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AIAS Guest Lecture: Javier Fernandez Sebastian, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain

Crucial Times: Crisis as a Solution of Continuity

2016.08.24 | AIAS

Date Fri 16 Sep
Time 13:45 15:15
Location The AIAS Auditorium, Building 1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C


The aim of my talk is to provide a survey of some historiographical uses of the concept of crisis from the early 19th century. Via analysis of a handful of texts I hope to show how the concept of crisis, which initially was applied metaphorically and exclusively to those decisive moments in which a political system experienced a particularly delicate situation, often leading to a constitutional revolution, began to be used in an increasingly loose manner to refer to a wide variety of situations. The inflationary use of the term would lead, as we know, to a paradoxical outcome. In a context of growing historisation of all kinds of social realities, crisis started to mean more and more not only an exceptional and passing moment of profound change – a turning point, a revolution, a constituent process –, but a series of less and less episodic situations and states of affairs, finally coming to designate even a permanent condition, characteristic of western modernity. Rupture and continuity seemed in a strange way to be shaking hands, in such a manner that the exceptional gradually became normal. An anomalous normality that might be described as a chronic crisis. Sources reveal that numerous actors were aware of the fact that they were living through exceptionally turbulent times, and also systematic projection of the concept of crisis to describe a multitude of circumstances, present and past, even future. I hope that analysis of the vocabularies of the crisis and its gradual expansion might help us to gain some insight into some keys to the process of diffusion of the concept, as well as the reasons for its extraordinary success in historical and social sciences over the past two centuries.

Short bio

Javier Fernández-Sebastián is Professor of History of Political Thought at the Universidad del País Vasco (Bilbao, Spain). He has published extensively in the field of intellectual and conceptual history of modern politics. Among his recent books are the edited volumes Concepts and Time. New Approaches to Conceptual History (2011), La Aurora de la Libertad. Los primeros liberalismos en el mundo iberoamericano (2012) and La subversión del orden por la palabra. Tiempo, espacio e identidad en la crisis del mundo ibérico, siglos XVIII-XIX (2015), as well as the Diccionario político y social del mundo iberoamericano. Conceptos políticos fundamentales (2009-2014), which is the result of an on-going transnational project on conceptual comparative history in the Iberian Atlantic (Iberconceptos).


All are welcome and registration is not necessary - just show up. After the lecture, further discussion is possible accompanied by coffee, tea and cake in the AIAS Hall.

Organiser and contact

The guest lecture is organised by:

Kirill Postoutenko, AIAS Fellow
Aarhus Institute for Advanced Studies (AIAS), Aarhus University
Phone + 4587153751



Lecture / talk