Resilience, war, and austerity: The ethics of military human enhancement and the politics of data

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48 Scopus citations


This article traces the rise of military psychological resilience training, focusing on the US Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, which seeks to assess and instill resilience in soldiers and their families through techniques developed in the discipline of positive psychology. In maximizing the happiness, optimism, and mental fitness of soldiers, military resilience training has two aims: (1) to produce a fit fighting force capable of winning complex wars, and (2) to cut costs, not by averting war, but by ostensibly reducing the need for costly healthcare through a claim to prevent soldiers’ ‘pessimistic’ responses to war. The architects of military resilience are also exporting this model to the civilian sphere of social security, using their military experiment as ‘proof of concept’ of the scientific validity not only of resilience training, but also of positive psychology more generally. The article thus illustrates that ‘social security’ cannot be held separate from inter/national security, because these domains are, in practice, imbricated. It is argued that resilience is not merely a response to war and austerity, but a means for producing these forms of precarity through a fantasy of indomitability. The article concludes by considering the broader ethics of psychological resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 13 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


  • US Army Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness
  • counterinsurgency warfare
  • critical security studies
  • positive psychology
  • psychological resilience


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