MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Interrogating the Neoliberal Biopolitics of the Sustainable Development‐Resilience Nexus

International Political Sociology

Published online on


One of the defining features of post‐Cold War international relations has been the correlation of development practices and rationalities with those of security, and the emergence of what has been called the “development‐security nexus.” While the development–security nexus remains relevant, semantic shifts in the conceptualization 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.” And this shift from security to resilience is likewise tied to a reconceptualization of development as “sustainable development.” Are these, then, merely semantic shifts, or do they signify changes in the rationalities that have shaped the “development–security nexus” during the post‐Cold War period? Are the rationalities that distinguish resilience different to those underpinning demands for security? And are those of “sustainable development” different to what was once known simply as “development”? Does the weaving of a nexus of relations between “sustainable development” and “resilience” represent a departure from the “development–security nexus” in some way? And, if so, what explains that shift and what are its political implications? This article answers these questions through an analysis of the neoliberal biopolitics of the “sustainable development‐resilience nexus.” While sustainable development deploys ecological reason to argue for the need to secure the life of the biosphere, neoliberalism prescribes economy as the very means of that security. Economic reason is conceived within neoliberalism as a servant of ecological reason, claiming to secure life from economy through a promotion of the capacities of life for economy. This is the paradoxical foundation on which neoliberalism constructs its appropriation of sustainable development. Sustainable development and neoliberalism are not the same, nor is the former simply a proxy of the latter, but they do come into contact powerfully on the terrain of their rationalities of security which, on account of the interplay between ecological and economic reason, is increasingly conceptualized as resilience. This surface of contact ought to make for a tense and political field of contestation, but has instead made largely for a strategically manipulable relation between the two doctrines.