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Published in: Society 1/2021

06-04-2021 | GLOBAL SOCIETY

Sustaining Normative Horizons, Grappling with Elusive Effects: Governance and Sociality Under the Litmus Test of COVID-19

Author: Blagovesta Nikolova

Published in: Society | Issue 1/2021

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Abstract

The text aims at opening a space for discussion on the problems of governance under the strain of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic is a testing experience for contemporary liberal democracies and their underlying governance paradigm. The article concentrates on three main issues. First, it explores how the crisis challenged authorities and their ability to sustain an overarching societal agenda, a normative horizon of governance, in view of an uncertain future. Second, it focuses on the driving logic of governance mechanisms and problematizes the preoccupation with the management of effects when dealing with social problems. Last but not least, it points to two particular dangers for democracy that emerge from the failures of the current governance paradigm in the face of the pandemic: legitimizing the imbalance of powers and normalizing social distance as the new crystal lattice of public and social interaction.

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Footnotes
1
John Kruzel, ‘Trump set for clash with governors over reopening economy’, The Hill, March 26, 2020, https://​thehill.​com/​regulation/​court-battles/​489592-trump-set-for-clash-with-governors-over-reopening-economy
 
2
Samuel Earle, ‘Boris Johnson Cares About ‘Liberty’ More Than People’s Lives’, The New York Times, June 24, 2020, https://​www.​nytimes.​com/​2020/​06/​24/​opinion/​boris-johnson-coronavirus.​html
 
3
Marta Paterlini, ‘Closing borders is ridiculous’: the epidemiologist behind Sweden’s controversial coronavirus strategy’, Nature 580, 574 (2020), April 21, 2020, https://​www.​nature.​com/​articles/​d41586-020-01098-x
 
4
Laurenz Gehrke, ‘Swedish epidemiologist admits to flaws in country’s coronavirus response’, Politico, June 3, 2020, https://​www.​politico.​eu/​article/​swedish-epidemiologist-admits-to-flaws-in-countrys-coronavirus-response/​
 
5
‘Bulgarian doctors critical of government over inconsistent anti-epidemic measures’, Bulgarian National Radio, October 24, 2020, https://​bnr.​bg/​en/​post/​101362202/​bulgarian-doctors-critical-of-government-over-inconsistent-anti-epidemic-measures
 
6
David Blumenthal and Elizabeth J. Fowler, ‘It’s Not Too Early to Prepare for the Next Pandemic’, Harvard Business Review, April 17, 2020, https://​hbr.​org/​2020/​04/​its-not-too-early-to-prepare-for-the-next-pandemic
 
7
Interestingly, Giorgio Agamben and his work became the epicenter of intellectual clashes problematizing his critique on the response to the pandemic as yet another, this time much profound, manifestation of the tendency to use the state of exception as a normal paradigm for government thus further denigrating and reducing human life to its purely biological condition.
 
8
Georgio Agamben, ‘For a theory of destituent power’. Public lecture in Athens, 16.11.2013, ΧΡΟΝΟΣ 10 (02.2014), http://​www.​chronosmag.​eu/​index.​php/​g-agamben-for-a-theory-of-destituent-power.​html
 
9
Tom Ginsburg and Mila Versteeg, ‘States of Emergencies: Part I’, Harvard Law Review Blog, April 17, 2020, https://​blog.​harvardlawreview​.​org/​states-of-emergencies-part-i/​
 
10
‘Hungary’s Orban handed open-ended powers to fight coronavirus, alarming rights groups’, France 24, March 30, 2020, https://​www.​france24.​com/​en/​20200330-hungary-s-pm-obtains-open-ended-emergency-powers-to-fight-the-coronavirus
 
11
See for example, Laura Rees, ‘How to calmly navigate personal interactions during COVID-19’, The Conversation, August 16, 2020, https://​theconversation.​com/​how-to-calmly-navigate-personal-interactions-during-covid-19-143669
 
12
Sujata Gupta, ‘Social distancing comes with psychological fallout’, ScienceNews, March 29, 2020, https://​www.​sciencenews.​org/​article/​coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing-psychological-fallout
 
13
Nazia Parveen and Jamie Grierson, Warning over rise in UK domestic abuse cases linked to coronavirus, The Guardian, March 26, 2020, https://​www.​theguardian.​com/​society/​2020/​mar/​26/​warning-over-rise-in-uk-domestic-abuse-cases-linked-to-coronavirus
 
14
Bel Trev, ‘Thousands rally in ‘social distancing’ protest accusing Netanyahu of destroying democracy’, The Independent, April 20, 2020, https://​www.​independent.​co.​uk/​news/​world/​middle-east/​tel-aviv-bibi-social-distancing-coronavirus-protest-netanyahu-a9473976.​html
 
15
Gregory Pappas, ‘Even During Protests, Greeks Observing Social Distancing Guidelines’, π, May 1, 2020, https://​www.​pappaspost.​com/​greeks-observe-social-distancing-during-protests/​
 
16
An interesting example of this point is the position of some American medical professionals on the protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor: “We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises” (see Mallory Simon, ‘Over 1,000 health professionals sign a letter saying, Do not shut down protests using coronavirus concerns as an excuse’, CNN, June 5, 2020, https://​edition.​cnn.​com/​2020/​06/​05/​health/​health-care-open-letter-protests-coronavirus-trnd/​index.​html).
 
Literature
go back to reference Agamben, G. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press CrossRef Agamben, G. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press CrossRef
go back to reference Agamben, G. 2005. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Agamben, G. 2005. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
go back to reference Crozier, M., Huntington, S. & Watanuki, J. 1975. The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies. New York: New York University Press Crozier, M., Huntington, S. & Watanuki, J. 1975. The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies. New York: New York University Press
Metadata
Title
Sustaining Normative Horizons, Grappling with Elusive Effects: Governance and Sociality Under the Litmus Test of COVID-19
Author
Blagovesta Nikolova
Publication date
06-04-2021
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 1/2021
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-021-00562-2

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