Resilience has surged to the forefront of conversations in the increasingly intertwined development and adaptation communities of practice. However, their use of this concept lacks an implementable vision of the connection between resilience and the sorts of transformations that are central to their goals. Instead, these communities implicitly privilege stability and persistence, a framing that neither represents the current state of resilience thinking in the literature, nor addresses the substantial body of critique concerned with the lack of attention to agency, power, and difference in resilient systems. In this paper, I argue that this state of affairs is a symptom of an approach to transformation in practice that lacks an explicit theorization of agency, power, and difference in socio-ecological resilience. To address this issue, I offer one such theorization, framing resilience as the outcome of context-specific socio-ecological projects manifest in livelihoods and aimed at achieving safety and stability for the widest number of people. By employing the Livelihoods as Intimate Government approach, which makes power relations, social difference, and agency central to explanations of observed livelihoods decisions and outcomes, this theorization identifies dynamics of socio-ecological resilience distinct from those of purely ecological resilience. I illustrate these distinctions through various cases in the literature, including studies of development projects, agrarian livelihoods, and socio-ecological system dynamics, and from these illustrations suggest larger lessons about socio-ecological resilience. Among these lessons is a clear message for the development and adaptation communities of practice: the path to the transformative goals of these communities lies in a focus on alleviating shocks and stresses on socio-ecological projects, as opposed to merely addressing their material outcomes.
Carr, Edward R. (2019). World Development 122: 70-84
Properties and Projects: Reframing Resilience for Adaptation and Development