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Open access

The 2020 paradox

A multisystem crisis in search of a comprehensive response

Aleida Azamar Alonso and Carmen Maganda Ramírez

In most of the world, we follow a production model based on economic premises from the middle of the nineteenth century, including processes of accumulation, monopolization, and privatization of a territory's common goods and of life itself, in order to guarantee the reproduction of capital. International regulations and laws that protect nature are mostly limited to reaction and repair of environmental damages caused by anthropocentric activities in the most vulnerable and impoverished nations in the world but do not often question the damage to populations, especially indigenous peoples and their ancestral territories. Latin America exemplifies this, given that the region has experienced a series of political, economic, environmental, and now health crises as it has become the epicenter of the current COVID-19 pandemic (Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, 2021).

Open access

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

The American continents have become one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistically, it is the world region which has been impacted the most by the pandemic. By August 3, 2021, over two million people have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19, which represents roughly half of the total number of confirmed global deaths from the disease (Statista, 2021). Moreover, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the economies of this region will contract by 5.3% in 2021, which will plunge almost 30 million inhabitants of this world region into poverty (ECLAC, 2021).

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Moshe Maor

Surprisingly, although the Israeli government adopted unregulated, unorganized, inefficient, uncoordinated, and uninformed governance arrangements during the first wave of COVID-19, the public health outcome was successful, a paradox that this theoretically informed article seeks to explain. Drawing on insights from blame avoidance literature, it develops and applies an analytical framework that focuses on how allegations of policy underreaction in times of crisis pose a threat to elected executives’ reputations and how these politicians can derive opportunities for crisis exploitation from governance choices, especially at politically sensitive junctures. Based on a historical-institutional analysis combined with elite interviews, it finds that the implementation of one of the most aggressive policy alternatives on the policy menu at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis (i.e., a shutdown of society and the economy), and the subsequent consistent adoption of the aforementioned governance arrangements constituted a politically well-calibrated and effective short-term strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Open access

The Case of Australia

Trust During Pandemic Uncertainty—A Qualitative Study of Midlife Women in South Australia

Paul R. Ward, Belinda Lunnay, Kristen Foley, Samantha B. Meyer, Jessica Thomas, Ian Olver, and Emma R. Miller

Government responses to COVID-19 have dramatically altered the social quality of daily circumstances. Consequently, theoretical questions about social cohesion require recalibration as we explore new models of social quality. Central to this article is trust, one of the fundamental tenets of social cohesion. We present data from interviews with 40 women in midlife (45–64 years) regarding their everyday experiences of “life in lockdown” during the pandemic. Key themes focus on women’s (dis)trust in individuals (e.g., politicians, public health experts, family, themselves) and systems (e.g., politics, medicine, the media). This study provides insights into the differential impact of the pandemic in shaping public trust and hence social cohesion—in authority, institutions, and “each other”—with important lessons for how future efforts can rebuild trust in post-pandemic times.

Open access

The Case of Brazil

Coloniality and Pandemic Misgovernance as Necropolitical Tools in the Amazon

Vanessa Boanada Fuchs

This article analyzes the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of the Amazonian populations of Brazil. Following the social quality approach, it inquires into how COVID-19 intertwined with and reinforced underlying trends and inequalities in different life domains expressed in long-term societal complexities, urban–rural dynamics, and environmental transformations. The article finds that the pandemic, following coloniality of power patterns, has been instrumentalized as a necropolitical tool, and has disproportionately impacted certain peoples and territories based on ethnoracial bias. The collapse of the local health system in the State of Amazonas is a systemic burden, not serendipity. A dialogue is proposed between decolonial and social quality approaches to analyze, unveil, and denounce the interplay between the coloniality of power patterns in non-Western contexts.

Open access

The Case of China

The Societal Impact of the “Whole of Government Approach”

Wang Jing and Wang Xue

This article describes, from a sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and sociocultural perspective, the governance practices of the COVID-19 epidemic control response in China. We describe that, in line with the “whole of government approach,” strong resource mobilization and control of government departments, companies, and citizen communities has worked efficiently to rapidly contain the epidemic. Community participation at the grassroots level has played a decisive part. We assume that the deeply rooted collectivistic Chinese culture has made residents trust the government’s decisions and comply with the prevention and control strategies. We pose some intriguing questions for more analytical comparative research. They concern the normative interpretation of the influences of sociopolitical, economic, and cultural forces, as well as the balance between “collectivism” and “individualism” in societies.

Open access

The Case of Germany

Civil Society and Civic Activism in the Pandemic

Susann Worschech

Has the pandemic weakened civil society and hindered activism and volunteering due to long-lasting restrictions and bans on meetings, protests, and the like? Or have civil society actors been able to respond to these fundamental changes? This is explored here in the case of Germany. Neither weakness nor strength can be deemed a clear outcome of the pandemic for civil society, but different levels of resilience mark opportunities for civil society to overcome the pandemic. Resilience also affects democracy; therefore, the development of civil society during and after the pandemic is investigated in terms of how it has influenced democracy in Germany. This article is based on findings on civic activism resulting from long-term surveys and volunteering conducted prior to the pandemic, together with present and preliminary observations.

Open access

The Case of India

A Moral Foundation for the Impact of COVID-19 on Health and Society in the World’s Largest Democracy

Sony Pellissery, Vijay Paul, Khushi Srivastava, and Drishti Ranjan

A segmented healthcare system evolved in India by 1990s, whereby the rich population depended on private hospitals while the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid went to the poor-quality public hospitals. In a democracy of equals, unequal access to services became political when COVID-19 began to put pressure on the health system. Corruption that was normalized in a segmented healthcare system could no longer be ignored. To advance the framework of social quality, we examine the corruption that unfolded during the pandemic in India from the perspective of moral foundation theory. We study the issues raised by political parties during the pandemic and court directives responding to citizen grievances. The evidence shows there was inequality of access and that courts had to intervene to try to rectify the situation. In the absence of effective governmental intervention during the pandemic, moral norms become a useful explanatory factor for social quality.

Open access

The Case of Italy

The Societal Impact of COVID-19 in a Fragmented Society

Jan Martin Rossi

The present article makes use of aspects of social quality theory and the social quality approach to assess the impact of the Italian government’s efforts to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government has a critical role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic; however, the scope and efficacy of its interventions depend on the interplay of processes in four main dimensions: (1) sociopolitical and legal; (2) socioeconomic and financial; (3) sociocultural and welfare; and (4) socioenvironmental and ecological. By analyzing relevant processes in these four dimensions, I aim to understand whether the social quality in Italy has increased or decreased due to the pandemic. The fragmentation in the labor market, in healthcare governance, as well as in societal protection have strongly constrained the government interventions, leaving intact and crystallizing existing societal inequalities.

Open access

The Case of Pakistan

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Perceived Well-Being of Displaced Households

Fariya Hashmat, Ahmad Nawaz, Tony Bradley, and Asad Ghalib

This article represents a qualitative investigation of the vulnerabilities of displaced households in Pakistan caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The analyses are conducted through the lens of social quality theory and the social quality approach according to four societal dimensions that condition household life chances. Our findings reveal that these households reflect a reversal of the sustainable development cycle. They are at risk of being economically unstable, being unable to gain new skills, falling into absolute poverty, increased morbidity rates, and disrupted education. The most severe form of deprivation is the disruption of their networks of social cohesion, leading to greater isolation and marginalization; this is especially true for women and children. The Pakistani government must take immediate and substantive action to improve the situations of these most vulnerable of households.