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Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery Paperback – August 22, 2012
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"What Daniel Aldrich does that is so important is to demonstrate systematically these good and bad effects of social capital, across a wide range of time and space, on an important and widespread phenomenon, disaster recovery" (Rick Weil, LSU)
The book is a valuable, and highly relevant, contribution to the debates surrounding the social capital concept. It focuses on events that have almost literally rocked the world in recent times and that, sadly, seem to be on the increase. And it provides thought provoking ideas for how we might better prepare societies for such events and for their aftermaths. Throwing money at the problem, principally to bring in construction contractors, provide food and erect emergency shelter, may be a start but it is not enough (Roger McCormick, LSE)
From the Back Cover
A fascinating book on an important topic...Highly recommended. - E.L. Hirsch in Choice
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What I found in Daniel's book was one of the most refreshing examples of academic literature I've seen in years. In addition to learning about resilience, I was captivated by the stories of natural disasters in different social and historical contexts. The book reminded me of John McPhee's geology books... so engaging that you forget you're learning about some rather complex concepts and interrelationships. I'd recommend it to ANY business leader or executive who wants to learn about what makes a community resilient, and I'd also recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning about the social context of natural disasters. The last time I had this much fun reading an academic book was Barabasi's "Linked".
Aldrich thoughtfully emphasizes the complexity of post-disaster recovery. Rather than dismiss the need for material-based assistance, he stresses the need to broaden the lens to include the social aspects of disaster recovery.
The term social capital is tricky as it can be overused and misinterpreted, but Aldrich is careful to describe and distinguish bonding, bridging and linking social capital. He further illustrates its "double-edged sword" by facilitating recovery for those in need, while excluding disenfranchised groups from obtaining support. He gives poignant examples of how those already on the outskirts of a society are more likely to suffer from a disaster because of their socioeconomic status, age, and gender. Then, after a disaster, these same groups can be systematically excluded from obtaining disaster recovery assistance due to their low levels of social capital.
Aldrich doesn't stop with these explanations though. My favorite parts of this book are when he clearly and logically defines what to do given this knowledge. There are important social and political implications here that are more than a little timely. Large-scale disasters seem to not only be on the rise, but increasingly devastating. Aldrich offers an entire chapter of discussion and ideas about how to support affected people and communities, particularly given the economic crunch many nations now face. At least one lesson learned from after the New Orleans disaster is that throwing money at disaster recovery is not guaranteed to solve any problems.
There are no easy or quick answers for communities facing these large-scale disasters, but Aldrich is on to something here and his argument of the importance of social capital in disaster recovery deserves closer attention.
One recurring theme in the book deals with the role social capital plays in bringing residents back to an area after a disaster or event. Aldrich clearly demonstrates how this often-overlooked part of recovery is crucial to jump-starting the recovery process across all dimensions of a society.
He keeps the reader engaged with unique and brilliant measures of social capital and the strength of civil society; for example, tracking the amount of money people spent on gifts for others in their community or the rate of attendance at funerals as indicators of the strength of their social networks. These details, while intriguing and intelligent measures in themselves, also humanize the data for the reader.
Building Resilience is a thoroughly researched, concise, insightful examination of an area of public policy that is, and will continue to be, increasingly important to individuals, governments and organizations across the globe.