Cultures of Resilience and the politics of resilience


understood as shared beliefs and behaviours


understood as adaptability, flexibility, learning, agility and resourcefulness


understood as people who try to influence the way a country is governed


based on the belief that our best interests are being served

At the beginning of the 21st century, trust, resilience and politics have broken down in society. Under the radar, however, a new organizing principle is emerging, based on territory (place), connectivity (connection), agency (participation). Emerging Cultures of Resilience rooted in place, in creativity and in connectivity, point towards a new socio-techno-economic system fit for the 21st century. This emerging future, however, is not mirrored in our 20th century politics and its political parties. This begs the question does the old way of doing politics fit or do we need a new type of politics to engage productively with the future? To put it differently: Do we need a politics of resilience?

Such an idea is not easy! Powerful and entrenched forces, based on neoliberal monetary and market capitalism, can hinder such a transition. As yet there is little or no political voice to announce and represent the opportunities inherent in the social innovation of emerging local physical networks, at the national or European level. No representation of the social, economic and ecological benefits based on decentralized, distributed, networked and resilient local and connected communities. Despite this, a new meta-narrative is emerging for the 21st century, one based not on scarcity but abundance.

At the center of this meta-narrative is us, humans. Humans are unique in that they have the capacity to imagine, to tell stories, to create, to be flexible and to adapt. Some species have some of these but not all of them. If, through cultures of resilience, we are able to liberate these unique capacities then we can imagine, for the first time in our history, living not in a state of scarcity but in a state of abundance: abundance, not of stuff, but of those very qualities that make us uniquely human. Resilient systems have the potential to liberate these intangible qualities, qualities, furthermore, that are not perishable but that multiply by usage both personally and collectively. More is more not less is more!

So, do we rely on a tipping point, on the contamination of this new virus and its resilience to resist the establishment’s antibodies, or, do we also debate and consider a new politics fit for purpose? Do we need to start a conversation around the Cultures of Resilience and the Politics of Resilience? Do we start imagining, within the Cultures of Resilience, the kind of politics and political system we need to reflect this emerging future and help make it happen?


Firstly identify the questions, for example:

What is politics beyond pyramids and hierarchies? What could be the politics of abundance as opposed to the politics of scarcity? Can we imagine a connected, networked, fluid politics? How could a new politics reflect and nurture resilient systems? How can we make our politics resilient and relevant to the 21st century? As input both for framing the questions and for the discussion, I suggest some triggers based on Ezio Manzini’s working document, Annex 1, Communities (in a highly connected world), exploring six different expressions of contemporary communities. For example:

  1. Contemporary communities are multiple, non- exclusive and those who participate in such communities are not looking for a ready-made solution or identity.
  2. Social networks can be more or less embedded in the place where their members live and act. The search for improved resilience in socio-technical systems and in the quality of interactions, highlight the importance of positive relationships between people, their communities and the places where they live. Such relationships, however, are becoming fluid and open in the 21st century.
  3. Contemporary communities are not to be seen as structured organizations, but as spaces of possibilities: networks of people and places offering opportunities for expressing ideas and solving problems. Ideas, services, collaborations can be evaluated from the community members’ point of view related to time, attention, skills and long-term commitment.
  4. Contemporary communities are person-to-person interactions, whatever the shared results may be these encounters generate relational values between the participants such as trust, empathy and friendliness that in turn generate social commons, creating a virtuous circle: person to person generates relational values that, in turn, produce social commons, which by its process is exponential.
  5. Given that a community is a space of possibilities (and not an organization), it cannot be designed and realized as a single entity.
  6. Building a resilient community means increasing diversity, redundancy and ability to learn from experience. This can be done by supporting collaboration between different people, valorizing these diversities and increasing conditions for an inclusive social cohesion.

Ezio Manzini points out contemporary societies are fragile, one reason being the absence of communities in place: networks of people capable of recovering from unforeseen setbacks, that can adapt to change and learn from experience… networks of people capable of behaving as resilient systems. I would add that such fragility is also a consequence of a defunct political system. Social innovation demands political innovation.

And perhaps the timing is now right. The International Monetary Fund, has recently put out a landmark publication containing an essay entitled Neoliberalism: Oversold? written by three of its top economists. Commenting on this publication, Aditya Chakraborrty wrote in the Guardian on May 31st, “we’re watching the death of neoliberalism from within. It is the very technocrats in charge of the system who are slowly, reluctantly admitting that it is bust.” There is hope.