On the rationale of resilience in the domain of safety: A literature review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Resilience is becoming a prevalent agenda in safety research and organisational practice. In this study we examine how the peer-reviewed safety science literature (a) formulates the rationale behind the study of resilience; (b) constructs resilience as a scientific object; and (c) constructs and locates the resilient subject. The results suggest that resilience engineering scholars typically motivate the need for their studies by referring to the inherent complexities of modern socio-technical systems; complexities that make these systems inherently risky. The object of resilience then becomes the capacity to adapt to such emerging risks in order to guarantee the success of the inherently risky system. In the material reviewed, the subject of resilience is typically the individual, either at the sharp end or at higher managerial levels. The individual is called-upon to adapt in the face of risk to secure the continuous performance of the system. Based on the results from how resilience has been introduced in safety sciences we raise three ethical questions for the field to address: (1) should resilience be seen as people thriving despite of, or because of, risk?; (2) should resilience theory form a basis for moral judgement?; and finally (3) how much should resilience be approached as a trait of the individual?


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • High reliability theory, Normal accidents, Accident prevention, Resilience engineering, Resilience
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-141
JournalReliability Engineering & System Safety
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

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