Symbolic, cognitive, and structural obstacles to formulating disaster policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This chapter identifies and analyzes three systemic obstacles to American public policy addressing natural disasters: symbolic obstacles, cognitive obstacles, and structural obstacles. The way we talk about natural disaster, the way we think about the risks of building in hazardous places, and structural aspects of American political institutions all favor development over restraint. These forces have such strength that in the wake of most disasters society automatically and thoughtlessly responds by rebuilding what was damaged or destroyed, even if reconstruction perpetuates disaster vulnerability. Only by addressing each of the obstacles identified are reform efforts likely to succeed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-64
Number of pages32
JournalStudies in Law Politics and Society
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive
  • Disaster mitigation obstacles
  • Structural
  • Symbolic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Symbolic, cognitive, and structural obstacles to formulating disaster policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this