This article defines social resilience as the ability of groups or communities to cope with external stresses and disturbances as a result of social, political and environmental change. This definition highlights social resilience in relation to the concept of ecological resilience which is a characteristic of ecosystems to maintain themselves in the face of disturbance. There is a clear link between social and ecological resilience, particularly for social groups or communities that are dependent on ecological and environmental resources for their livelihoods. But it is not clear whether resilient ecosystems enable resilient communities in such situations. This article examines whether resilience is a useful characteristic for describing the social and economic situation of social groups and explores potential links between social resilience and ecological resilience. The origins of this interdisciplinary study in human ecology, ecological economics and rural sociology are reviewed, and a study of the impacts of ecological change on a resource-dependent community in contemporary coastal Vietnam in terms of the resilience of its institutions is outlined.