Bo Isenberg at Eurozine:
Critique expresses the possibility that everything could have been different. By doing so, critique puts things and the order of things in a state of crisis – institutions, meanings, relationships, mental and cultural dispositions. Realities emerge as possibilities, possibilities that have materialised. In other words, critique is an expression of the equal importance of the possible and the real. InThe Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil writes that “the sense of possibility” exists alongside “the sense of reality” and that “possible realities”, not “real possibilities”, are what is really interesting.
It has been said that critique is a genuinely modern disposition, just as crisis is a genuinely modern societal and mental state. The urban sociologist Robert Ezra Park wrote that the city – the ultimate manifestation of modernity, both with regards to social order and mentality – was in, or even constituted, “a permanent state of crisis”.
Critique and crisis are central categories in any understanding of the modern culture. The concepts have a common etymological origin. They describe a state where nothing is yet determined but is soon to be; a state all about decisions, distinctions and discernment. The Greek word krínein meant both “subjective critique” and “objective crisis”. The concepts achieve their real significance and are filled with opportunities and potential during the modern age, from the Renaissance and Reformation up to the present.