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What could "resilience" mean for economies, people, and places? - Mar 19

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The Decline of Communities Could Explain America's Health Problems
Lindsay Abrams, Atlantic Cities
Suburbanites, as compared to urban and rural dwellers, are most certain of their access to community resources. They also care least about their neighbors. As such, their safe, affordable housing in unpolluted environments, with nearby health centers and plentiful recreation space, are good because they benefit them individually; that their fellow suburbanites benefit as well is almost incidental.

It's not just them. Strong communities made up of neighbors that care for, and about, one another are low on the list of health concerns of most Americans.

In a survey conducted for The Atlantic in conjunction with GlaxoSmithKline, a representative sample of 1,000 Americans revealed that our priorities for building healthy communities are inextricable from our reliance on institutions. The results of various questions show that many of us tend to put the responsibility for our community's' health in the hands of doctors and hospitals. Overall, participants ranked regular access to doctors and dentists (82 percent said it was "very important") second only to clean air and water (87 percent) as community resources that are important to their health...

(6 March 2013)


Understanding Resilience

Staff, IRIN via yourolivebranch.org
Johannesburg — No one working in the aid community in recent years could have avoided the buzzword “resilience” – but what does the term mean practically, and how has it helped shape action on the ground?

In fact, there is no standard definition of the term, points out a draft paper by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The UN’s lead development agency, along with the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has been tasked with finding ways to consider how development and humanitarian actors can work better together on resilience.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines the term as “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meanwhile, describes resilience as “the amount of change a system can undergo without changing state”. The UK Department for International Development defines it as “the ability of countries, communities and households to manage change, by maintaining or transforming living standards in the face of shocks or stresses… without compromising their long-term prospects...”

(4th March 2013)


We’re Hooked on ‘Growth,’ But It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Imara Jones, colorlines
As the New York Stock Exchange reached an all-time high this week, you’d think that the good times were back. But that would be incorrect. What happens on Wall Street has very little to do with what’s going on in the real economy. Corporate profits have never been higher, but—excluding the highest earners—real wages are at a 40 year low. With this fundamental disconnect—and political gridlock in Washington—it’s unlikely that our economy will return to health anytime soon.

The good news is that in thousands of communities across America, people are working together to bring about what may be the beginning of a new national economic contract. Where Washington and Wall Street are falling down citizens are banding together, not just to ameliorate the suffering caused by national stagnation, but to launch innovative economic initiatives that might create a brighter, fairer future for everyone.

These localized efforts, which fall broadly under the banner of “post-growth economics,” are beginning to stitch themselves together into a national force that holds the promise of stronger neighborhoods and greater individual well being. As Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-founder of Its Our Economy and co-author of the report “An Economy for the People and the Planet” said to me recently, the point of the post-growth movement is to create “an alternate economy that’s designed to meet human needs...”

(8 March 2013)

You can access the report here.

Social democracy in the age of austerity: the radical potential of democratising capital
Joe Guinan, Renewal
Social democracy at a crossroads Historians joke that, no matter what the period, the middle class is always rising. In the same vein, social democracy seems perpetually at a crossroads. This may not be surprising, given the revisionist origins and protean political tendencies of a tradition whose leadership has always been prepared to hedge and trim and accommodate to the prevailing political winds. But today, more than a hundred years after the first of the parties affiliated to the Second International won a plurality in a parliamentary election (in Finland in 1907; Anderson, 1992, 307), social democracy may finally be running out of rope. All the main European social democratic parties are facing a crisis, registering at long last endlessly postponed questions about their fundamental purpose and programme. The strategic choices they make now and in the next few years could determine whether social democracy survives as the principal political force on the left or finally gives up the ghost, expiring not with a bang but a whimper and with scarcely a mourner at the funeral.

As with the last great crisis of social democracy in the 1970s, today’s stark choices are being posed as the result of a major economic shift within capitalism: the deep disruption of capital accumulation as a consequence of the crisis in global financial markets unleashed in 2008. With the end of the recent long boom – or rather, long bubble, given that profits were extracted through serial asset inflations in ‘unlikely domains’ such as subprime mortgages via ‘unlikely instruments’ such as credit-default swaps (Sassen, 2011, 21) – social democrats have been dealt a tremendous double whammy. On the one hand, their decade-long strategy of full accommodation to neo-liberalism in order to skim off the surplus for ameliorative social spending has collapsed with the end of the growth upon which it depended. On the other, they have fallen victim to a breathtaking act of political jujitsu. Contrary to many expectations, the crisis has not thus far unseated neo-liberalism as the reigning economic paradigm, and with this ‘strange non-death’ (Crouch, 2011) financiers and the political right have neatly turned the tables on the centre-left. The big banks, having caused the crisis in the first place and led governments to borrow vast sums to come to their aid, have successfully redefined the resulting fiscal deficits as entailing cuts to public spending and social protection. Similarly, sovereign debt crises are painted as cause rather than effect of the downturn. Social democrats have thus been cut off from the exits, unable to escape into the soft neo-Keynesianism that is their more progressive reflex.

Stuck in this quandary, social democracy is unlikely to be afforded any relief by the markets. Rather than giving way to a resumption of growth, the Great Recession shows every sign of turning instead into a Long Slump. The latest economic figures reveal a poor outlook for Europe, with the eurozone in double-dip recession and the euro-crisis staggering toward an increasingly inevitable terminus. Meanwhile, Chinese growth is slowing, and the sluggish American recovery remains beset with difficulties real and imagined, with a divided Washington fully capable of administering self-inflicted wounds. Nor is a return to pre-crisis global economic relations on the cards. The increasingly high-handed lectures being delivered to Europeans by sovereign wealth fund managers from emerging economies suggest the acceleration of a transition already well underway before the collapse of Lehman Brothers – a shift away from Europe in the underlying balance of global economic power (Calhoun and Derluguian, 2011, 7)...

(No 4, 2012)

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