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Centralized or Decentralized

Which Governance Systems are Having a “Good” Pandemic?

Jennifer Gaskell and Gerry Stoker

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects across the world, yet different countries have had varying degrees of success in their attempts to manage it. One of the reasons behind the different outcomes observed so far lies in the strengths and weaknesses of different governance arrangements leveraged to tackle the crisis. In this article we examine what we can learn about the operational capacity of different democracies through their early responses to the crisis. We provide a framework of four positive qualities of multilevel governance that might lead to greater chances of positive practical outcomes and present an illustrative case study of the experiences of Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK). We conclude with some areas for further research and investigation.

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Circling around the really Real in Iran

Ethnography of Muharram laments among Shi'i volunteer militants in the Middle East

Younes Saramifar

Abstract

Iranian Shi'i believers claim that capturing sorrow and lamentation in their fullest sense falls beyond language and reason. They constantly refer to their inability to articulate in order to explain martyrdom and highlight a form of unsaid that explains all that appears impalpable for them. I undertake a journey among Iranian Shi'i youth to trace the unarticulated and the sense of wonder generated via religious experiences. By way of an ethnography of Muharram lamentation ceremonies, this article highlights how the unarticulated and the unsaid are socially and politically used in service of Shi'i militancy. I explore those uncharted terrains in the darkness of the Lacanian Real and in terms of how the Real is authenticated in order to address how realities are crafted and religious subjectivities are enacted in the realm of militancy.

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Concerning Durkheim's 1899 Lecture ‘On Penal Sanctions’

Introduction, Translation Notes, and Comments

Ronjon Paul Datta and François Pizarro Noël

Abstract

This article provides a critical introduction to the first English translation of Durkheim's Saturday, 2 December 1899, lecture that he entitled ‘Course Outline: On Penal Sanctions’. It was written for the first class of the final year of his course ‘General Physics of Law and Morality’. We provide some context to the lecture, a description of the four-year long course at Bordeaux of which it was a part, offer notes on our translation, and discuss the salience of its content. Of particular note is Durkheim's sociological reasoning, and the critical impact of antisubjectivism on the development of his special theory of sanctions and conception of morality as part of social reality.

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Milja Kurki

Abstract

As the challenges presented by the coronavirus are being processed within national communities and the international order, important new avenues for re-thinking democratic theory and practice present themselves. This short article discusses the potential implications of a shift toward planetary politics whereby we engage not only human communities but also non-human ones in our thinking and practice of democracy. New opportunities to rethink “international order” and how we negotiate with ecosystems are presented by opening up (rather than closing down) our political imaginations in the context of the coronavirus challenge.

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Marcos S. Scauso, Garrett FitzGerald, Arlene B. Tickner, Navnita Chadha Behera, Chengxin Pan, Chih-yu Shih, and Kosuke Shimizu

Abstract

Liberal democracies often include rights of participation, guarantees of protection, and policies that privilege model citizens within a bounded territory. Notwithstanding claims of universal equality for “humanity,” they achieve these goals by epistemically elevating certain traits of identity above “others,” sustaining colonial biases that continue to favor whoever is regarded more “human.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these fault lines, unveiling once more the often-hidden prevalence of inequalities that are based on race, gender, class, ethnicity, and other axes of power and their overlaps. Decolonial theories and practices analyze these othering tendencies and inequalities while also highlighting how sites of suffering sometimes become locations of solidarity and agency, which uncover often-erased alternatives and lessons.

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COVID and the Era of Emergencies

What Type of Freedom is at Stake?

Danielle Celermajer and Dalia Nassar

Abstract

The threat of emergency measures introduced in face of COVID-19 has largely been framed in terms of individual rights. We argue that it is not the protection of the sovereign individual that is most at stake, but the relations between political subjects and the institutions that enable their robust political participation. Drawing on Hannah Arendt's analysis of the ways in which isolation and the incapacity to discern truth or reality condition totalitarianism and are exacerbated by it, we argue that the dangers for the evacuation of democratic politics are stark in our era. We consider contemporary political action in concert in Germany to illustrate this critique of COVID-19 emergency measures. Drawing on the legal concept of “appropriateness,” we explicate how the German critical response to the shutdown is founded on a concern for democratic principles and institutions, and aims to achieve two crucial goals: governmental transparency and social-political solidarity.

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Jodi Dean

Abstract

Revolution only occurs when people are willing to die for it. The last few days of May 2020 showed that thousands of people were willing to risk their lives in the struggle against the racist capitalist system. Rage at four hundred years of oppression, exploitation, and denigration, at the systemic murder of black, brown, and indigenous people, and at wanton, visible, and permissible police violence could no longer be contained. Between the virus and the economy, there was nothing left to lose.

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Dealing with an Ocean of Meaninglessness

Reinhart Koselleck's Lava Memories and Conceptual History

Margrit Pernau and Sébastien Tremblay

Abstract

During his prolific career, Reinhart Koselleck left his mark on a myriad of topics beyond the history of concepts: iconology, memory, and temporality. The first part of this piece is a never before published English translation of one of Koselleck's numerous public interventions. Second, taking as a starting point his reflection about the end of the war and the impossibility to collectivize certain memories, this article links his considerations about the unsayable with his work on images and political sensuality. Going beyond a simple analysis of Koselleck's writings, the article opens a dialogue between the history of concepts and affective memories, offering news ways to link experiences, emotions, and practices while underlining the limits of communication and collective memory.

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Democracy in a Global Emergency

Five Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Afsoun Afsahi, Emily Beausoleil, Rikki Dean, Selen A. Ercan, and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Abstract

As countries around the world went into lockdown, we turned to 32 leading scholars working on different aspects of democracy and asked them what they think about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted democracy. In this article, we synthesize the reflections of these scholars and present five key insights about the prospects and challenges of enacting democracy both during and after the pandemic: (1) COVID-19 has had corrosive effects on already endangered democratic institutions, (2) COVID-19 has revealed alternative possibilities for democratic politics in the state of emergency, (3) COVID-19 has amplified the inequalities and injustices within democracies, (4) COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for institutional infrastructure for prolonged solidarity, and (5) COVID-19 has highlighted the predominance of the nation-state and its limitations. Collectively, these insights open up important normative and practical questions about what democracy should look like in the face of an emergency and what we might expect it to achieve under such circumstances.

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The Democracy of Everyday Life in Disaster

Holding Our Lives in Their Hands

Nancy L. Rosenblum

Abstract

Neighbors inhabit a distinct social sphere whose regulative ideal is the democracy of everyday life. Its chief elements are reciprocity and a practical disregard for the differences and inequalities that shape interactions in the broader society and in democratic politics. The democracy of everyday life has heightened significance during disasters. Neighbors hold our lives in their hands. But COVID-19 differs from physical disasters in ways that alter neighbor interactions. Contamination makes relations more fearful at the same time that isolation makes them more valuable. When the meaning attributed to the virus is not shared experience of disease and mortality but rabid partisanship, neighbor relations become distorted. This degradation of the democracy of everyday life signals that democracy itself is imperiled more deeply than political paralysis, corruption, and institutional failure suggest.