building Back Better has become one of the most common slogans in Disaster Risk Reduction. Disasters offer an opportunity to encourage improvements not only in the structural safety of buildings and infrastructure but also in addressing structural inequalities and injustice – i.e., the root causes of disasters. Disasters are thus an opportunity to make things better. However, as this paper will demonstrate, in the context of neoliberalism, the definition of ‘better’ in the DRR slogan does not always mean ‘good for all’. By exploring the parallel developments in the evolution of DRR and neoliberalism, we argue that BBB and its calls for rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, and revitalization of human resources, allows for widely varied definitions of what is and what isn’t a risk, who is and isn’t responsible, and what forms of action are to be taken in response to these risks. This serves as a designation for capacity to make ‘better’ – but not actively change – social and political systems that create risk in the first place. We therefore show that disasters –and the terminology used in disaster discourse – are not ideologically neutral and should thus be deliberately unpacked and critically evaluated rather than accepted unquestioned.
- Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering