The COVID pandemic and social theory: Social democracy and public health in the crisis

European Journal of Social Theory 24 (1):22-43 (forthcoming)
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Social theory is developing in response to the coronavirus crisis. Fundamental questions about social justice in the relationship of individuals to society are raised by Delanty in his review of political philosophy, including Agamben, Foucault and Žižek. However, the focus on the libertarian critique of authoritarianism is not enough. The social democratic critique of neoliberalism lies at the centre of the contesting responses to the COVID crisis. A social democratic perspective on public health, democracy and state action is contrasted with the anti-statists of left and right. This is addressed in debates on the relationship between science and governance, the place of crisis in theories of change and the conceptualisation of alternative forms of social formation. The crisis initiated by the pandemic, cascading through society, from health to economy, to polity and into violence, includes a contestation between social democratic and neoliberal visions of alternative forms of society.



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