Project 3 “Theory of Resilience”

The project’s objective is the development of a sociological theory and sociology of knowledge on resilience. For this purpose two partial studies are conducted.

The first partial study deals with the analysis of “resilience as a theoretical perspective on social processes”. The focus will be on the following questions: What does resilience mean from a sociological perspective? What role do processes of social and communicative construction as well as interpretation processes play? How can resilience be theoretically grasped as a process in regard to multi-level dynamics? And how can the relationship between continuity and discontinuity, as well as the question of determining the limits of resilient entities, be analyzed? Furthermore, the topics of resilience and its relation to the analytical perspectives of the research group (i.e. socio-political, socio-economic, socio-cultural), the epoch-spanning empirical testing of the concepts and the potential unintended consequences of resilience will be addressed.

In the second partial study, the empirically guided sociological theoretical work is accompanied by a separate knowledge-sociological analysis of the use of “resilience as a concept of societal self-observation”. In this investigation, scientific, practical-professional and political uses are observed and it will be analyzed which respective meanings of resilience can be identified in each case and what implications they entail. By incorporating the concept of “resilience” into sociology we expect important insights with respect to conceptual extensions of the interdisciplinary research on resilience, as well as in the further expansion of the theory of social processes. Further benefits are anticipated from the comparatively oriented analysis, which includes late medieval and contemporary empirical material and deals with disruptive social upheavals and the societal handling and interpretation of these upheavals.

The project is designed for two funding periods. During the first funding period, partial study 1 will investigate questions concerning the relationship of the concepts resilience and vulnerability and will analyze the role of subjective interpretations of disruptive events, vulnerabilities and resilience. Furthermore, some first typologies of resilience processes, strategies, dispositions and resources will be developed, as well as a heuristic of the concept of “transformative auto-genesis” as the nucleus of a sociological process theory of resilience. During the first funding period the initial aim of partial study 2 is to map the overall empirical usage of the term resilience and investigate in which fields it is used. We will focus especially on the fields of ecology, development cooperation and psychology (respectively, therapeutic contexts) and will analyze, at which points in time, in context of what events and by what agents the term is used.