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Rethinking the nature of disaster: from failed instruments of learning to a post-social understanding


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Williams, S 2008 , 'Rethinking the nature of disaster: from failed instruments of learning to a post-social understanding' , Social Forces, vol. 87, no. 2 , pp. 1115-1138 , doi: 10.1353/sof.0.0146.

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Recent disasters have been of such scale and complexity that both the common assumptions made about learning from them, and the traditional approaches distinguishing natural from technological disasters (and now terrorism) are thus challenged. Beck’s risk thesis likewise signals the need for paradigmatic change. Despite sociological inflections in disaster research and management, however, an examination of risk management practices deployed during hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami reveals attendant problems with a persistent instrumental rationality and disjuncture between society and environment. Therefore, an alternative, post-social understanding is proposed. It includes relational (rather than instrumental) approaches which reinstate the importance of nonhuman nature, but it also recognizes that disasters are post-normal problems, and that disaster research and management increasingly deal with phenomena beyond the limits of current know-how.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Williams, S
Journal or Publication Title: Social Forces
ISSN: 0037-7732
DOI / ID Number: 10.1353/sof.0.0146
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