The Concept of Resilience from a Normative Perspective: Examples from Dutch Adaptation Strategies


"Both in academic literature and political practice, resilience is becoming a central evaluative concept for assessing climate adaptation policies. This makes sense because societys main challenge in an altering the environment is to adapt to the inevitable changes. However, applying the concept of resilience to devise adaptation strategies reveals that social-ecological resilience acquires different meanings depending on the social context. There is no straightforward application of resilience. In this contribution, it will be argued that giving meaning to the concept of resilience in adaptation strategies requires making normative choices. These choices concern whether there is a public interest in adaptation, the distribution of private and public responsibilities, and striking a balance between individual rights and general interests. Because these normative choices can be questioned and revised, it is important that they are made explicit to enable a democratic debate on the direction that adaptation strategies should take. Simply referring to the concept of resilience in an adaptation strategy does not suffice, but occludes this discussion. Through formulating and applying a condensed scheme of politico-theoretical approaches that underpin diverging adaptation approaches, this contribution reveals the various underlying normative assumptions and explicates the relevant political choices. Three Dutch adaptation strategies serve as empirical examples. They illustrate the importance of the societal context in giving meaning to resilience in the development of adaptation strategies."



political theory, public policy