The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a post-disaster environment, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery

Social Learning in a post-disaster environment, 1st Edition

By Emily Chamlee-Wright


240 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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In August 2005 the nation watched as Hurricane Katrina pummelled the Gulf Coast. Residents did not just suffer the personal costs of a home that had been severely damaged or destroyed; frequently they also lost their entire neighbourhood and the social systems that under normal circumstances made their lives "work". Katrina raised the questions of whether and how communities could solve the complex social coordination problems catastrophic disaster poses, and what inhibits them from doing so?

Professor Chamlee-Wright investigates not only the nature of post-disaster recovery, but the nature of the social order itself – how societies are able to achieve a level of complex social coordination that far exceeds our ability to design. By deploying the tools of both political economy and cultural economy, the book contributes to the bourgeoning literature on the social, political and economic impact of Hurricane Katrina.

Through a selection of case studies, the author argues that post-disaster resilience depends crucially upon the discovery that unfolds within commercial and civil society. The book will be of particular interest to postgraduate students and researchers in economics, sociology and anthropology as well as disaster specialists.


'Emily Chamlee Wright has made a major contribution to understanding the response to Hurricane Katrina. Her book is a case study of the importance of spontaneously-evolved institutions in solving post-disaster collective action problems. She shows that micro social networks are often more important for recovery than large government programs.'

- Mario J. Rizzo, New York University, USA

'In her pioneering work Chamlee-Wright has used a natural experiment in governmental failure to show that an economy is more than a machine to be run by our masters. It is a social order, "embedded," as the sociologists say, in ethics. She shows that such fully human actors are creative, as a Samuelsonian Max U-er is not. We are all entrepreneurs, big or small. The fact requires an empirical yet Austrian economics, of which Chamlee-Wright's book is a sterling example'.

- Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.

'F. A. Hayek famously eschewed the term economy for its constructivist connotations. Emily Chamlee-Wright profitably reclaims it, recasting economy as a plurality of self-organizing processes, civic and cultural as well as commercial. As a work of theory and as an ethnographic investigation of post-Katrina recovery, Chamlee-Wright’s book is a bold act of intellectual entrepreneurship – signaling the explanatory possibilities of a scientifically serious hermeneutic economics.'

- Robert Garnett, Texas Christian University, USA.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Understanding the Sources of Resilience Part I: Theoretical Frame and Methodology 1. The Nature and Causes of Social Order as Seen Through Post-Disaster Recovery 2. Qualitative Methods and the Pursuit of Economic Understanding Part II: Deploying Socially Embedded Resources in a Post-Disaster Context 3. Collective Action in the Wake of Disaster: Social Capital Rebuilding Strategies of Early Returnees 4. Social Capital, Community Narratives, and Recovery Within a Vietnamese-American Neighborhood 5. Collective Narratives and Entrepreneurial Discovery in St. Bernard Parish 6. Negotiating Structure and Agency in the Ninth Ward: Sense of Place and Divine Purpose in Post Disaster Recovery Part III: Political -Economy and Social Learning in Non-Priced Environments 7. The Deleterious Effects of Signal Noise in Post-Disaster Recovery 8. Expectations Anchoring and the Civil Society Vacuum: Lessons for Public Policy 9. Concluding Remarks Part IV: Appendices Appendix A: Demographic Summaries of Research Subjects in Neighborhoods of Interest Appendix B: Sample Interview Guide Appendix C: Primary and Secondary Theme Codes

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Heterodox Economics

Over the past two decades, the intellectual agendas of heterodox economists have taken a decidedly pluralist turn.  Leading thinkers have begun to move beyond the established paradigms of Austrian, feminist, Institutional-evolutionary, Marxian, Post Keynesian, radical, social, and Sraffian economics—opening up new lines of analysis, criticism, and dialogue among dissenting schools of thought.  This cross-fertilization of ideas is creating a new generation of scholarship in which novel combinations of heterodox ideas are being brought to bear on important contemporary and historical problems.

Routledge Advances in Heterodox Economics aims to promote this new scholarship by publishing innovative books in heterodox economic theory, policy, philosophy, intellectual history, institutional history, and pedagogy.  Syntheses or critical engagement of two or more heterodox traditions are especially encouraged.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic Conditions
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Free Enterprise
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General