The concept of resilience in recent sustainability research

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


The concept of resilience gained increased attention in sustainability science, with a notable spike from 2014 onwards. However, resilience is a multifaceted concept with no unanimous definition, making applications in the context of sustainability, a similarly multifarious term, a challenge. Here, we examine the use of resilience in well-cited sustainability literature in the period from 2014 to 2018. Based on our analysis, resilience as a concept proves its analytical strength through a diverse set of frameworks, indicators, and models, while its usefulness as boundary object is less clear. Most of the examined publications do not cite one of the well-established resilience definitions as a conceptual basis. The normativity of resilience is often implicit and rarely critically questioned, and strong participatory approaches are lacking. A multivariate statistical full-text bibliographic analysis of 112 publications reveals four distinct research clusters with partial conceptual proximity but hardly any overlap. While the majority of publications consider human well-being as an integral factor in their research, some research marginalizes this concept. Resilience to climate change dominates the discourse in the literature investigated, which signifies a need to broaden research efforts to other equally pressing—but in terms of the concept, widely neglected—sustainability challenges.

ZeitschriftSustainability (Switzerland)
Seiten (von - bis)1-21
Anzahl der Seiten21
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.03.2021