The power of contingency
Drawing on the systemic concept of contingency that considers the actualized structure of the world as a possibility among others, the article argues that major social crises release systems from reiterative patterns of selectivity that transform contingent options into necessities. As long as crises deconstruct a particular social order and recombine both elements and relations into an alternative form, they are constituent crises that reestablish the contingency of the world. The article briefly reviews the evolutionary role of constituent crises as an expression of the power of contingency in four fields: the collapse and reorganization of ancient societies, the legal revolutions giving rise to modernity, the crises in modern complex social systems, and the transnational and supranational pressures on contemporary constitutional States. It concludes that the modern, multilayered, and polyarchical architecture of world society seems to be more open than earlier periods of social evolution to contingent, self-constituting forms of social order. Yet, operative and normative polyarchy also means more complex crises.