GoJIL Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010)
The Productive Semantics of the Crisis
Within sociological discourse the scientific category of the crisis is often criticised for being arbitrary and as a consequence deemed devoid of meaning in modern society in general. Observing crisis communication as an empirical phenomenon puts this mindset into perspective. Using examples from scientific and political semantics reveals the productive aspects of communication taking the form of a crisis. Within the scientific system a crisis simultaneously serves as guiding line for the decisions on which topics and issues the limited resources for research and publication are to be devoted, and as a point of reference for the revaluation of theories and methods. In the political system crisis communication forces decisions on policy and compels parties to develop stances and solution strategies by which they are able to delineate themselves from each other. Crisis communication therefore follows the various rationalities of the systems it occurs without adding up to an overarching rationality encompassing society as a whole and shaping its reaction. Crisis communication in this sense serves to increase variety within social systems and can be understood as a societal adaptation mechanism operating in the mode of evolution.
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