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Publication : Thinking politically about crisis: A pragmatist perspective, by Brian Milstein

Brian Milstein, "Thinking politically about crisis: A pragmatist perspective", European Journal of Political Theory, Published online before printAugust 13, 2014, doi:10.1177/1474885114546138.

Author: Brian Milstein, Collège d’études mondiales, Fondation Maison des sciencesde l’homme, Paris, France


‘‘Crisis’’ is a key concept in our political lexicon. Since the beginning of the modern age, it has arguably been, as much as anything, the experience of crisis that has calibrated the aims of both politics and political theory. But as central as crisis  experiences have been for the shaping of our political imaginary, the concept itself has proven difficult to incorporate into the political theory enterprise. In this article, I argue that we can think politically about crisis by taking up a ‘‘pragmatist’’  perspective that focuses on how we deploy crisis as a conceptual tool for guiding judgments and coordinating actions. I argue that crisis is a fundamentally reflexive concept that bridges our traditional distinctions between objective phenomena and normative experience, and whose very usage implies the active participation of those involved in it. Only by examining these crucial aspects of the crisis concept can we begin to grasp its normative political content, as well as how it may be deployed in the service of political action and social change.


Crisis, pragmatism, community, emancipation, reflexivity, modernity

The online version of this article can be found at:

Rethinking social justice