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Why resilience is unappealing to social science: Theoretical and empirical investigations of the scientific use of resilience

Partners' Institution
Södertörn University
Reference
Why resilience is unappealing to social science: Theoretical and empirical investigations of the scientific use of resilience [WWW Document], n.d. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400217
Thematic Area
Development studies, Environmental studies
Summary
Resilience is often promoted as a boundary concept to integrate the social and natural dimensions of sustainability. However, it is a troubled dialogue from which social scientists may feel detached. To explain this, we first scrutinize the meanings, attributes, and uses of resilience in ecology and elsewhere to construct a typology of definitions. Second, we analyze core concepts and principles in resilience theory that cause disciplinary tensions between the social and natural sciences (system ontology, system boundary, equilibria and thresholds, feedback mechanisms, self-organization, and function). Third, we provide empirical evidence of the asymmetry in the use of resilience theory in ecology and environmental sciences compared to five relevant social science disciplines. Fourth, we contrast the unification ambition in resilience theory with methodological pluralism. Throughout, we develop the argument that incommensurability and unification constrain the interdisciplinary dialogue, whereas pluralism drawing on core social scientific concepts would better facilitate integrated sustainability research.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
While the focus of this article mostly is a critique of resilience approach as a bridge between social and natural sciences, it still contains some important ideas for the discussion of complex systems, particularly when it comes to coupled systems.


The article sets out to show that system ontologies in natural sciences and social sciences are different. Social systems and ecosystems are not compatible, says the authors. While the authors are not fully convincing in this argument, the way the proposes this incompatibility as a problem is still highly interesting and worthwhile pondering in any attempt to set up education or practices on coupled systems.


Further the athours have a similarly interesting discussion on system boundaries,. Their argument is that social and natural sciences thinks differently on system boundaries. The authors provide several examples of problems that are worthwhile to consider.
Point of Strength
The article is very valuable as a source of possible problems that may be encountered when considering coupled systems.