Crisis has become such a ubiquitous word that its discriminatory power is diminished
across various disciplines. It challenges the word-concept relationship
inasmuch as it is associated with a host of partner words that imbue crisis
with divergent meanings. Not least, it stretches between major upheavals and
minor disturbances, often employed with calculating or rhetorical dramatic
effect. This article explores both professional and vernacular usages of “crisis”
and notes the distinction between theories of crisis and ideologies of crisis.
It then turns to examining two domains closely linked to the language of
crisis: Marxist analyses of capitalism, and legitimation problems. The latter is
explored particularly through Seymour Martin Lipset and Jürgen Habermas.
The role of crisis as filtered through different ideological families is indicated.
Finally, the relationship between the tipping-point connotations of crisis and
the finality drive of political decisions is considered.