From rhetoric to reality: tracing the effect of resilience in planning policy and practice — ASN Events

From rhetoric to reality: tracing the effect of resilience in planning policy and practice (16462)

Iain White 1
  1. University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ, New Zealand

This paper analyses contrasting academic understandings of ‘equilibrium resilience’ (to recover) and ‘evolutionary resilience’ (to adapt) and investigates how these nuances are reflected within both planning policy and practice. Using a case study of UK and European planning the paper reveals that there is a lack of clarity in policy, where these differences are not acknowledged with resilience mainly discussed as a singular, vague, but optimistic aim. This opaque political treatment of the term and the lack of guidance has affected practice by privileging an equilibrist interpretation over more transformative, evolutionary measures. In short, resilience within planning has become characterised by a simple return to normality that is more analogous with planning norms, engineered responses, dominant interests, and technomanagerial trends. The paper argues that, although presented as a possible paradigm shift for planning, resilience policy and practice serve to underpin existing behaviour and normalise risk. Wider sociocultural concerns are unaddressed with resilience emerging as a narrow, regressive, techno-rational frame centred on reactive measures at the building scale. In much the same way that sustainable development captured the zeitgeist of the late-20th century; resilience may be the perfect symbol of its time—a conveniently nebulous concept incorporating shifting notions of risk and responsibility bounded within a reconstituted governance framework—all of which can engender confidence and potentially facilitate the transfer of costs away from the state to the private sector and communities.