Toward a Politics of Disaster: Losses, Values, Agendas, and Blame

March 2000 (VOL. 18, NO. 1)

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Offering exemplars from around the world, including China, Mexico, Nicaragua, and California, this paper argues that disasters must be understood and analyzed more deeply and more often as explicitly political events. The paper also argues that because politics is the “authoritative allocation of values”, the politics-disaster nexus revolves around the allocation of several important values: life safety in the pre-event period, survival in the emergency phase, and “life chances” in the recovery and reconstruction periods. The paper concludes by suggesting that the literatures on agenda control and causal stories/blame management are particularly useful points of departure for analyzing disasters as intrinsically political events.