Crisis and Crisis Scenarios: Normativity, Possibilities and Dilemmas


‘Crisis’ can mean a confrontation between old and new. ‘Crisis’ can mean a rupture with the old ways of thinking and a chance of dislodging rigid ways of thinking, including those in the academy. There is a crisis of a notion of any stable ‘subject-hood’ in which new critical theories and philosophical ideas might also have a place. We could propose ways of looking at ‘crisis’ in gender relations, the arts and the humanities, and the continuing debates on the crisis of the current capitalist practices. Why is it that the latter has so far not produced any real change? A discussion of ‘crisis’ and the ways in which the notion is impacting culture and society might be of interest.


Øjvind Larsen discusses some elements of the concept of crisis in relation to the concept of critique in critical theory in his paper From Critical Theory to Critical Hermeneutics. From their beginning in the 1930s, critical theory and the Frankfurt school had their focus on a critique of disturbed social relations in western society dominated by totalitarian political regimes like Stalinism, Fascism, Nazism, and by capitalism as an oppressive and destructive economic system and culture. Now, 80 years later, this has all become history and thus it is time to leave the concept of critical theory behind us, and instead bring the concept of critique to a broader theoretical framework like hermeneutics. This allows the possibility of retaining the theoretical intentions of the old Frankfurt school and at the same time there will be no boundaries by specific dominant theoretical perspectives. In this paper, such a framework for a critical hermeneutics is discussed on the basis of Weber’s, Gadamer’s, and Habermas’ theories on hermeneutics within the social sciences.


John Storm Pedersen & Anna Lyneborg Nielsen look at the concept of crisis in their paper on the challenges to professions in the Nordic Welfare States, in particular with focus on Denmark with the title Has the Competition among Professions in the Nordic Welfare States Intensified? A Danish Case. The authors argue that the competition among professions in the Nordic welfare states has intensified in recent decades. This, in a manner that has resulted in predictable classic struggles and conflicts among professions. The authors argue that the struggles and conflicts that arise translate into insufficient provision of welfare services for taxpayers’ money. To avoid this predicament, further developing co-operation among professions is important. Public managers, as argued in this article using a Danish case, play a significant role in achieving this. The Danish case studied shows how some public managers, in their efforts to create co-operation among professions, have developed a modern, dialogue-based management technique built on dialectical refutation, similar to Socratic elenchus.


Kristin Tiili discusses the concept of crisis and crisis scenarios in her paper Species Egalitarianism and the Environment. The author shows that a general anthropocentric view of the human species affects the environment and is a major contributing factor in the environmental crisis we are currently facing. A species egalitarian society would have positive effects on the crisis, and particularly in regards to the short-term goal of decreasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Additionally it would increase the quality of life and alleviate the suffering of countless beings, nonhuman animals and humans alike.


In her paper with the title The European Constitution: sovereignty, legitimacy and constituent power, Signe Larsen discusses the concept of crisis in relation to the European Union. On the basis of Hannah Arendt’s and Carl Schmitt’s writings on the constituent power, the article sets out to develop an interpretative framework which would aid the understanding of the legitimation crisis of European integration initiated by the EU constitutional failure of 2004. The question raised in this essay is whether the successful establishment of democratic constitutional legitimacy is conditional upon the existence of a federal state. From the perspective of the constituent power, two opposing answers are given based on two rivalling notions of the ultimate meaning of constitutional politics: freedom and security. The article concludes that even though the EU as a case remains undecided, it seems likely that democracy and constitutional politics have parted ways in the EU both in the Arendtian and in the Schmittian sense. If that is the case, the constitutional crisis is a serious problem for the future of democracy in the EU.


In the article with the title The Picture—Small and Big: Iceland and the Crises Giorgio Baruchello presents some of the dimensions of the crisis, seen from the perspective of Iceland. This paper provides two pictures of Iceland’s notorious 2008 economic crisis and unexpected 2009-2013 recovery: one small, another big. The small one is a concise three-step account of what sort of policies preceded the economic crisis, what this crisis consisted primarily in, and what sort of policies followed it. The big one is a twofold reflection on how the Icelandic experience fits within larger global trends, which means considering the country’s experience from an economic-historical perspective and from an axiological one.


Kirsten Mogensen discusses in Trust vs. Crisis the concept of crisis in relation to discussions of the role of trust in society. The three social phenomena — norms, trust, and crisis — are in this paper combined into one model that illustrates their function and relationship. Crisis is seen as a reaction to serious violations of expectations that leave people disoriented, insecure about situational norms, and unable to judge whom to trust. One logical solution to a crisis is to rebuild a shared understanding of the norms involved in any given context. Banking is used as a case. Central concepts are borrowed from Niklas Luhmann Trust (1968), Alf Ross Directives and Norms (1967), and Arthur G. Neal National Trauma & Collective Memory (1998).


Peter Wolsing looks at the crisis in the perspective of the environment in the paper Crisis and Environmental Philosophy. Environmental ethics began in the 1960s with a growing awareness of coming environmental problems such as pollution and the projected shortage of resources caused by an acceleration in human’s technically based exploitation of nature. In addition to becoming an issue in public debate and in politics since the 1970s, the environmental crisis, which can be laid at the door of industrialization, calls for a more basic consideration of man’s attitude to nature. In this paper the author gives a short presentation of the concept of crisis in a selection of the principal classical critical philosophies of history and suggest that they all connect crisis to the oppression of man’s inner nature. It goes on to sketch the idea of environmental crisis as an oppression of outer nature (the natural environment) suggesting that a new, more nuanced organic concept of nature is needed as a condition for ascribing value to life on earth as a whole, which is what most non-anthropocentric ethical theories to some extent do.


Luise Li Langergaard discusses in Social entrepreneurship and capitalist crisis the crisis with regard to capitalism and in particular the relation between social entrepreneurship and capitalism. In the wake of the crisis erupting in 2008, the political attention to social entrepreneurship has intensified and social entrepreneurship and social innovation has been presented as possible solutions to a number of societal problems. By linking different theoretical trends of social entrepreneurship to Boltanski and Chiapello’s three spirits of capitalism, the paper elucidates different variations of social entrepreneurship. It argues that whereas classic entrepreneurship is theoretically closely connected to capitalism and seen by innovation theory as the major driving force of economic development, social entrepreneurship is sometimes linked to non-capitalist understandings of the economy and as part of a capitalist-critical movement.


In From War to Financial Crisis – Analyzed with Critical Systems Theory, Gorm Harste discusses the relation between war and crisis. The article analyzes the transformation from the long-term risks associated with protracted wars to those pertaining to the economic system. Major wars, supplied with strong capacities due to extended manpower resources, advanced logistic capabilities and permanency of campaign, expose their states with extremely costly engagements. This includes heavy long-term costs for war veterans. Accordingly, the center of gravity on the battlefield (Clausewitz) is transformed to the financial systems of taxes and credit systems. This is a classical historical lesson; but this story is indeed central to understand the link between the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War, the Iraq war, and the background for the financial crisis since 2008.


Finally, The Importance of Responsibility in Times of Crisis Jacob Dahl Rendtorff develops a discussion of responsibility form his earlier presentations in the study group. The paper argues for the importance of the concept of responsibility as the foundation of ethics in times of crisis, in particular in the fields of politics and economics in the modern civilisation marked by globalization and technological progress. The paper considers the concept of responsibility as the key notion in order to understand the ethical duty in a modern technological civilisation. We can indeed observe a moralization of the concept of responsibility going beyond a strict legal definition in terms of imputability. The paper begins by discussing the humanistic foundations of such a concept of responsibility. It treats the historical origins of responsibility and it relates this concept to the concept of accountability.  On the basis of this historical determination of the concept, the paper presents the definition of the concept of responsibility as fundamental ethical principle that has increasing importance as the foundation of the principles of governance in modern welfare states. In this context the paper discusses the extension of the concept of responsibility towards institutional or corporate responsibility where responsibility does not only concerns the responsibility of individuals but also deals with the responsibility of institutional collectivities. 

About Jacob Dahl Rendtorff

Jacob Dahl Rendtorff (born 1965) is Associate Professor of Business Ethics at Roskilde University, Denmark. Rendtorff is Head of Studies and Head of Research for the research group on business, leadership and change of his department. Rendtorff has a background in ethics, business ethics, bioethics, political theory and philosophy of law. Rendtorff has written seven books on issues concerning existentialism and hermeneutics, French philosophy, ethics, bioethics and business ethics, philosophy of law and business, and he has been co-author and editor on more than ten other books. Rendtorff has written articles on business, business ethics and philosophy in Danish, English, German and French. Rendtorff is currently a member of the board of the Danish Philosophical Forum and he is vice president of the Danish Association for Philosophy in French Language. He is also a member of the international group on reflexion about ethics, Eco-ethica, founded by Professor Imamichi Tomonobu. In the summer 2008 Rendtorff was elected as member of the steering committee of FISP (Féderation international des societies de philosophie), the global organisation of philosophy that is responsible for the organization of the world congress of philosophy.