Britain and Europe: the crisis of krisis

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Dr Uta Staiger

Dr Uta Staiger


Dr Cristóbal Garibay-Petersen

Dr Cristóbal Garibay-Petersen

We tend to understand “crisis” as a period of utter, unsettling instability.

Etymologically, however, crisis is defined as the decisive moment at which significant change must come; Hippocrates, for one, used krisis to mean “that turning point in a disease which indicates either recovery or death”.

However, the drawn-out political crisis that accompanies Britain’s exit from the European Union seems to be determined if anything by the absence of any such turning point. Paradoxically, this might be explained with the Greek verb from which “crisis” derives: κρίνειν (krinein), meaning “to choose, to decide a dispute, to discern, to judge”. Brexit, it seems, is rooted precisely in the inability of our political class – and society – to come to any decision at all. It is a crisis of krisis. What might this tell us about the (never unproblematic) role of the decision in European politics?


Dr Uta Staiger directs the UCL European Institute, UCL’s hub for research on Europe; she is also Pro-Vice-Provost (Europe). Her research sits at the intersection of modern European thought, culture and politics, with a particular interest in 20th century German philosophy. She has also worked on the history and theory of European integration, and all matters Brexit. Her co-edited volume, Brexit and Beyond. Rethinking the Futures of Europe, came out with UCL Press in 2018. Uta is a member of the Russell Group EU Advisory Group and the Advisory Board of the Scottish Council on European Relations, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. 

Cristóbal Garibay-Petersen  is Fellow in European Philosophy at the LSE European Institute.