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On the reflexivity of crises: lessons from critical theory and systems theory

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journal contribution
posted on 13.09.2016, 13:32 by Rodrigo Cordero, A. Mascareno, Daniel Chernilo
The main aim of this article is to offer a sociological concept of crisis that, defined as the expected yet non-lineal outcome of the internal dynamics of modern societies, builds on the synergies between critical theory and systems theory. It contends that, notwithstanding important differences, both traditions concur in addressing crises as a form of self-reproduction of social systems as much as a form of engagement with the complexities and effects of such processes of reproduction. In order to make our comparison exhaustive, this article explores critical and systems theories’ notions of crisis at three levels: (1) their conceptual delimitation of crises; (2) their methodological proposals to empirically observe crises; and (3) their normative attempts to contribute to their resolution. As crises remain a distinctive structural feature of the social world and a rich source of knowledge about it, reflexivity must be seen as a crucial form of engagement with the negative expressions of social life itself.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

European Journal of Social Theory


CORDERO, R., MASCARENO, A. and CHERNILO, D., 2016. On the reflexivity of crises: lessons from critical theory and systems theory. European Journal of Social Theory, 20 (4), pp. 511-530.


SAGE Publications / © The Authors


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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This paper was accepted for publication in the European Journal of Social Theory, the definitive version is available at: