The neoliberal policies of resilience

Economic conditions are constantly changing. Today, our generation is confronted with the outcomes of contemporary globalization that is a broader, complex, and multifaceted process characterized by new markets, new actors and new rules. Indeed, globalization has produced many changes in our economy, society, culture, and politics. As a result, deep pressures to conform to new standards of behavior, such as efficiency and competitive performance, have forced individuals and communities not only to rethink values and practices but also to rebalance tradition and change.

In the scenario of globalized markets, individuals and communities face many challenges to be resilient because of the changes in markets, wealth and power. Throughout the last forty years, most governments around the world supported the long-run process of neo-liberal reforms that turned out to be characterized by the financialisation of the capitalist economy. By negatively influencing labor and working conditions, it rendered increasingly difficult to reach (or even approach) the level of full employment. In this setting, changes in corporate ownership, through waves of mergers and acquisitions, created new business models where companies, while highly powerful and concentrated, turned out to be simply bundles of financial assets and liabilities to be traded (Madi, 2017).

Considering the labour markets, employability seems to be shaped by private strategies that aim cost reductions, labour flexibility and efficiency targets. Longer working hours, job destruction, turnover, outsourcing, workforce displacement and loss of rights have also been part of the spectrum of management alternatives aimed at cost reduction. Indeed, the current dynamics of labour markets favoured the vulnerability of workers, mainly young people, and precarious jobs. Therefore, job instability and fragile conditions of social protection turned out to put pressure on the redefinition of survival strategies. As a result workers turned out to redefine their skills, become informal entrepreneurs or migrate, among other examples of the current worldwide changes in their livelihoods.

In this setting, current neoliberal policies of resilience have been increasingly prevalent in current economic thinking and policies. The policy recommendations seek to foster the capacity of individuals and communities to cope with market uncertainties. BRASSET and HOLMES (2016) present a literature review on the neoliberal (and managerial) policies of resilience, characterized as a set of governance techniques aimed to manage uncertainty and achieve the adaptation of individuals and communities to global changes.  Considering the labour markets, for example, the neoliberal policies of resilience have turned out to enhance the workers´ adaptation to the “market discipline” and, therefore, there has been a re-distribution of the responsibilities for social adjustment among the state, business men, investors and workers. As a consequence, the evolution of unemployment results from the “unsuitable” or “inappropriate” behavior of workers to face a changing real-world.

As a matter of fact, in the frame of the neoliberal policies of resilience, human life turns out to be focused on the attempt to face exogenous uncertainties and risks in order to foster adaptive strategies. In short, the sole purpose of resilient individuals and communities seems to be survivability.

Indeed, in the light of current  global social and political challenges.  the spread of the  discourse of resilience calls for a critical thinking on the failures of economic thinking and economic policies.


BRASSET, J and HOLMES, C. (2016)  “Building Resilient Finance? Uncertainty, complexity, and resistance”, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 18(2): 370–388.

MADI, M.A.C. (2017) Pluralist Readings in Economics: key-concepts and policy-tools for the 21st century, Book Series: Economics: Current and Future Developments.Volume 2.  Bentham Publishers

1 comment
  1. My great wish is that economists receive an interdisciplinary education (what used to be called a “classical” education). That might go a long way in ending such creations as neoliberal economic theory, a purely destructive force aimed directly at the viability and durability of human societies and cultures. Human culture is the source of human morality. And human morality is the basis of group cohesion. And group cohesion is the basis for the survivability of human society and culture, particularly in the long-term. Group cohesion is complex and difficult to explain. Many sociologists and anthropologists disagree about several aspects of it. But in general, this is the consensus of sociologists and anthropologists currently. Cohesion is the tendency for a group to be in unity while working towards a goal(s) or to satisfy the emotional needs of its members. Important aspects of cohesiveness are multidimensionality, dynamic, instrumental, and emotional satisfaction. Cohesion is based on many factors (economic included but not exclusive) (multidimensional). Cohesion evolves over time in its strength and form from the time a group is formed to when a group is disbanded (dynamic). Human groups cohere to achieve implicit and explicit purpose(s), both to satisfy specific member needs and to achieve a certain task of work (instrumental). Group cohesion is pleasing and/or comforting to group members (emotional satisfaction). Neoliberal theory and particularly the application of that theory attacks all these aspects of cohesion directly by interfering with their functioning and indirectly by denying and attacking the importance of group cohesion in total and each of its aspects. This is literally insane as the practice of neoliberalism works to destroy the foundations of its own existence. I think that destruction is clear to even the most ardent supporter of neoliberalism today. Although there seems little appetite among any of these supporters to make any changes to prevent it. Oh well, perhaps the species that replaces humans will do better with their time on the planet.

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