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Sylvia Walby

ISBN: 978-0-745-64760-9 October 2015 Polity 224 Pages


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We are living in a time of crisis which has cascaded through society. Financial crisis has led to an economic crisis of recession and unemployment; an ensuing fiscal crisis over government deficits and austerity has led to a political crisis which threatens to become a democratic crisis. Borne unevenly, the effects of the crisis are exacerbating class and gender inequalities.

Rival interpretations – a focus on ‘austerity’ and reduction in welfare spending versus a focus on ‘financial crisis’ and democratic regulation of finance – are used to justify radically diverse policies for the distribution of resources and strategies for economic growth, and contested gender relations lie at the heart of these debates. The future consequences of the crisis depend upon whether there is a deepening of democratic institutions, including in the European Union.

Sylvia Walby offers an alternative framework within which to theorize crisis, drawing on complexity science and situating this within the wider field of study of risk, disaster and catastrophe. In doing so, she offers a critique and revision of the social science needed to understand the crisis.

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1 Introduction
2 Theorizing Crisis
3 Financial Crisis
4 Economic Crisis: Recession
5 Fiscal Crisis: Austerity
6 Democratic Crisis
7 Crisis in the Gender Regime
8 Conclusions: Implications for Social Theory and Public Policy

"This extraordinary book gives us a sharp and illuminating examination of a condition that it is easy to think we understand … until we read this book. We may all be touched by it but Walby shows us all that is actually mobilized in producing the outcomes."
Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, author of Expulsions

"Sylvia Walby’s new complexity theory analysis of the current crises adds an essential dimension, addressing the financial, economic, welfare state and political ramifications of the crisis as strongly connected dynamics. She convincingly argues why the conflict between democracy and capitalism can only be resolved through a deepening of democracy. As such, her book is an indispensable academic intervention in the politics of knowledge and empowers academics, politicians and citizens alike to address crisis."
Mieke Verloo, Radboud University

"A lucid text that ranges across disciplines yet maintains accessibility for a wide readership including sociologists, policy communities, students, and activists. [Walby] has produced a book that comfortably straddles the alleged divides among professional, policy, public, and critical sociology…Crisis makes signal contributions to sociological analysis and presents a pragmatic alternative to neoliberalism, which could be fairly readily implemented."
American Journal of Sociology

"[Walby] gives us conceptual tools adequate for a global theory of inequalities […and] also enables an integration of micro-social transactions into societal theory: the concept of a tipping point in crises where agency of a few may produce massive results."