On the Reflexivity of Crises: Lessons from Critical Theory and Systems Theory

Rodrigo Cordero, Aldo Mascareño y Daniel Chernilo

Our main goal in this paper 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. We contend 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, we explore critical and systems theories’ notions of crisis at
three levels: their conceptual delimitation of crises, their methodological proposals to
empirically observe crises, and 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.