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Christian Berndt

Christian Berndt

Christian Berndt was Professor at the University of Frankfurt until he became Chair of Economic Geography at the University of Zurich in 2010. He has a longstanding interest in questions of economic regional development and labor markets, both in the Global North and Global South. In collaboration with Marc Boeckler, he works on an approach which opens up new perspectives on the emergence of market orders, their continuous spatial and social expansion, and their contribution to the construction of society. Called “geographies of marketization”, this approach has recently been applied to agricultural risk management and market-driven development.

>> www.geo.uzh.ch/en
>> christian.berndt@geo.uzh.ch

Abstract

Making Resilient Subjects: Market Failure, Behavioral Engineering and Development

Conceptualizing resilience straightforwardly as the ability to react and adjust positively when things go wrong, I start my paper with the observance that policies informed by resilience thinking position themselves against both a failing state and a failing market. The state is criticized for involuntarily turning the people into passive recipients of social policies, unable to weather the storms once the protective cover is withdrawn. The market, theoretically an ideal context in which to harden oneself against adverse conditions, is apparently failing certain actors. It does not work for regions in decline, poor cities and disadvantaged individuals. Against this an alternative “third way” is propagated, informed by a more pragmatic approach that turns political problems into issues to be solved with the help of technological engineering. Using the current drive towards a “marketization of development” as an empirical example, I argue that that the relation between resilience and the market is more complex. Rather than addressing market failures, policies in the name of resilience turn their attention to the failing individual subject. Using insights from an emerging behavioral and experimental orthodoxy, academic economists and practitioners prescribe a therapy of behavioral engineering. Subjected to a clinical gaze, market subjects are reminded that it is their personal responsibility to behave as rationally as possible. What we seem to be confronted with is a redefinition of development within a neoliberal framework of individualism where the meaning of resilience shifts from positive adaptation despite market failure to positive adaptation to failing markets.

 

 

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