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The Biopolitics of Resilience

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This thesis analyses resilience as a value which constitutes a telos for contemporary liberal security initiatives. In recent years, resilience strategies have been increasingly employed within liberal states a means of responding to the radical contingency of threat. Rather than seeking to protect a referent through prophylactic measures, resilience strategies aim to optimize the capacity of complex systems to rapidly adapt to, and evolve through, crises.
The advent of resilience strategies is premised upon a radical re-evaluation of the referents of security as complex systems. The discovery of the natural resilience of systems integral to liberal life has enabled strategies of emergency governance seeking to harness these processes, and optimize their conditions of ‘freedom’. By naturalising resilience these accounts serve to render its value self-evident. This thesis problematises these accounts by offering a biopolitical genealogy directed at elucidating the historical conditions of possibility for resilience to emerge as a security value.
This thesis takes as its empirical referent the case of the historical evolution of a British machinery of governance for responding to emergencies. Analysis makes explicit distinct, and indeed rival, rationalities of governance which can be read from its evolving design. Resilience is demonstrated to be an expression of an emergent neoliberal order of governance. Applying a biopolitical security analytic inspired by Foucault, this genealogy traces the historical consolidation of this order in respect of transformations in the regime of power/knowledge enacted by apparatus of security.
A biopolitical genealogy demonstrates that resilience is the correlate of a broader restructuring of the rationalities and practices comprising liberal security governance. By drawing attention to the complex historical processes and significant governmental efforts required to make resilience possible this thesis aims to open up a space through which the value of resilience may be more critically interrogated.


(2012). The Biopolitics of Resilience


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