Creeping Crises

Find out more about our most recent project on the rise of ‘creeping crises’ in society, generously funded by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, for 2019-2023. Also check the Publications page for our latest outputs.

In recent years, both practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the impact that so-called creeping crises exert on modern society. These are crises that simmer under the radar to suddenly and unexpectedly explode in the societal domain. They can be of transboundary nature (think of Europe’s immigration crisis or the financial crisis) or entirely “home grown” (forest fires or a measles epidemic). Policy analysts and politicians typically try to imagine which issue may become politically relevant in the short run. But there are many issues to choose from. Climate change is an obvious candidate. Some will point to rising inequality. Or the loosening of financial regulations, weakening control over a complex sector. But how about intensive agriculture, creating breeding grounds for new diseases? How about the clogging of European airspace, which may give rise to air disasters? How about the growth of mega-cities or the Internet of Things?

Many slow-moving developments may contain the seeds for future crises – but these are also the developments that are tied to relentless modernization so typical of our time. In hindsight, these creeping crises often appear to be self-announcing, leaving a trail of signals of impending arrival. Practitioners are confronted not just with a complex crisis to manage, but also with immediate accusations that they ignored signals of emerging crises. Creeping crises are often hard to detect, however. They emerge and take shape in hidden corners of the social and technical spaces that make up modern society. The complexity of modern society and its subsystems makes these crises hard to detect, trace and contain. Practitioners need the knowledge to formulate evidence-based strategies in order to prepare our societies for these creeping crises.

This project explores key questions about the emergence, evolution and response to creeping crises. For more information (in Swedish), see here.