The break between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21stcentury has been violent and disconcerting. Our world used to be relatively stable. Certainly, it could and did undergo serious breakdowns and crises: but those were charted, localized, manageable, and reparable within established frameworks. Now we are in the grip of events which lie beyond "normal" categorizations. We find ourselves thrown into a world that is losing its bearings, its balancing mechanisms and its internal borders. We are moving from the accidental - specific breakdowns within generally stable terrains - to the chaotic: a landscape that is profoundly and permanently de-structured, a matrix of security problems responding to laws that we do not understand. A world where crisis becomes the central operating mode, and which is generated by events, processes, and combinations that are increasingly off the scale. Two essential types of difficulties come together to produce today's crises: • Shocks no longer fit their customary frames of reference: we are witnessing difficulties that in terms of scale, complexity, and speed "burst the seams" of our understanding and our vision. • These shocks are arising against a backdrop of contexts and moorings that are also shifting with increasing speed, which only compounds our loss of bearings, management capacity, and the collapse of confidence. Hence, there can be no "technical" solution, however sophisticated, to these emerging crises. We must first assess the issues and then invent appropriate responses.
Patrick Lagadec, Xavier Guilhou
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