9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Climate Change Policies Building I, Auditório 4

Global warming and the case of sea-level rise in New Orleans and The Netherlands: Social reaction- and adaptation-capabilities to be explained by Cultural Theory and Varieties of Capitalism approach

The question of how societies as a whole or inhabitants of geographically exposed regions like New Orleans and The Netherlands can adapt to ecological challenges like sea-level rise is centre stage. What are the social determinants that influence and produce specific types and patterns of social reaction- and adaptation-capabilities? In the dominant discourse, this question is answered by a statistical comparison of gross national products (GNP) and per capita economical wealth.
In contrast, what will be argued here is that varying cultural and institutional characteristics like predominant myths of nature or different welfare regimes could have a greater effect on the social reaction- and adaptation-capabilities than the sheer (non-)availability of monetary resources. With the background of our theoretical framework that aims at to combine the general theses of the Cultural Theory with the institutional specifications of the Varieties of Capitalism approach, the assumptions stated above will be pursued by two comparative case studies.
New Orleans will serve as a social space characterised by the properties of liberal market economies, including corresponding ideals of nature and welfare institutions. Here, the flooding caused by hurricane Katrina (2005) will be focused exemplarily. The Netherlands, in contrast, represent a social space characterised by the properties of coordinated market economies. Due to the fact that both regions are exposed to sea-level rise and possess (on a global scale) relative high GNPs but are superimposed by different social spaces, these case studies lend themselves to search for different factors to explain different types of social reaction- and adaptation-capabilities.
Is there a theoretical and empirical link to be discovered between the type of market economy and the perceived properties of nature? How does the amalgamation of predominant myths of nature and corresponding market economies interact with ecological challenges like sea-level rise and affect social reaction- and adaptation-capabilities?
Our working hypothesis implies that the principle of precaution can be seen as typical for coordinated market economies, whereas the principle of ad-hoc reactions is dominant in liberal market economies - and both can be traced to specific ideals of nature, solidarity and regulation.