Concepts of Crises
The Alliance has set up a theory-based group to review the current state of research and to cross-link different concepts of crisis. Amongst other things, the group asks what constitutes a crisis, what theories are useful in assessing and understanding crises, and how crises can be defined and compared. The group has developed a comprehensive taxonomy for comparing usage of ‘crisis’ across the Alliance’s four topic-based working groups.
Economic and financial crises are perceived as basic malfunctions of modern capitalist economies, producing sudden imbalances and triggering serious, far-reaching consequences. Instabilities in the economic system put the distribution of wealth, and thus also the functioning of societies, under pressure. Better instruments to improve the accuracy of forecasts for sound policy responses However, it is also vital to go beyond purely economic interpretations and reflect on the societal developments and beliefs that cause, shape or are influenced by economic crises.
Being dependent on multiple, complex variables, some of which are as yet either unidentified or poorly understood, environmental crises are often difficult to detect and even more difficult to address. Because a good number of them play out over long periods of time (climate change is a case in point), action needs to be taken long before their damaging effects become visible—or at least become a real concern in the public’s perception. Governance responses require the involvement of institutions and actors from multiple sectors and administrative levels. For all these reasons, the only realistic way of tackling environmental crises is through multi-disciplinary effort and the Research Alliance is ideally positioned to assure the kind of comprehensive exchange that is needed here, bringing together expertise from the natural sciences, economics, the spatial sciences, and politics.
This working group explores crises involving major human suffering. Such crises naturally result in a strong moral imperative, and urgent calls, to act to relieve the suffering. It is crucial to look beyond the immediate needs and try to understand how societal and political forces, economic developments, and external events interact to create these situations of heightened pressure. The working group will facilitate collaboration between institutes investigating recent or evolving humanitarian crises such as the global food crisis and the current developments in migration.
Crisis can polarise societies and call into question the traditional strategies through which legitimacy is secured. Economic and environmental crisis come hand in hand with political crisis challenging societies and political actors and institutions. Sociopolitical crises thus point to functional deficits and inadequate problem-solving capacities and lead more often than not into political inequalities. The working group explores the significance of crises for social and political orders and asks to what extent crises, the way they are perceived and their consequences affect social integration and trust in political institutions, inflict inequalities, and/or erode solidarity.