Natural disasters are uniquely transformative events. They can drastically transform physical terrain and the lives of those unfortunate enough to be caught in their wrath. However, natural disasters also provide an opportunity to reflect on past failures and, at times, a clean slate to correct those shortcomings. This project takes a political economic approach and recognizes natural disasters as occasions for agenda-setting on behalf of transnational commercial enterprises and market-oriented policy elites. These reformers often use the post-disaster policy space to articulate long-term development strategies based on market fundamentalism, and, more importantly, advance a set of policies consistent with their particular interests. This dissertation delves into that process and identifies the actors, their preferences and the policy outcomes.
Using the business conflict model alongside changing transnational processes, this project identifies and traces post-disaster policy making in the Caribbean Basin. It also explores and provides a more nuanced explanation of its effect upon and within certain socioeconomic groups. What becomes apparent is that natural disasters are opportunities to first fracture national economies and then integrate them into transnational processes of capital accumulation. Given that economic viability is increasingly determined by assimilation into the global production processes, reformers in both developed and developing countries use disasters as occasions for re-orienting national economies towards this end. It is within this distorted integrative process that disaster capitalism is located.