The influence of climate resilience governmentality on vulnerability in regional Australia

Guy Jackson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Australia is already experiencing climate change losses and damages. Australian governments and other institutional actors acknowledge vulnerability, yet they centre building resilience to climate change. Resilience is frequently used as a synonym for vulnerability reduction, but important ideological differences exist. Indeed, scholars have suggested that resilience, as a politico-ideological tool of subject formation, can be considered a type of governmentality. While there is much research on the political and ideological dimensions of resilience, there is less focus on illuminating how resilience, as a form of climate governmentality, interacts with vulnerability to climate change. Drawing on a climate ethnography in regional Australia, I ask how do resilience discourses and interventions influence vulnerability to climate change in regional Australia? To answer this question, I explore examples of the historical-structural, intersectional and psychosocial determinants of vulnerability, identify key resilience discourses and interventions and examine how, what I term, climate resilience governmentality is influencing vulnerability to climate change. Unable to identify clear causality, I instead show how resilience governmentality is working to reinforce rather than redress the root causes of vulnerability in regional Australia. I observe that resilience discourses emphasise shared responsibility, but in practice, this translates into a focus on individual capacities. Subjects' psychological dispositions are targeted and neoliberal rationalities are desired outcomes. Climate resilience governmentality is not linked to a withdrawal of the state. Instead, it is a top-down process based on government prioritisation, subject formation strategies and the building of non-governmental institutional landscapes to provide services. I argue that climate resilience governmentality is a form of governmental gaslighting because it denies the lived experiences of precarity, insecurity and structural violence throughout regional Australia. I suggest that significant government investment in regional communities, critical societal reflection and truth-telling are urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in regional Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Early online date23 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2024

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