‘permacrisis’: meaning and origin

Collins Dictionary defines the noun permacrisis as denoting “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events”.

The noun permacrisis (plural permacrises) is from:
– the prefix perma-, forming nouns with the sense permanent ——, as in permafrost and permaculture;
– the noun crisis (plural crises), denoting a time of great danger or trouble.

Collins Dictionary has recently chosen the noun permacrisis as 2022’s Word of the Year; the following explanations are from A year of ‘permacrisis’, by David Shariatmadari, published on Tuesday 1st November 2022 in Collins Dictionary’s Language Lovers blog:

The 2020s have certainly seen their fair share of upheaval—and we’re only two years in! Already this decade we’ve had to contend with a pandemic and its aftermath, a brutal new war in Europe, and in the UK an economic crisis that saw the Bank of England warning of a “material risk to financial stability”. We’ve also had three prime ministers—so far.
How fitting, then, that 2022’s Word of the Year is permacrisis, a term that perfectly embodies the dizzying sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, as we wonder bleakly what new horrors might be around the corner.

The noun permacrisis occurs, for example, in ‘Out of the inferno, into the shark attack’: Marina Hyde on capturing six years of political chaos, by the British journalist Marina Hyde (born 1974), published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Saturday 1st October 2022:

From Brexit to Boris, Trump to Truss, there’s been no shortage of material for the Guardian columnist. But as the omnishambles becomes a permacrisis, even she wants it to stop …

The earliest occurrences of the noun permacrisis that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the column A Word Edgewise, by the U.S. political scientist John Pearson Roche (1923-1994), published in several U.S. newspapers in December 1975—for example in The Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, Maine, USA) of Saturday the 20th:

The dilemma now facing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government is real nasty: If it—a sovereign state—engages in negotiations that include the P.L.O., it is giving de facto recognition to a bunch of gangsters who have explicitly and consistently expressed their desire to destroy Israel. On the other hand, if it boycotts the sessions, Jerusalem will be held up to the world as intransigent, as blocking any rational settlement of the Middle Eastern perma-crisis.

2-: From Blair’s handover and the unwilling exile, by Anne McElvoy, published in the Evening Standard (London, England) of Wednesday 28th June 2006:

IF DAVID Cameron had sought any further inspiration for his attack on the Prime Minister’s authority at Question Time today, it was uncommonly bi-partisan of Charles Clarke to have offered inspiration in one of the most memorable political quotes of the year: “There is a sense that Tony has lost his sense of purpose and direction.”
Such a “sense” can only, as Mr Clarke knows full well, be amplified by a loyalist ex-Cabinet minister turning his ire on the PM in public and choosing no less than three media outlets to do so in case anyone missed it.
The immediate effect has been to set off another flurry of rumours that Mr Blair should set a date for his departure. As I understand it, this is not the PM’s intention as things stand. It is, a senior Downing Street source says, pure illusion “to think that doing so would quell the unrest in the Labour leadership. He might as well pack his bags the next day.”
But it does deepen the mood of uncertainty and perma-crisis.

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