Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Securing and Scaling Resilient Futures: Neoliberalization, Infrastructure, and Topologies of Power

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Securing and Scaling Resilient Futures: Neoliberalization, Infrastructure, and Topologies of Power

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this paper we explore the scaling of resilience policy and practice not as an effect upon infrastructure but as enacted through infrastructure. Drawing on Foucault's topological analyses of governmental power, especially his elaboration of its coeval centripetal and centrifugal flows, we argue that understanding the scaling of resilience policy and practice involves acknowledging its infrastructural composition. We examine this infrastructural scaling through an empirical analysis of UK resilience policy and practice, as recounted by those working across multiple organizations involved in planning for, and coping with, aleatory events. This reveals how the neoliberal decentralizing refrain, expressed in resilience policy and its critique, is both sustained and displaced by interwoven circulatory mechanisms of obstruction, filtration, and acceleration. Together these infrastructural flows amount to 'fractionally coherent' scalings that not only centralize governmental power but are constitutive of governmental centres. Our analyses of infrastructural scaling suggest that resiliency policy and practice is far less decentralized, or localized, than others have suggested, with both centripetal and centrifugal flows of power resulting from a composite of infrastructural circulatory mechanisms that can variously scale political agency in relation to aleatory events.

Keywords: resilience, scaling, infrastructure, Foucault, topology

Introduction

Contemporary resilience policy in the UK (Cabinet Office, 2011, pages 81-83), and beyond (FEMA, 2011), encourages consideration of how devastation at a smaller scale, perhaps a household or neighbourhood, might open up new possibilities to enhance the capacities of larger-scale entities, in order not only to cope better with unknown future events, but to prosper from them (Davoudi et al, 2012; Raco and Street, 2012; Walker and Cooper, 2011). In the UK 'local communities' are now asked by central government "to look upon an emergency as an opportunity to regenerate an area", as "achieved through building new homes or commercial buildings, raising aspirations, improving skills and improving the environment whilst introducing new people and dynamism to an area" (Cabinet Office, 2013, pages 81-83). Or, as O'Malley (2010) puts it, the task becomes "knowing when and how to exploit uncertainty to invent a new better future" (page 506; see also Lentzos and Rose, 2009). Through such processes of scaling--that is, the drawing of scalar hierarchies and relations between governmental centres and margins, cities and neighbourhoods, nations and communities--questions of who and what is to be made resilient, in what manner, and for what purposes, are not only being asked and answered (White and O'Hare, 2014), but preformatted in advance of such decisions.

Set against this backdrop of resiliency scalings, Blackburn (2014) recently proposed a 'scalar perspective' on resilience to disclose "the processes through which power asymmetries arise, are tested and maintained" (page 111). Scalar concepts thus appear to offer an important analytical supplement to a growing body of critical work that addresses the politics of resilience through its neoliberal translations (Amin, 2013; Brassett et al, 2013; Coaffee, 2013; Davoudi et al, 2012; Dean, 2012; Graham, 2010a; Grove, 2013,2014; Joseph, 2013; Neocleous, 2013; O'Malley, 2010; Raco and Street, 2012; Wakefield and Braun, 2014; White and O'Hare, 2014). Notwithstanding different empirical and conceptual foci, much of the critical thrust of this work constructs a particular scaling of resilience, variously termed 'neoliberal decentralization or spirited urbanism' (Amin, 2013, page 147), individual 'responsibilization' (White and O'Hare, 2014, page 946), 'freedom' (Lentzos and Rose, 2009, page 247), 'affective self-control' (Braun, 2014, page 54), 'empowerment' (Grove, 2014, page 244; Joseph, 2013, page 260), 'neoliberal citizenship' (Neocleous, 2013, page 5), or simply 'self-reliance' (Davoudi et al, 2012, page 305). …

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