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Keywords:

  • Neoliberalism;
  • Hurricane Ike;
  • electric power;
  • disaster mitigation;
  • disaster recovery

Abstract

This case study explores how neoliberal policies shape the impacts of a natural disaster. We investigate the reactions to major damages to the electric power system and the restoration of power in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which devastated the Houston, Texas, metropolitan area in September 2008. We argue that the neoliberal policy agenda insured a minimalist approach to the crisis and generated dissatisfaction among many residents. The short-term profitability imperative shifted reconstruction costs to consumers, and prevented efforts to upgrade the electric power infrastructure to prepare for future disasters. We illustrate the serious obstacles for disaster mitigation and recovery posed by neoliberal policies that privatize public goods and socialize private costs. Neoliberalism neither addresses the needs of a highly stratified public nor their long-term interests and safety.