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Making sense of contemporary disasters: a liquid development perspective

Stephanie Perkiss (School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia)
Karen Handley (Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 12 September 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore economic conditions of contemporary society to provide insight into the ways in which the consequences of disaster, including environmental migration, are accentuated.


This research draws on Zygmunt Bauman’s theory of liquid modernity and notions of development to analyse disaster. From the analysis, a new concept, liquid development, is proposed and critiqued as a contributing factor leading to severe contemporary disaster.


Liquid development provides a new way of making sense of the conditions and consequences of economic growth and a business as usual attitude. It further provides a framework to explore the potential disaster of environmental migration in the Pacific Islands arising from liquid development driven climate change-induced sea level rise.

Research limitations/implications

Analysing these conditions provides greater understanding of the resulting impact of disaster, creating awareness and informing the need for accountability and social policy. This study aims to contribute to further practical and research enquiry that will challenge liquid developers to reconsider their impact and to accept responsibility for vulnerable members of society as part of their business as usual structure.


This paper adds to Bauman’s understanding of the consequences of globalisation through the construct of liquid development. It also continues his debate by giving awareness to the global issue of environmental migration.



The authors would like to thank Professor Ed Arrington and Associate Professor Lee Moerman.


Perkiss, S. and Handley, K. (2017), "Making sense of contemporary disasters: a liquid development perspective", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 37 No. 9/10, pp. 515-535.



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