Managing in disorderly times: how cities deal with disaster and restore social order

Noordegraaf, Mirko and Newman, Janet (2011). Managing in disorderly times: how cities deal with disaster and restore social order. Public Management Review, 13(4) pp. 513–538.



The management of cities has to address new risks, insecurities and emergencies. In this article we analyse the management of the aftermath of two crises – a tornado that hit a part of Birmingham in the UK, and a fireworks explosion that hit a part of the city of Enschede in The Netherlands – in order to understand how local institutions and communities deal with (sudden) disorder and how they restore social order. We do not see this as ‘crisis management’, however, as the management of disorder and renewal will be related to the capacity of public management in everyday and orderly circumstances. Cities have to manage dispersed public and private acts, and these may be the sources of both problems and solutions in the face of disorder, depending on how they are inflected. We therefore wonder whether and how cities help constitute public spaces through which publics can be effectively engaged in the process of restoration and renewal. Managerial templates must be made meaningful not only after, but also before, emergencies. This can be done, the case studies show, by investing in local cultures, and by using ‘political’ intermediaries.

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