We live and work in a society characterized by a frenetic pace of unprecedented change, conceptualized by analysts in the simple phrase "postmodern or postindustrial society". Unfortunately, for society as a whole and for each of its citizens, these changes are not always positive.
Global social crisis
Moreover, the magnitude and intensity of individual cases indicate that the consequences are predominantly negative. The global society is currently facing a spectrum of economic and financial crisis that is leading to unemployment, inflation, declining incomes, uncertainty about the future and a sense of unease for the majority of citizens. It is not surprising that the concept of a social crisis appears more and more often in public discourse, whether it be a crisis of faith, fertility, migration or a decline in values.
Science of social transformations
Sociology is the science of society thatwas born from the need to explain and interpret profound social transformations, especially during periods of crisis caused by the transition from traditional to modern society.
Although some sociologists have postulated "the axiological neutrality of sociology and the sociologist", in most cases sociologists did not go beyond their subject, but nevertheless took a direct part in the reform and transformation of modern society.
Emile Durkheim, the father of scientific sociology, expressed in this connection the opinion that "sociology is not worth the effort if it is not involved in the evolution of human society."
Because of these traditions, modern sociology cannot remain neutral in relation to what is happening in the society it studies, especially since, thanks to the media, many phenomena and social processes are experienced and felt simultaneously and most directly by the majority of citizens of the world.
Crisis as a phenomenon
Although the press presents daily tragic events: from natural disasters and cataclysms to social unrest and armed conflicts, from economic disasters to human dramas (terrorist attacks, air and railway accidents, massacres) - and all this is described as crisis situations, this definition does not always accurately reflect what is happening.
A crisis is defined as any situation that threatens the lives and well-being of people and causes or is likely to cause significant damageproperty, moral and mental state of people. It can lead to negative social impact.
Crisis is associated with undesirable events caused by human or natural causes that cause severe emotional trauma and material damage at the individual, institutional and social levels. The crisis itself is the deterioration of human, economic, political, social and human relations and systems.
The sociologists' vision reveals the phenomenon of crisis as a failure in the functioning of important social systems, which leads to undesirable consequences, for example, a lack of motivation and interest in participating in community building. In the presence of visible social inequality, the reaction of society is growing, directed against the authoritarian system, in order to resolve the failures that are manifested in the mechanisms of social control. In narrower social spheres, conflict manifests itself as an expression of the interests of smaller, secular or theistic groups, which leads to the decline of family, community, civic, religious heritage.
From the point of view of other sciences
From the historical and social point of view, crises are perceived more "comfortably", as a rule, after their conclusion. In this case, the specialists' reflections on the social crisis are focused either on important political and social components, or on military-political issues. Thus, the phenomenon under consideration is perceived as the difference between a crisis situation and a conflict,whether armed or unarmed. It turns out that from a historical point of view, crisis and war are two subcategories of a broader phenomenon - an international dispute.
As for the socio-political crisis, political scientists are zealously looking for ways to politically resolve and prevent conflicts. At the same time, they rely both on the conclusions of historians and on the conclusions of sociologists.
The synthetic definition of the crisis of social systems in this case is as follows: a crisis is a break in the usual, a kind of undesirable situation that disrupts the normal functioning of society and affects its image at the public level. That is why there is a need for a global crisis management strategy and an adequate communication policy in times of inflection.
Threats of social crisis
Threatening the foundations of the system, accompanied by a series of unpredictable events, the crisis is often caused by inattention to the problems and vulnerabilities of the system as a specific structure. The suddenly manifested social crises of social work threaten the stability of the system and the usual way of functioning of all its components.
Often the entire social construct is so affected by tension that its very physical existence is threatened. In addition, the core values of the members of the system are threatened to the extent that individuals either choose to misinterpret those values or develop defense mechanisms against those values. For example, the fight for gender equality orthe demand for social equality of classes. The crisis often physically affects the system as a whole and threatens its basic principles, self-awareness and the core of its functioning and existence.
Among the characteristics of a social crisis, experts pay special attention to a narrower, “interdisciplinary” perspective, according to which “conflict should not be seen as something malignant that should be avoided and warned. Many social conflicts should not be taken as a natural phenomenon inherent in many social movements. Such phenomena are due to the diversity of people and the uniqueness of each person.
Thus, as experts in this field say, not all manifestations of the social crisis are destructive, some of them can be functional in nature, performing an important stimulating, competitive, dynamizing role in society. Conflict often spurs thoughts and decisions that can be positive.
What is not a crisis?
It is necessary to distinguish between crises and incidents, where the latter are events that affect only a subsystem of the organization, and not all of its functionality. It is also important to distinguish between a crisis and an emergency. An emergency may affect the system as a whole or in part, but its consequences are most often not permanent, that is, the system is capable of being restored to its previous form.
There are also fundamental differences between crises and conflicts.The consequences of conflicts most often affect only the elements of the system, without damaging fundamental values.
Analysis of social crises
Analyzing the socio-political crises of the past and present, it is possible to single out certain stages or phases that characterize the flow of a critical situation within the analyzed social system:
- Disagreements are the first stage, when there is a possibility of both pseudo-relationships and false conflicts, as well as minor differences that can imperceptibly develop into serious conflicts.
- Confrontation is a moment of tension, uneasiness and confusion when effective communication between the parties is broken, when belief becomes "law", and emotional expression strongly dominates logical arguments. Moreover, the speed and effectiveness of communication drops sharply, aggravating the state of stress, frustration and tense atmosphere.
- Escalation - represents the maximum point of the conflict, when the individuals involved do not contain hostility and aggression. At this stage, it is extremely difficult to intervene without making the situation worse.
- De-escalation is the stage when efforts are made to reach an agreement between the parties to the conflict. The success of these attempts is due to concessions and the provision of reasonable requirements for participants. At the end of these attempts, there comes a point when negotiation, compromise and the desire for communication cast out conflicting ghosts and strengthen the relationship between the parties.
Researchers have concluded that most of the social conflicts are caused by three types of "causes" of social crises:
- The first reason is the manifestation of identity. This usually occurs in a society where individualization of groups is observed. In such processes, some members of society consider themselves to belong to a "separate group", and the voice of the group replaces the self-expression of the individual. For example, Italian fascism, radical Islam, LGBTQ.
- The second reason for the crisis of social relations lies in the presence and emphasis of differences between members of society, when a kind of “organization within an organization” is created that claims a unique space with a specific character that personalizes it. For example, apartheid, racism, oligarchy. In fact, conflict cannot flare up without some ability for the individual to identify himself as part of a group and to observe differences from other groups.
- Complex reasons arising from the fact that the achievement of the goals of one group determines the impossibility of realizing the goals of another group. For example, the Holocaust, feudalism, slavery.
It is worth noting that the timely identification of factors and appropriate actions can lead to the elimination of the causes of such intergroup conflicts, which eventually grow into crises in the socio-economic development of society.
Factors of development of crisis situations
Analysis shows that there are a number of contextual and organizational factors on whichthe work of the social system is built and which lead to direct and indirect consequences in the life of society. Among the main factors in the formation of social crises, it is important to note:
- An environment that is not limited by natural factors. This includes the quality of life and working conditions of segments of the population. Differences in the environment appear because each social system seeks to establish the most profitable and functional process of organizing society, and history shows that absolutely equal position of all segments of society is practically unattainable.
- The size and effectiveness of groups is determined by the increase in the number of individuals in society and its diversification. The more people, the more groups with different goals and aspirations. This causes the formation of "barriers" (class, cultural, linguistic) that make communication difficult, which negatively affects the achievement of common social goals and leads to a social crisis in the country.
- The structure of the organization of society also often becomes a factor in the development of the crisis.
Positive aspects of the phenomenon
Under the right circumstances, a crisis in social development is a source of new opportunities, including:
- The appearance of heroes. For example, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
- Under the pressure of the crisis of the socio-economic system, social foundations are emerging from a state of inertia and conservatism is being replaced by accelerated growth rates andchange.
- In a crisis, it is easier to cope with the ignorance, indifference and inaction of the main segments of society.
- The crisis indirectly promotes political and economic change. As a result of social crises, new politicians are elected, draft laws are supported.
- Crisis stimulates communication, can lead to new, simpler and more effective development strategies.
Consequences of crisis situations
Crisis of social systems stimulate the development of new, improved systems of social organization. To do this:
- should see previous failure as an opportunity to recognize a potential crisis and prevent it in the future;
- social crises can be avoided by learning from the mistakes and crises of other social systems;
- By abandoning outdated and ineffective community-based procedures, effective crisis management strategies can be developed.