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The Disastrous and Politically Debased Subject of Resilience

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In recent years development and security have come to be conceived in the words of the former British Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn, as something of a ‘shared challenge’. Development is said to make ‘a critical contribution to global security by reducing poverty, inequality and the root causes of conflict’ while ‘global prosperity, everyone’s prosperity, depends on security against threats to human development’. ‘The truth is’, as Benn declared in a now classic speech, that ‘development without security is not possible; security without development is only temporary’. At least three different axioms can be found embedded in Benn’s formulation of the interrelation between development and security; what is now referred to in International Relations as the ‘development-security nexus’. Firstly, the development of the developing world is now said to depend on its security; security is conceived as a prerequisite of development. Secondly, development of the developing world is conceptualised itself as a means towards the security of developing societies; security conceived also, therefore, as the end towards which development is aimed. And thirdly no security of the developed world is said to be possible without increasing the development of undeveloped states and societies; thus the ultimate subject of both development and security is not the developing world at all, but the developed. This trinity of axioms underlies not just British development policy, but those of most western national governments as well as international organizations concerned with development, significantly the United Nations, as well as a wide range of NGOs, and their academic proxies. […] While the development-security nexus would appear to be becoming only more tightly woven in international relations, semantic shifts in the conceptualisation of both development and security are occurring. Demands for development are increasingly tied not simply to demands for ‘security’ but to a discursively new object of ‘resilience’.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs series.

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