Resilience: paradoxical insight or conceptual poverty?

Colin R. Martin (Faculty of Society and Health, Buckinghamshire New University, Uxbridge, UK)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Publication date: 10 August 2015



This paper aims to look at some of the evidence that supports the construct of resilience and the operationalisation of the “phenomena” of resilience within contemporary society. The concept of resilience has become an influential and society-wide construct, embraced by the positive psychology movement and impacting on educational, health and social policy significantly and demonstrably. Importantly, the concept of resilience has a substantial historical heritage and legacy and the permeation of the construct within the collective social consciousness is rarely considered or queried, but generally accepted and embraced. Moreover, the construct of resilience within itself is invariably couched within contemporary discourse as a universal good and highly desirable attribute and further still, considered by many as a fundamental component contributing to the fabric of an individual’s character.


The design of this paper is a short review of selective evidence of key conceptual issues.


Resilience as a concept, is defuse, generally ill-defined and highly subjective. The concept of resilience, though popular and intrinsic to a number of aspects of public and educational policy, remains controversial, provides an explanatory account of differential outcomes which may not always be positive and, importantly, may potentially disenfranchise the individual.


The synthesis of the brief and selective appraisal of evidence in this area suggests that the concept of resilience, if it exists at all, is highly mercurial, ambiguous in definition and despite its omnipresence as a representation of a positive and internalised attribution to the individual, has a significant negative side which is seldom considered. Querying the concept of resilience against the overwhelming backdrop of positive belief and opinion regarding the concept may represent a social heresy, however, the balance of evidence would suggest a debate about the concept is long overdue and, moreover, the concept itself provides a useful fulcrum to consider where beliefs, attitudes and opinions about abstract concepts stop and science, evidence and fact-based reflection begin.



Martin, C.R. (2015), "Resilience: paradoxical insight or conceptual poverty?", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 117-121.

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