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The World Bank’s Neoliberal Language of Resilience

Risking Capitalism

ISBN: 978-1-78635-236-1, eISBN: 978-1-78635-235-4

ISSN: 0161-7230

Publication date: 19 October 2016


The language of resilience is increasingly used by International organizations that seek to respond to contemporary social, economic, and environmental crises. This paper focuses on the World Bank’s World Development Reports, and its uses of resilience. By deploying a quantitative critical discourse analysis, this paper shows how in the recent years resilience has gained traction within the Bank’s discourse. It further analyses the evolution of the genre, the style, and the ideational content of the Bank’s discourse related to resilience. Resilience is now depicted as something that can be built and not just observed. Furthermore, it is increasingly reified in these reports and ascribed to a whole gamut of entities. The ontological indistinction of resilience reinforces its fit with contemporary neoliberal governance.




This paper is part of a wider research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, to whom I am very grateful (grant Ambizione, no. 148071). Earlier versions of this paper have been presented in various institutions, where I received useful comments from Beatrice Quenault, Liliana Andonova, Lucile Maertens, Dominique Pestre, Valérie Boisvert, and Raphaël Mathevet, as well as two anonymous reviewers. I am thankful to them, and, of course, they bear no responsibility for the content of the paper.


Felli, R. (2016), "The World Bank’s Neoliberal Language of Resilience", Risking Capitalism (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 267-295.



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