Resilience is futile

Winter 2014

This article takes a critical look at the role of resilience in an age of austerity, from the meanings and practices it encompasses for grassroots groups to its rise to prominence across diverse policy fields. It considers Cindi Katz’s theorisation of resilience as a socio-symbolic practice that enables people and communities to fortify themselves, sometimes complementing autonomous acts of resistance. However, it is argued that resilience also represents the latest, least optimistic iteration of the idealised neoliberal citizen as someone who is self-disciplined and self-reliant. In particular, it examines the ways in which resilience may be harmful to progressive political thought and action by encouraging people to tolerate insecurity and inequality, to treat collective struggles as tests of personal character, and to indefinitely postpone more radical demands for change as they settle for self-transformation.

Soundings 58 Dialogue and memory