It is used as part of Marxist political economy, usually in the specific formulation of the crisis of capitalism. It refers to a period in which the normal reproduction of an economic process over time suffers from a temporary breakdown. This crisis period encourages intensified class conflict or societal change — or the revival of a more normal accumulation process.
Many or most observers of Karl Marx's theoretical work argue that Marx himself did not come to a final conclusion about the nature of crises under capitalism. Instead, his many works (published and unpublished) suggested several different theories, none of them free from controversy.
A key characteristic of these theories is that none of them are natural or accidental in origin but instead arise from the nature of capitalism as a society. In Marx's words, "The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself."
These theories include:
In theory at least, these different views may not contradict each other and may instead be complementary parts of a synthetic crisis theory.