The book draws on and adds to the rich ’crises literature’ developed within the critical theory tradition to outline a conceptual framework for understanding what societal crises are. The central idea is that societal crises represent a discrepancy between the unfolding of social processes and the institutional frameworks that have been established to normatively stabilize such processes. The crises at issue emerged in periods characterized by strong social, economic and technological transformations as well as situations of political upheaval. As such, the crises represented moments where the existing functional and normative grid of society, as embodied in notions of public order and authority, were severely challenged and in many instances undermined. Seen in this perspective, the book reconstructs how crises unfolded, how they were experienced, and what kind of responses the specific crises in question provoked.
Niklas Olsen is Associate Professor of History at the SAXO-Institute, University of Copenhagen.