Today, resilience is used in many societal contexts for understanding how things respond to risks and for improving their performance in this regard, having also become a prominent approach for adapting to climate change. Yet, despite the broad appeal of resilience and resilience-based approaches within and outside academia, there are persisting puzzles about how to interpret resilience, its relation to competing concepts and approaches, or its desirability. Some proponents of resilience advise caution with the normative use of the term, noting that resilience is a purely descriptive and ambivalent quality, which can be good in some circumstances but not in others. Critics have also noted that resilience approaches can be technocratic and that they tend to conceal the needs and vulnerabilities of the poor.
These examples demonstrate the need for reflecting on the status and significance of a term that is so widely used in academia and across the science-policy divide, but whose meaning and value are so fiercely disputed. Given that resilience is already informing many large-scale and significant societal efforts, they also raise the need to ask under which conditions such efforts could be just.
This work uses philosophical perspectives from ethics, metaethics and justice theory for revisiting recent debates on the meaning and normative status of this concept, with special emphasis on understanding the normative guidance that diverse interpretations of resilience can offer and disclosing the implications that this may have for achieving justice in and through resilience-based interventions.
- climate adaptation