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About this book

This open access book offers unique insights into how governments and governing systems, particularly in advanced economies, have responded to the immense challenges of managing the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing disease COVID-19. Written by three eminent scholars in the field of the politics and policy of crisis management, it offers a unique ‘bird’s eye’ view of the immense logistical and political challenges of addressing a worst-case scenario that would prove the ultimate stress test for societies, governments, governing institutions and political leaders. It examines how governments and governing systems have (i) made sense of emerging transboundary threats that have spilled across health, economic, political and social systems (ii) mobilised systems of governance and often fearful and sceptical citizens (iii) crafted narratives amid high uncertainty about the virus and its impact and (iv) are working towards closure and a return to ‘normal’ when things can never quite be the same again. The book also offers the building blocks of pathways to future resilience. Succeeding and failing in all these realms is tied in with governance structures, experts, trust, leadership capabilities and political ideologies. The book appeals to anyone seeking to understand ‘what’s going on?’, but particularly academics and students across multiple disciplines, journalists, public officials, politicians, non-governmental organisations and citizen groups.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. The Year of the Unthinkable

Abstract
COVID-19 brought the ‘unthinkable’ to our doorstep. The pandemic caused a series of global, and interconnected, health, economic, social, institutional and political crises that are unprecedented in living memory. Political leaders struggled to contain the virus and persuade anxious, weary citizens to behave this or that way in order to overcome a giant collective action problem. This chapter is a primer for the detailed examination of political and policy responses to this impossible challenge. It describes pivotal governance challenges and the constraints operating on the crisis response.
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Open Access

Chapter 2. What’s Going On?

Abstract
For a crisis to be effectively governed, it must first be noticed, interpreted, understood and assessed. This chapter explores how policymakers ‘made sense’ of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. We focus on: (1) how policymakers around the world detected the developing threat as it emerged first in China and then in Italy; (2) the prominent involvement of scientific expertise in government sense-making processes (and in narratives about those processes). We discuss the complex dynamics between experts, decision-makers and publics that ensued.
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Open Access

Chapter 3. Getting Things Done

Abstract
This chapter reviews the main governance challenges policymakers faced during the COVID-19 crisis. It examines how governments mobilized institutional capacity to tackle these challenges. We focus on attempts to centralize crisis decision-making and discuss whether centralization contributed to government effectiveness and legitimacy.
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Open Access

Chapter 4. Crafting Crisis Narratives

Abstract
Communication is pivotal when a society faces a sudden, disruptive and disturbing event. People want to know what is going on, why it is happening, what is done to safeguard them and what they can to protect themselves. During COVID-19, governments were the main sources of that information, at least initially. Governments tried to shape the attitudes, emotions and behaviours of citizens in accordance with their policies. Over time, alternative crisis narratives emerged and influenced citizen behaviour. This chapter examines crisis communication in the COVID-19 crisis: how did leaders try to ‘make making’ of this unprecedented threat? How did they deal with the alternative crisis frames that emerged over time?
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Open Access

Chapter 5. Towards Closure

Abstract
How will societies emerge from the COVID-19 crisis? Will there be a reckoning with failing institutions and crisis leaders? Will valuable lessons be learned? These are the perennial questions that dominate the transitional phase between crisis and a new normal. In this chapter, we discuss how lessons from previous crises help to understand the many challenges that lie ahead of us.
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Open Access

Chapter 6. Pathways to Resilience

Abstract
The COVID-19 crisis has tested public institutions, crisis leadership and societal solidarity to the core. Fault lines have come to the fore; unsuspected strengths have been noted. But will this be enough to initiate the necessary steps to prepare our societies for the future crises that will come? In this chapter, we offer the building blocks for an action agenda. We identify various pathways to enhanced resilience.
Arjen Boin, Allan McConnell, Paul ‘t Hart

Backmatter

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