City Research Online

The amazing bounce-backable woman: Resilience and the psychological turn in neoliberalism

Gill, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-2715-1867 & Orgad, S. S. (2018). The amazing bounce-backable woman: Resilience and the psychological turn in neoliberalism. Sociological Research Online, 23(2), pp. 477-495. doi: 10.1177/1360780418769673


This article examines the growing prominence accorded to the idea of ‘resilience’ as a regulatory ideal, locating it in the context of a ‘turn to character’ in contemporary culture which we see as part of a wider psychological turn within neoliberalism. Building from discussions of ‘resilience’ as a quality demanded and promoted by public policy in the context of austerity and worsening inequality, we argue that resilience has also emerged as a central term in popular culture in genres such as self-help literature, lifestyle magazines, and reality television, as well as in a burgeoning social media culture focussed on positive thinking, affirmations, and gratitude. It calls on people to be adaptable and positive, bouncing back from adversity and embracing a mind-set in which negative experiences can–and must–be reframed in upbeat terms.

The article examines three case studies–women’s magazines, self-help books, and smartphone apps–to explore how resilience is constituted, how it operates, and how it materialises across different sites. We extend existing work by highlighting the classed and gendered dimensions of injunctions to resilience, pointing to the ways that middle-class women are hailed as emblematic ‘bounce-backable’ subjects. We explore how notions of elasticity, inspiration, and affirmation are deployed in ways that systematically outlaw critique or any need for social transformation while inciting a vast range of physical, social and, above all, psychological labours on the part of ‘resilient’ subjects.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Sociological Research Online, by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © Rosalind Gill, Shani Orgad.
Publisher Keywords: confidence, neoliberalism, positive psychology, resilience, self-help, women’s magazines
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
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