The term polycrisis has recently gained much interest in academia and policy-making circles as a perspective to understand the nature of ‘overlapping emergencies’ – geopolitical, ecological, pandemics and economic – that are disrupting policy and politics in the Global North and South. How do we understand the nature of these new forms of crisis? This provocation argues that polycrisis, while a good descriptive term for the overlapping emergencies that characterise the current conjecture, should be analysed in terms of the larger crisis of capitalist social reproduction. The polycrisis needs to be understood as a political crisis that arises from a contradiction between social reproduction and the crisis of capital accumulation. It leads to increasing authoritarian statist forms as well as the growing resistance and dissent that is a feature of the broken politics of time and distinguishes the multiple intersecting crises of the 21st century.
Globalisation has transformed the internal architecture of the state, leading to the emergence of a new form of regulatory state that operates through mechanisms of metagovernance – that is, the governance of governance. This has important implications for various models of policy capacity. Conventional accounts of policy capacity embody an attribute model of capacity that seeks to identify a set of transformative powers over policy and structure. In contrast, the new regulatory state requires that capacity be understood as a relational term that structures various sites of governance and links dispersed regulatory resources and agents.