What are examples of cities/societies picking themselves up?
September 22, 2010 3:27 PM   Subscribe

What are specific examples of societies/cities/etc. going through a rough period and then emerging due to certain policies/practices being put into place?

No specific time or place, I'm just interested in how places generally emerge from difficult times.
posted by Echobelly to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This recent episode of This American Life talked about a couple of things like that, but specifically how Barbados is succeeding and Jamaica is not.
posted by Madamina at 3:32 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

How about Japan's Emperor's post-WW2 Rescript Denying His Divinity? (Just as one specific policy shift/change within a larger national regrouping. Establishing democracy being another big one from that place and period, of course.)
posted by carsonb at 3:38 PM on September 22, 2010

Urban planning and services during Jaime Lerner's period as mayor of Curitiba was mentioned to me in this context, though it's still on my to-research list so I'm suggesting it with the caveat that I don't have the full picture.
posted by carbide at 3:50 PM on September 22, 2010

Well, I suppose Rwanda is one example. They had a horrible genocide and now are okay-ish, in large part because of some (oppressive) policies put in place by president Paul Kagame. (Vast oversimplification of a very complicated situation.)
posted by bluedaisy at 4:00 PM on September 22, 2010

In 1890 the LDS church adopted a policy of monogamy, reducing the prevailing and historically mounting anti-Mormon sentiment, and paving the way for Utah to become the 45th US state in 1896.
posted by found missing at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2010

If you're looking for an economic example, consider the 1992 economic crisis in Sweden:

After deregulation and credit expansion created a massive real estate bubble in the '80s, the party came to a halting end in the early 1990s, and unemployment quadrupled. Instead of bailing out insolvent banks, the Swedish government implemented deposit insurance and effectively nationalized failed banks, wiping out equity holders. By 1993, the crisis was over and growth returned. Contrast these moves with the approach of Japan and it's zombie banks, which faced similar circumstances, and in retrospect it's arguable that Sweden took the right approach.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think an excellent example of that is all the financial reforms that Thatcher made in the UK in the 1980's. Things like divesting a lot of companies which the government had previously owned and operated.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:28 PM on September 22, 2010

There's a section in Collapse where Jared Diamond covers a few cases like this; the one that I always remember is the Tokugawa-era Japan forest management policies that turned around widespread deforestation and the problems that came with it (like forest fires, floods, etc.).
posted by sigmagalator at 6:53 PM on September 22, 2010

The Byzantine Empire has two interesting eras like this.

The first is after the capture of Syria, Egypt, and Northern Africa by the Arabs in the 600s AD. The Empire was forced to completely reorganize its military structure into the theme system to provide for a common defense of the empire from what would be constant pressure from the Caliphate. That provided a template for stability for the next 400 years.

The next is the late 11th century/12th century with the loss of Asia Minor to the Turks and subsequent recovery. The Emperor Alexius Comnenus had to completely reform the system of raising armies, given that the theme system had completely collapsed and the currency had to be stabilized, along with engaging in a bunch of military alliances and diplomacy to save the empire.
posted by deanc at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2010

New York City's emergence from the awful 70s and 80s is a good example. White flight to the suburbs and poor fiscal management by several city administrations resulted in scenes like this through much of that time period. Emergency funding from the federal government, combined with belt-tightening and new methods of policing the city helped turn things around. Neighborhoods eventually became gentrified, increasing the tax base enough to further improve the situation. This, of course, is a very abbreviated history, but today NYC is among America's safest large cities.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:37 PM on September 22, 2010


There was a total collapse of anything that might meaningfully be called civil society under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. From the late 70s to the early 90s there was a partial restoration of civil society under Vietnamese military occupation and puppet governance, but ongoing civil war, repressive political policies, and local hatred of the occupying forces minimized the benefits of that. The UNTAC occupation in the early 90s, the repatriation and resettlement of refugees, and elections in 94 restored a further measure of civil society, but again civil war continued to undermine a full recovery. Government peace settlements and amnesty deals with the Khmer Rouge, and the international community's decision to act effectively in cutting arms supply to them, got things back to almost par for a developing nation by the late 90s.

Which is not to suggest that everything was/is rosy. The government elected in 94 never got to hold office in it's own right, there was a coup in 97, there was a widespread lack of basic civil order between 95 and 99, subsequent elections haven't exactly been free and fair, much of the land granted under resettlement programs has been stolen by government cronies, the place is still horribly poor.

But they're certainly back on some kind of track. Most of the country is reasonably safe. Transport and communications infrastructure exists again. Crops are grown and traded internally. Urban commerce is back on it's feet. Tourism thrives.
posted by Ahab at 8:32 PM on September 22, 2010

How about the American Civil War? seems like that fits your description perfectly.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:23 PM on September 23, 2010

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