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Coronavirus and the End of Resilience

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25.03.2020

Resilience appears to be the key policy buzzword of our times. International organizations, as diverse as the United Nations and the European Union, have now adopted resilience strategies across various policy areas – highlighted by the UN’s risk and resilience framework for its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2017), the EU Action Plan for Resilience (European Commission, 2013), the European Union Global Strategy (EU, 2016) and other policy documents. This short piece argues that global responses to the Coronavirus appear to demonstrate that policy discourses of resilience may be one (so far, unremarked) casualty of the Coronavirus outbreak. ‘Keeping Calm and Carrying On’ is not an option. Acting normally, not panicking, not overreacting, is seen as dangerous and hubristic (Taleb et al, 2020). Being resilient will make the problems worse. Being resilient will make the virus spread. Better to close, to cancel, to restrict now, rather than to regret later.

Extreme measures and state of emergency powers are being rolled out across the board (Mudde, 2020). Of course, it may be argued that resilience comes in more sophisticated versions; it is not necessarily just a matter merely of drawing upon inner resources, strength and courage, to cope with whatever travails life throws at us. Resilience can be framed as reactive, not merely as a response of denial and passively coping with adversity. Nowadays, reactive resilience approaches are often associated with uncertainty and the management of risk in a world increasingly understood to be complex, relational and beyond the capacities of ‘top-down’ command and control (Grove, 2018; Chandler, 2014).

As a policy discourse in disaster management, security, or........

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