The definition for infrastructure, critical infrastructure or life-critical infrastructure, has changed as technology advances and changes and culture and society evolve. Lately it has included such non-life critical services as banking and all (even luxury) forms of communications, transport, energy and housing. This reflects both an ideological desire to protect property regardless of whether it does good or harm to life, and to defend as useful that which is useless or dangerous, but which one owns, uses and knows. In the sciences this is called an "infrastructure bias".
The expansive definitions and technology and cultural assumptions of what is 'required' to 'survive' are demonstrated by the following excerpts from US official documents:
- The July 15, 1996, Executive Order 13010-Critical Infrastructure Protection set forth a definition for infrastructure:
- "Certain national infrastructures are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense or economic security of the United States. These critical infrastructures include telecommunications, electrical power systems, gas and oil storage and transportation, banking and finance, transportation, water supply systems, emergency services (including medical, police, fire, and rescue), and continuity of government.
- "Threats to these critical infrastructures fall into two categories: physical threats to tangible property ('physical threats'), and threats of electronic, radio-frequency, or computer-based attacks on the information or communications components that control critical infrastructures ('cyber threats'). Because many of these critical infrastructures are owned and operated by the private sector, it is essential that the government and private sector work together to develop a strategy for protecting them and assuring their continued operation."
- In March 1998, a White Paper issued by the William Jefferson Clinton Administration -- White Paper: The Clinton Administration's Policy on Critical Infrastructure Protection: Presidential Decision Directive 63, March 22, 1998 -- the definition is less detailed but includes non-governmental as well as government-owned "systems".
- "Critical infrastructures are those physical and cyber-based systems essential to the minimum operations of the economy and government. They include, but are not limited to, telecommunications, energy, banking and finance, transportation, water systems and emergency services, both government and private."
Aside from definitions such as what it might mean to be "cyber-based" or what are "minimum operations of the economy" (debt collection?) or "government" (blame assignment?), questions arise about what a "private emergency service" might be, or why "food" or "shelter" or "medicine" somehow do not make the "minimum list". It seems as if "critical" does not mean "life-critical".
By contrast, more neutral definitions of infrastructural capital include shelter, clothing, and other goods and assumed support services that might reasonably be in short supply in an emergency, especially if conditions are unexpectedly harsh, e.g. an ice storm, or a biological attack.
Other Related SourceWatch Resources
- Infrastructural capital - Wikipedia