A pandemic is not just a medical emergency – it is also a political, economic, and social crisis. It implies new challenges for democratic institutions and practices, for citizenship rights and human rights as some of the restrictions on civil liberties put in place by liberal and illiberal democracies may well outlive the coronavirus. This special issue explores some tensions and dilemmas of democracies faced with the current crisis. “Politics of the Coronavirus Pandemics” addresses questions like: Can we speak of a decline in politics during the pandemic? While states have been using the full gamut of their sovereign prerogatives, has the political (temporarily) faded in the face of, for example, “expertise”? What will be the lasting impact of the rule by administrative fiat, and of emergency powers put in place in many countries? What kinds of agenda and instruments of civic activism are likely to emerge given that courts are rarely in session and public protest not permitted due to distancing rules? What are the likely consequences of these reconfigurations for democracy, governance, and welfare systems in the global South and North?
After the outbreak of COVID-19 – a virus constituting a genuinely worldwide risk – fear internationalised in just a few weeks. As the COVID crisis has profoundly shaken societies on a global scale it has contributed to a reconfiguration – perhaps a multiplication – of risks and their perceptions. While foremost constituting a biological hazard, the pandemic has large repercussions on other types of risks, ranging from long-term economic and digital disruption to psychological distress and political confrontation. The nature and frontiers of risks are thus moving as the multilateral system, the most adequate framework to deal with global risks, is ailing and current risk mitigation strategies are increasingly put to question. The six articles of the present Dossier explore these changing hierarchies of risk and the underpinning structural issues that endanger our existence.
The Paradox of Risk in an Age of Global ContractionReading time: 4 min
Moment of Surprise: The Anatomy of Biomedical RiskReading time: 5 min
Finance and Risk over the Long RunReading time: 4 min
Systemic Risk in the Financial SystemReading time: 5 min
Understanding Global Environmental and Health Risks in the 21st CenturyReading time: 5 min
Risky Entanglements between States and Online PlatformsReading time: 5 min
While poverty has been diminishing in absolute terms and relative income has been growing on a global scale for over two centuries, inequality – as measured by instruments such as the Gini coefficient – has been increasing steadily since the early 1980s. With the financial crisis of 2007, the growing digitalisation of the economy and the current pandemic, global inequality has further worsened, seeing the fortunes of the superrich attaining unprecedented levels and revenue concentrating in the top percentiles of societies.
Concurrently to the aggravation of the social fracture, additional fault lines have been opening or hardening along logics of race, gender, ethnicity and religion. Identarian revendications and logics of difference and exclusion have come to complement, compete with or supersede more traditional struggles for equality in a postmodern and neoliberal context that has normalised inequality, homogenised societies and done away with earlier grand narratives and collective agendas.
The consequences of inequality(ies) are dramatic, as reflected in the polarisation and fragmentation of societies, worsening health and mortality indicators, political tensions and violence, a decline in democracy, and mistrust in state institutions. The objective of the current issue of Global Challenges is therefore – by reverting to the analytical tools of social science – to reflect on the causes behind the multifaceted growth of inequality(ies), anticipate their noxious fallouts and explore potential remedies.