The Multiple Meanings of ‘Resilience’: An Overview of the Literature

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Abstract

‘resilience is in danger of becoming a vacuous buzzword from overuse and ambiguity’ (Rose 2007: 384)

Resilience’ is widely used in public policy debate in Australia in contexts as diverse as drought policy, mental fitness in the Australian Defence Force, and in discussion around the Australian economy's performance during the global financial crisis. The following paper provides an overview of the use of the term ‘resilience’ in the academic literature in both the natural and social sciences. The key conclusion from this research is that the term is highly ambiguous, it is used for different purposes in different contexts and in some cases the understandings of the term are diametrically opposed. The malleability of the term suggests that it might be politically risky if employed in policy debate unless clearly defined in each instance.

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