Biennial Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS)

Biennial Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS)

8 October 2014

Resilience is not only a matter of interest for the European Community, but also for German sociology: At the Biennial Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS) in October 8th 2014 in Trier, an ad-hoc panel entitled “sociological perspectives on poverty and resilience” took place, organised by Lars Meier, Markus Promberger (both IAB), Heike Solga, WZB; Peter Ester, University of Rotterdam. Introductory speeches by Lars Meier and Markus Promberger from the German RESCuE team were followed by:

  • Resilience: a critical discussion of an emergent concept in social sciences, by Pedro Estevão, Alexandre Calado and Luís Capucha, all from the Portuguese RESCuE partner ISCTE-IUL
  • The Emergence of Resilience in Disaster Research, by Daniel F. Lorenz (Free University Berlin)
  • Longitudinal and biographical aspects of resilience, by Jane Gray and Jenny Dagg from the Irish RESCuE team at NUIM
  • Rules to get out of this place. Zur historischen Gesetzmäßigkeit von Deklassierung und sozialer Rehabilitation, by Martin Koch (University of Hannover)
  • Resilience in Spain and Latin America: contexts of use and professional appropriation, by Juan Carlos Revilla from Universidad Complutense Madrid, the Spanish RESCuE partner.

Highlights included debates on a sociological concept of resilience, understood as:

  • Postheroic and open for unintended and even counterproductive consequences at societal level
  • Socially oriented but still sensitive to a residual individual contribution
  • Longitudinal in a sense of understanding resilience as a process of formation and adaption where the social comes in both at the individual process of resilience formation and at the adaption to presently adverse living conditions.

It was also argued that the concept of resilience could fall into a set of traps, which could be naturalistic, constructivist, holistic or individualistic in nature. Resilience in a sociological sense cannot be reduced to ‘natural’ properties of the individual; rather than being understood as a social construction, it is more a way of acting (a social practice), in interaction with material and cultural environments. It can also be understood as something special, doing better than others under the same conditions, thus becoming a special property and relational category not everybody will be able to acquire. Therefore, it should also reject neoliberal approaches that blame vulnerable households for not being resilient.