Martin-Breen, P., & Anderies, J. M. (2011). Resilience: A Literature Review.

Resilience of what, to what? And, resilience for whom?

These are the key questions that must be asked before the notion of resilience theory and its application to complex adaptive systems makes any sense.

Resilience can be good. It can allow for adaptation, innovation, progress. It can also be bad. Take the case of poverty reduction in international development policy. Poverty is pervasive, and systemic. It could be considered resilient to change. In this sense, resilience is not a good thing.

The authors of this review have provided a very substantial and useful overview of resilience theory literature. Though at times the article seems to have an unclear direction – a mash of what the literature says without a strategic focus – it does provide a good go-to resource, sort of like a Cole’s Notes on resilience. As a reference document, it will come in handy.

An interesting point made in the article was about scale (spatial and temporal) in resilience. Scale is a critical issue, and terms like vulnerability and adaptation, and adaptive capacity, transformability or robustness have been used to describe different spatial scales in resilience.  At a smaller scale (scale of vulnerability and adaptation – household, individual),  those in poverty have been characterized as both more resilience and more vulnerable than those not in poverty – those in poverty could be more resilient to certain adversities (economic, medical, psychiatric) than those in other economic brackets. But, those in poverty may be less resilience, and thus more vulnerable, to certain adversities associated with their environment, as their environment presents them with more risks and lacks many of the services available to higher income levels (14).

Perhaps this is a crude gauge in which to assess a situation as dire as absolute poverty, but it is illustrative of the importance of scale in discussions on resilience.

A strong aspect of this review are the definitions provided throughout of critical terms used within resilience theory. This will be useful for when I work through my own review.

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