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Open access

The Case of South Africa

The Societal Impact of COVID-19

Krish Chetty

Abstract

Multiple crises have emerged in South Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. General well-being is in severe danger from the immediate effects of the virus and the longer-term impact of hunger due to a growing economic crisis. While the working-class majority struggle, there is a political struggle for political power playing out among factions in the ruling party. These tensions flared up in the wake of President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment in July 2021, leading to widespread unrest and destruction. These experiences point to a failing economic system that neglected the poor. If this neglect continues, then this unrest may continue. In making this argument, I base my analysis upon the views of political luminaries such as Neville Alexander, Archie Mafeje, and Roger Southall. Their views are linked to the experiences of many South Africans during the pandemic.

Open access

The Case of the United Kingdom

Mapping Localism, Resilience, and Civic Activism in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tony Bradley, Issam Malki, Curtis Ziniel, and Asad Ghalib

Abstract

This article explores the determinants of local resilience in the form of local COVID-19 mutual aid groups. These groups were formed to offer mutual help to those who had experienced a loss of social quality. We test a series of hypotheses, considering which conditional factors are most connected to the formation of these groups, particularly focusing on those that influenced the earliest and most resilient local response to the pandemic. The presence of radical environmentalist activists is a better predictor of resilient community responsiveness than either the activity of the local state or the activity of more moderate community-based environmental civil society organizations. Conclusions are presented on the implications of these findings for the future of localism, social quality, and public policy in the United Kingdom.

Open access

The Case of the United States

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Social Connectedness and Isolation in Low-Income Communities

Allison A. Parsons, Danielle Maholtz, Jamaica Gilliam, Haleigh Larson, Dan Li, Sophia J. Zhao, Brita Roy, and Carley Riley

Abstract

Connectedness is vital for health and well-being. Families with lower socioeconomic status and of racial and ethnic minority groups experience inequities in social connections compared to families with higher income and of White race in the United States. We aimed to understand how families in lower-income neighborhoods experienced social connectedness and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and if and how political, economic, and other societal factors influenced social connectedness. We conducted in-depth interviews with nineteen caregivers of young children in Cincinnati, Ohio. Participants had a decreased sense of social connectedness to family and friends but also across all aspects of their lives. The current crisis has exacerbated preexisting societal conditions within the United States. We can learn from these caregivers how best to bolster social connectedness and disrupt social isolation.

Open access

The Case of the United States (2)

Reframing the COVID-19 Crisis as a Problem

Iva A. Terwilliger, Kevin J. O'Leary, and Julie K. Johnson

Abstract

Often when a problem is identified, it is quickly labeled and the process of looking for solutions starts. However, we should spend just as much time thinking about the problem itself. But what exactly should we focus on? Taking the time to think through and reframe problems leads to better problem-solving. The COVID-19 pandemic has been called a global crisis, and rightly so. Yet, there is something to be learned from framing it as a problem, or a series of problems, that provides us with an opportunity to look for different solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals experienced staff turnover, and some nurses even left their jobs to become travel nurses. Clinical staffing challenges provide an example of how reframing may have led to better problem-solving.

Open access

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Climate Change

Expressions of Global Ecological and Societal Misbalances

Harry G. J. Nijhuis and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

In these reflections, instead of just summarizing the contributions on the societal impact of COVID-19 in the countries discussed in this thematic issue, we develop considerations on the nature of its substance and various related methodological issues. This is based especially on the outcomes of Working Paper 17 of the International Association on Social Quality (IASQ 2019) and the study about the conditions for interdisciplinary research in the natural sciences, in the human sciences, and between both fields of knowledge (Westbroek et al. 2020). Both documents were available for the authors of this issue's articles. For understanding the overwhelming COVID-19 pandemic as well the increasing challenges caused by climate change, bio-degeneration, and the ongoing pollution of nature, new steps for bridging the natural and the human sciences are a conditio sine qua non for understanding the complexity of the multidimensionality of critical situations that demand comprehensive approaches.

Open access

Crisis múltiples, neodesarrollismo y megaproyectos en la región sureste de México

Carlos A. Rodríguez Wallenius

Abstract

This article analyzes the extractivist and dispossession modalities in the Mexican neodevelopmental proposal to face the multiple crises accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the qualitative narrative method applied to social processes, four infrastructure and extractivist megaprojects are analyzed. Neodevelopmental policies of the current government insist on carrying out works as a strategy to create jobs, reactivate the economy, and promote well-being, especially for the southeast region with high rates of socioeconomic inequality. The findings point to an increase in investment and job creation and a rejection by various communities and organizations that consider that their ways of life are being threatened by the efforts of the neodevelopmental government to build megaprojects before and during the pandemic.

Resumen

Este artículo analiza las modalidades extractivistas y de despojo en la propuesta neodesarrollista mexicana para enfrentar las crisis múltiples acentuadas por la pandemia de la COVID-19. Con el método cualitativo narrativo aplicado a procesos sociales, se analizan cuatro megaproyectos de infraestructura y extractivistas. Las políticas neodesarrollistas del gobierno actual insisten en realizar obras como una estrategia para crear empleos, reactivar la economía y fomentar el bienestar, especialmente para la región sureste con altos índices de desigualdad socioeconómica. Los hallazgos señalan un incremento en la inversión y en la generación de empleos pero también un rechazo de varias comunidades y organizaciones que consideran que sus formas de vida están siendo amenazadas frente a los esfuerzos del gobierno neodesarrollista por construir megaproyectos antes y durante la pandemia.

Résumé

Cet article analyse les modalités extractivistes et de dépossession incluses dans la proposition néo-développementaliste mexicaine afin de faire face aux crises multiples accentuées par la pandémie de Covid-19. Avec la méthode narrative qualitative appliquée aux processus sociaux, quatre mégaprojets d'infrastructures et d'extraction sont analysés. Les politiques néo-développementalistes du gouvernement actuel insistent sur la réalisation de travaux comme stratégie pour créer des emplois, réactiver l'économie et promouvoir le bien-être, en particulier pour la région du sud-est qui connaît des taux élevés d'inégalités socio-économiques. Les résultats indiquent une augmentation des investissements et de la création d'emplois, mais aussi un rejet de la part de diverses communautés et organisations qui considèrent que leurs modes de vie sont menacés par les efforts du gouvernement néo-développementaliste pour construire des mégaprojets avant et pendant la pandémie.

Open access

Editorial

The Societal Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic Explained via Three Frameworks

Harry G. J. Nijhuis and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

At the dawn of the devastating events of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the editorial of the first issue of 2020, as well as in the articles, topics related to the overwhelming impact of the emerging crisis were explored (Van der Maesen 2020). In particular, reference was made to the topical performances of the federal governments of the United States and Brazil, as well as the British government. As an introduction to this special issue, it is interesting to recall and extend some of the observations that were made last year.

In the case of the United States, when COVID-19 appeared, the hazards of the virus were downplayed and even neglected. The president countered the opinion of public health experts with false, misleading comparisons to other countries (Qiu 2020). It was proposed to cut the budget of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention by 16 percent starting in October 2020. Long-lasting contacts and collaboration with the World Health Organization were broken. Due to export restrictions on medical products, importing countries were unable to obtain sufficient medical equipment, resulting in a shortage in healthcare equipment that had to be made for up via a mandatory increase in local production. This came at a high cost and with serious delays (Krueger 2020). For the United States itself, the initial attitude of the government resulted in a dramatic blow to its public health resources and capabilities. The quality of hundreds of health departments around the country suggests that the nation may be less prepared for the next pandemic than it was for the current one (Baker and Ivory 2021). The violence toward public health professions is gradually taking shape (Schreiber 2021). An overriding societal pattern, which in the United States undermines the principles of effective public health, is the primacy of personal rights over collective responsibility and solidarity. More than half of US states have introduced new laws to restrict public health measures, including policies requiring quarantine and mandating vaccines and/or masks.

Open access

Editorial Introduction

The Cases of India, South Africa, and Brazil

Harry G. J. Nijhuis and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

In this introduction, the cases of India, South Africa, and Brazil are connected. The contributions from these countries, in different ways, discuss the dramatic moral impacts of government approaches to the pandemic. The three countries are part of the BRICS platform, in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa participate. With 40 percent of the world's population, the BRICS platform concerns a substantial part of the world. The principles of the platform and its mutual “economic, political, cultural an environmental philosophy” are summarized by Marco Ricceri (2019). The members support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), and they will contribute to the quality of global development. At the 13th BRICS Summit in September 2021, the New Delhi Declaration was presented (BRICS 2021). This declaration conveys a thorough normative mission statement. It therefore renders an interesting common frame of reference from which to analyze and judge the contributions from the three countries, as well as from China and Russia.

Open access

Editorial Introduction

The Cases of Germany and the United Kingdom

Harry G. J. Nijhuis and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

In the following studies, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the resilience of communities and the formation of civic activism in Germany and the United Kingdom is analyzed and discussed. In the German study, the expected impact on existing volunteer organizations is explored. In the UK study, by analyzing quantitative data pertaining to (about the determinants of) different categories of mutual aid groups (MAGs) interpretations are made concerning resilience, agility, and civic activist potentialities.

Open access

Editorial Introduction

The Cases of Italy and China

Harry G. J. Nijhuis and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

The cases of Italy and China make for an interesting comparison because they represent quite different governance approaches to the pandemic. These differences may be instructive for the in-depth comprehension of the nature and the impact of government approaches to resolving crises. The two regions notably do share common histories in the spread of pandemics. The first cases of COVID-19 in Asia and Europe were registered in China in December 2019, and in Italy in January 2020, respectively. The origins and initial epidemiological dynamics of the pandemic, though, are still unclear and are the subject of scientific discussion (Dou et al. 2021; Nadeau et al. 2021). In the thirteenth century, the spread of “the plague” (Yersinia Pestis) is assumed to have spread from the Asiatic steppes to Venice, at that time a powerful city-state with intensive transcontinental commercial activity into Asia through the Silk Road (Frankopan 2016). It is interesting to note that the socioenvironmental and ecological dynamics of the origins and initial spread of COVID are still unknown. As stated in the Editorial of this issue, this fact reads as an argument to pay ample attention to the interferences with the sociopolitical and legal, socioeconomic and financial, and sociocultural and welfare dimensions.