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Resilience revisited: taking institutional theory seriously

Martin Sjöstedt, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg


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Resilience thinking has in recent decades emerged as a key perspective within research and policy focusing on sustainable development and the global environmental challenges of today. Originating from ecology, the concept has gained a reputation far beyond its original disciplinary borders and now plays a key role in the study and practice of environmental governance in general. Although I fully support the interdisciplinary ambitions of resilience thinking, I argue that if the resulting scholarly insights and policy advice are to be of any true added value, resilience thinking should take existing social scientific advances more seriously. In particular, I argue that resilience thinking does not give sufficient recognition to the already existing accounts of, for example, institutional change trajectories, the dynamics of path dependence, the distributional character of institutions, or the fundamental political determinants and drivers of institutional design and diversity. A resilience theory truly recognizing social scientific advances in these areas, however, has substantial chances of truly furthering our understanding of and practical abilities in facing the fundamental environmental challenges of today.

Key words

institutional change; institutions; resilience

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087