The ebb and flow of power: British flood risk management and the politics of scale

Penning-Rowsell, Edmund C. ORCID logoORCID: and Johnson, Clare L. (2015) The ebb and flow of power: British flood risk management and the politics of scale. Geoforum, 62 . pp. 131-142. ISSN 0016-7185 [Article] (doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.03.019)


This paper examines the rescaling of flood risk management (FRM) in Britain over the past 70+ years. Drawing on recent research in geography and elsewhere – which has engaged the politics of scale literature with the rescaling of water and environmental governance – we seek to illustrate the mis-match between the rescaling of the geographical unit of management and the nexus of power and control of those engaged in FRM. For those seeking positive examples of multi-level decentralised governance in water resource management, where power is shared across the spatial scales, our historical analysis struggles to find evidence. Rather, despite attempts to ‘hollow-out’ the state through the scaling ‘out’ and ‘down’ of FRM responsibilities, our evidence suggests that the control over key decision-making tools, resources and other modalities of power remains in the hands of a few key national-level decision-makers; it is the responsibility that has been decentralised, not least to those at risk of flooding. The application of the politics of scale theorising in a FRM context is innovative and, importantly, our case study demonstrates that such politics does not have to involve open conflict but is much more subtle in its deployment of power.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Flood Hazard Research Centre
Item ID: 16403
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Josie Joyce
Date Deposited: 28 May 2015 11:13
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2021 22:24

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.