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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: May 2012

Chapter Six - Risk Society in the Philippines


Technocratic Solutions as Modernity

The views expressed in the preceding chapter by the Philippine government and the mining industry that technology can prevent any and all disasters is “essentially a western materialistic interpretation of nature, where disaster is seen as a disruption to normal life” (Bankoff 2003a, 177). According to this perspective, disasters are the result of the arbitrary and capricious forces of nature and the logical response to such threats lies with the scientific prediction of their occurrence and the implementation of technocratic measures to reduce their risks. “Disaster prevention, therefore, is seen as largely a matter of improving scientific prediction, engineering preparedness and the administrative management of hazards” (Bankoff 2001, 24). Much like the complete confidence shown by the government in its adherence to neoliberal economic theory, this articulation of complete confidence in humanly engineered solutions to the problems posed by natural hazards exemplifies modernity (Holden and Norman 2009; Holden 2011).

An essential component of modernity is trust and confidence in experts; “modern life [is] dominated by knowledge and science” (Harvey 1990, 15). “The nature of modern institutions is deeply bound up with the mechanisms of trust in abstract systems, especially trust in expert systems” (Giddens 1990, 83). Under conditions of modernity, the world is bifurcated into two distinct groups: experts and nonexperts (Holden and Norman 2009; Holden 2011). The elite of the experts are scientists; they constitute an expert vanguard offering the stark alternatives of salvation through them or chaos.

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