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Responsibility, resilience and symbolic power

King, H. and Crossley, S. and Smith, R. (2021) 'Responsibility, resilience and symbolic power.', Sociological review., 69 (5). pp. 920-936.


The reciprocal nature of the relationship between the concepts of responsibilisation and resilience appears, in policy and political circles at least, almost natural. Whilst both concepts have been subjected to sustained academic critique for their presentation as largely individual or familial qualities, and their negation of social and structural pressures, there has been more limited attention paid to the potential of the concepts if they were put to work in a different way. This article attempts to sketch out ways in which the fundamentally relational aspects of the concepts of responsibility and resilience can be brought to the fore. In doing so, it builds on Rose and Lentzos’s argument that we should perhaps ‘argue not against responsibility and resilience but on the territory of responsibilities and resiliencies’ and sets out the case for engaging with, rather than withdrawing from or resisting discussions of the meanings and uses of these concepts, in tandem. Extending the work of Bourdieu and Wacquant, it argues for the need to turn the lens on the structures and mechanisms of power which promote and maintain inequality and divisive complex social relations, which undermine the possibility of collective ‘resilience’. The article advocates our collective ‘responsibility’ as engaging in processes that challenge and redefine these practices and structures to enable resistance and progressive action.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Bourdieu, collective, individualism, resilience, responsibility, symbolic power, Wacquant
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:25 October 2020
Date deposited:29 October 2021
Date of first online publication:18 January 2021
Date first made open access:29 October 2021

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