Making Sense of the Crisis: Is the financial crisis cascading into a democratic crisis in Europe?
Professor Sylvia Walby, UNESCO Chair of Gender Research, University of Lancaster
The European nightmare is that economic crisis leads to the re-emergence of ethno-nationalism and fascism, with violence engulfing democratic institutions. Potentially, the crisis, starting in finance in the US and UK in 2007, cascading into the real economy of output and employment, cascading into fiscal crisis and ‘austerity’, and cascading into political crisis, will become a crisis of democracy in the European Union. Sociology did not see the crisis coming and has struggled to produce adequate analyses of its various phases and of its political dynamics. What are its gender dynamics and why do these appear invisible to Sociology? The developments challenge traditional systems theory as well as the recent ‘cultural turn’.
Using the insights of complexity theory, I re-work core Sociological concepts and theories: re-thinking rather than rejecting the concept of system; re-thinking the concept of society in a globalizing world; developing the concepts of ‘tipping point’ and path dependency; rethinking the intersection of gender, class and ethnic inequalities and of political projects. These enable a more adequate account not only of the changes in capital, but also of the gendered nature of the neoliberal project that is challenging social democracy.