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Crisis - Modern Concepts Of Crisis, Contemporary Definition And Usage, Bibliography

century greek historical eighteenth

The term crisis comes from the Greek noun krisis (choice, decision, judgment), deriving from the Greek verb krinein (to decide). The word makes an ancient debut in Greek historical writing via the legal, medical, and rhetorical terminology as the turning point in a decision, illness, or argument. Its definitive reappearance with reference to historical events, periods, or processes dates from the late eighteenth century, its classic formulation from the second half of the nineteenth century, and its proliferation as a catchall term for a crucial or decisive stage or state of affairs from the last half of the twentieth century. The history of the notion of crisis veers between failed attempts at precise definition and its inflation and devaluation as a tool of analysis.

Focus and flexibility inhere in the concept of crisis and account for much of its appeal. Crises, to be regarded as such, must occur in the course of specific events, but they can be characterized in organic, mechanistic, or revolutionary terms as critical episodes in a life cycle, indices of structural dysfunction, or corollaries of revolution. In the ideological reckoning with the great upheavals of modern history since the revolutions of the late eighteenth century, historical crises have often been cast as liberating by the Left and as proof of human fallibility by the Right. The language of crisis can be charged with drama, plotted as narrative, objectified as analysis, and pinned to empirical data.

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