Wicked Crises and Legitimacy in Today’s European Union

Friday, July 14, 2017
WMP Yudowitz Seminar Room 1 (University of Glasgow)
Johannes Pollak , Institute For Advanced Studies, Vienna
Sonja Puntscher-Riekmann , SCEUS, University of Salzburg
This paper contributes to our understanding of crisis by borrowing and adapting the distinction between simple and wicked problems (Rittel and Webber 1973), which we convert into wicked and simple crises. When accumulated system failure and symbolic politics (rising social and institutional complexity and cognitive uncertainty) meet external shocks a crisis is born. Simple, or tame, crises are easy to define, information needed to solve the problems is available, and there is consensus on both the crisis and the solution. Wicked crises are those where nature and solution are uncertain and controversial; they are not objectively defined, and there are no objectively valid solutions. This paper charts the development of the financial and ensuing fiscal crisis and discusses whether it forms a wicked crisis. Further, we consider EU reactions to the crisis; discuss different interpretations; and assess the different interpretations in democratic legitimacy terms.