Theorizing Democracy in a Pandemic

in Democratic Theory
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  • 1 Tufts University, USA peter.levine@tufts.edu
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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about the future of democracy and civil society. Some recent predictions seem to use the suffering to score points in ongoing political arguments. As a better example of how to describe the future during a crisis, I cite the prophetic voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. King does not merely predict: he calls for action, joins the action, and makes himself responsible for its success or failure. With these cautions about prediction in mind, I venture two that may guide immediate responses. First, communities may erect or strengthen unjustifiable barriers to outsiders, because boundaries enhance collective action. Second, although the pandemic may not directly change civic behavior, an economic recession will bankrupt some organizations through which people engage.

Contributor Notes

Peter Levine is Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University. E-mail: peter.levine@tufts.edu

Democratic Theory

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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