Infrastructure research might get a “shot in the arm” over the next decade, but perhaps only because of the deleterious effects of political/economic austerity measures. Perhaps we need to start developing more concepts around the topics of decay and decay-remediation over the next few years.
Suzanne Daley and Alison Small report that austerity in Germany has weakened its infrastructure, one of its most important public investments:
Germany was once known for its superfast autobahns, efficient industry and ability to rally public resources for big projects, like integration with the former East Germany. But more recently, it has been forced to confront a somewhat uncharacteristic problem: Its infrastructure — roads, bridges, train tracks, waterways and the like — is aging in a way that experts say could undermine its economic growth for years to come.
In the years to come, as austerity measures reach a fever pitch (in both popularity and critique), we should expect to hear more about the deleterious effects of austerity on infrastructure. Those of you in the “know” already have seen the wave of such discussion. For a merely a smattering of such discussion, consider American Dave Johnson’s blog, Colin Turner’s work on seeing austerity as a “pro-growth” model of governing infrastructure investments, or Mark Gongloff’s Huffington Post piece linking a bridge collapse with austerity measures, though there is much, much, much, more to say.
This should be a recurrent theme in scholarship in STS, although the topic seems only modestly addressed in our professional literature (with a few notable exceptions).