Community Reconstruction after an Earthquake: Dialectical Sociology in Action

Community Reconstruction after an Earthquake: Dialectical Sociology in Action

Community Reconstruction after an Earthquake: Dialectical Sociology in Action

Community Reconstruction after an Earthquake: Dialectical Sociology in Action

Synopsis

Rossi develops a theory of the roles of "action" (social actor) and "structure" (sociopolitical resources, cultural resources, and economic resources) in disaster studies, using the data on community reconstruction after the 1980 earthquake in Southern Italy as a preliminary test of the theory. The focus of the study is not the response during the emergency period which immediately followed the earthquake, but the long-term recovery and reconstruction of the 44 communities which were officially classified as the most heavily damaged. Aspects of the post-earthquake industrialization of the region are also considered, since the physical reconstruction of the destroyed communities is inevitably connected with their socioeconomic development. Rossi outlines and tests a new framework which permits prediction of the different speeds of community reconstruction, and provides a dialectic theory of the interrelationship between structural and action principles of social action.

Excerpt

This volume has a twofold ambition: to offer a dialectic resolution to the current debate about the role of "structure" and "agency" in sociological explanation and to link the theoretical debate to empirical analysis. Such an undertaking, however, is complex, if one wants to do justice to both the empirical and the theoretical poles of analysis. For this reason the reader is led from the statistical analysis of the data on post-earthquake reconstruction, to ethnographic analysis, to interpretive analysis, to explanatory (and predictive) analysis, and, finally, to structuralist and dialectic modes of analysis. A brief summary of the book will offer a more detailed idea of this theoretical and methodological tour de force.

Chapter 1 briefly describes the extent of the caused by the 1980 Southern Italian earthquake and, after a brief discussion about the theoretical lacunae in the field of disaster studies, a preliminary formulation of a new dialectic framework is offered; the latter is based on the mutually constitutive opposition between structural and action principles of explanation. In chapter 2 it is shown that structural and action characteristics of the stricken communities emerge as orthogonal factors from the list of variables derived from the coding of the data on the post- earthquake reconstruction of 44 communities: the "structural characteristics" consist of the social, cultural, and economic resources of the communities, the "action characteristics" consist of leadership and grassroot initiative. The structural and action characteristics explain a large amount of variation in the speed of long-term recovery and reconstruction among the 44 most damaged communities.

In chapter 3 orthogonal factors of "structural" and "action" characteristics of the damaged households are derived from interviews with 826 respondents; these factors also were successfully used to predict statistically the different speeds of reconstruction of 826 households.

To gain a better understanding of the nature of the "structural" and "action" characteristics of the communities, in chapters 4 and 5 an in-depth analysis is undertaken of the reconstruction process in the province of Avellino where the most severe earthquake damage occurred. The analysis carried out in chapter 4 brings to . . .

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