Original Paper

Natural Hazards

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 7-24

First online:

The diversity of resilience: contributions from a social science perspective

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The paper presents contributions to the widespread resilience paradigm from a social science perspective. Certain aspects of social systems, especially their symbolic dimension of meaning, need to be taken into account in the endeavor to research coupled social–ecological systems. Due to the symbolic dimension, disasters are defined as the failure of future expectations, and social resilience is defined as the social system property of avoiding or withstanding disasters. In relation to this, three capacities of social systems (adaptive, coping, and participative) that constitute resilience are presented. The adaptive capacity is the property of a system in which structures are modified to prevent future disasters, whereas the coping capacity is the system’s property of coping with calamitous processes that occurred in the past. The participative capacity is a measure of the system’s ability to change its own structures with regard to interventions by other systems, decreasing the system’s resilience. The concept of resilience provides important epistemological and political insights and can help overcome an orientation tied together with the concept of vulnerability that blocks social capacities for the mitigation of disasters.


Social resilience Vulnerability Adaptive capacity Coping Participative capacity