Resilience and Complexity: Conjoining the Discourses of Two Contested Concepts


  • Rasmus Dahlberg Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (COPE), Copenhagen University, Denmark



Resilience, robustness, complexity, emergency management, Cynefin Framework.


This paper explores two key concepts: resilience and complexity. The first is understood as an emergent property of the latter, and their inter-relatedness is discussed using a three tier approach. First, by exploring the discourse of each concept, next, by analyzing underlying relationships and, finally, by presenting the Cynefin Framework for Sense-Making as a tool of explicatory potential that has already shown its usefulness in several contexts. I further emphasize linking the two concepts into a common and, hopefully, useful concept. Furthermore, I argue that a resilient system is not merely robust. Robustness is a property of simple or complicated systems characterized by predictable behavior, enabling the system to bounce back to its normal state following a perturbation. Resilience, however, is an emergent property of complex adaptive systems. It is suggested that this distinction is important when designing and managing socio-technological and socio-economic systems with the ability to recover from sudden impact.


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How to Cite

Dahlberg, R. (2015) “Resilience and Complexity: Conjoining the Discourses of Two Contested Concepts”, Culture Unbound, 7(3), pp. 541–557. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1572541.



Theme: Cultures of Disasters