Antibiotic resistance is one of the few examples of evolution that can be addressed experimentally. The present review analyses this resistance, focusing on the networks that regulate its acquisition and its effect on bacterial physiology. It is widely accepted that antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes play fundamental ecological roles – as weapons and shields, respectively – in shaping the structures of microbial communities. Although this Darwinian view of the role of antibiotics is still valid, recent work indicates that antibiotics and resistance mechanisms may play other ecological roles and strongly influence bacterial physiology. The expression of antibiotic resistance determinants must therefore be tightly regulated and their activity forms part of global metabolic networks. In addition, certain bacterial modes of life can trigger transient phenotypic antibiotic resistance under some circumstances. Understanding resistance thus requires the analysis of the regulatory networks controlling bacterial evolvability, the physiological webs affected and the metabolic rewiring it incurs.