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Shobita Parthasarathy

Abstract

COVID-19 has shown the world that public policies tend to benefit the most privileged among us, and innovation policy is no exception. While the US government's approach to innovation—research funding and patent policies and programs that value scientists’ and private sector freedoms—has been copied around the world due to its apparent success, I argue that it has hurt poor and marginalized communities. It has limited our understanding of health disparities and how to address them, and hampered access to essential technologies due to both lack of coordination and high cost. Fair and equal treatment of vulnerable citizens requires sensitive and dedicated policies that attend explicitly to the fact that the benefits of innovation do not simply trickle down.

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Latin America and COVID-19

Political Rights and Presidential Leadership to the Test

Brigitte Weiffen

Abstract

Latin America was hit by COVID-19 in a moment of (socio-)economic distress and political unrest. This essay reflects on the immediate repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis for democracy in the region. It expounds how responding to the pandemic put to the test the still consolidating democracies with their long-standing defects in the areas of political and civil rights and horizontal accountability. In the course of coping with the crisis, it is precisely in these problem areas that additional risks for democracy have arisen due to infringements of political rights and the performance of presidents. Regarding the latter, the ambiguities of presidential leadership become particularly evident when comparing pragmatic and populist responses to the crisis.

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Le moment Lamennais

Modern Slavery and the Re-description of People (and Democracy) in Spain and Chile

Gonzalo Capellán

Abstract

Upon his controversial and successful publication of Words of a Believer (1834), Lamennais became one of the most influential thinkers in Europe and America. Lamennais's other works, such as Modern Slavery, have received surprisingly less attention, considering that with it he made a re-description of the concept people and consequently of democracy. Lamennais's presentation of the antagonism between liberty and tyranny, between a few oppressors (privileged classes) and the majority of the oppressed (the people) turned him into a key reference for the democratic, republican, and socialist political cultures. We can then speak of a “Lamennais moment” as opposed to the “Guizot moment,” which offered conflicting world views. This article combines an analysis of the translations and circulation of Modern Slavery in Spain and Latin America with the study of the new meanings of the concept people.

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Asma Abbas

Abstract

That the present moment ties multiple crises together—not least because each is a future of pasts that wound(ed) through each other—must be factored into our intercessions and visions. If every crisis is also a call to order, then what order, old or new, does the pandemic call us to? Its literality provokes us to keep both the pan and the demos in sight, just as they are being extinguished through borders, disease, poverty, insecurity, hatred, and disposability in the global postcolony. We are asked to remember that capital and colony are inseparable, that the nation-state is too suspicious a source of comfort, that the eroding claims of citizenship across the postcolonial and post-democratic fascist failed states are instructive and prophetic, and that the assumptions of place and movement in our frames of the democratic political need revisiting.

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David Owen

Abstract

This paper considers the implications of COVID for open borders. It notes that while COVID concerns do not directly challenge arguments for open borders, the pandemic has revealed two more general phenomena that are salient for such arguments. The first concerns the increasing unmooring of legal borders from physical spaces and the interaction of surveillance and identification technologies with this process. The second addresses the issue of interdependency and the potentially negative implications of open borders if not underpinned by a global basic structure.

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Louise Haagh

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This article argues that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light the importance of state democratic capacities linked with humanist governance. This requires securing individuals’ silent freedoms as embedded in the way “developmental” institutions that constitute social relations and well-being are governed. I argue health and well-being inequalities brought out by the crisis are but a manifestation of the way, in the context of the competition paradigm in global governance, states have become relatedly more punitive and dis-embedded from society. The answer lies in providing a more explicit defence of the features of a human development democratic state. An implication is to move democratic theory beyond the concern with redistributive and participatory features of democracy to consider foundational institutional properties of democratic deepening and freedom in society.

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Reviews

The Environment as an Umbrella Concept; From Word to Historical Concept

Risto-Matti Matero and Juan Alejandro Pautasso

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2018), 244 pp.

Fabio Wasserman, ed., El mundo en movimiento: El concepto de revolución en Iberoamérica y el Atlántico norte (siglos XVII–XX) [The world in motion: The concept of revolution in Iberian America and the North Atlantic (seventeenth–twentieth centuries)] (Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila editores, 2019), 293 pp.

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Barbara Prainsack

Abstract

This short article discusses how the COVID-19 crisis has affected solidarity. It starts by defining solidarity in such a way that it can be distinguished from other types of support and pro-social practice, and by arguing that solidarity can manifest itself at three different levels: at the inter-personal level, the group level, or at the level of legal and contractual norms. Drawing upon findings from two ongoing studies on personal and societal effects of the COVID-19 crisis, I then go on to argue that, while forms of inter-personal solidarity have been shifting even during the first weeks and months of the crisis, the importance of institutionalized solidarity is becoming increasingly apparent. The most resilient societies in times of COVID-19 have not been those with the best medical technology or the strictest pandemic containment measures, but those with good public infrastructures and other solidaristic institutions.

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Something Gleaming

Exemplary Resistance and the Shadows of Complicity

Bronwyn Leebaw

Abstract

What kinds of lessons can be learned from stories of those who resisted past abuses and injustices? How should such stories be recovered, and what do they have to teach us about present day struggles for justice and accountability? This paper investigates how Levi, Broz, and Arendt formulate the political role of storytelling as response to distinctive challenges associated with efforts to resist systematic forms of abuse and injustice. It focuses on how these thinkers reflected on such themes as witnesses, who were personally affected, to varying degrees, by atrocities under investigation. Despite their differences, these thinkers share a common concern with the way that organised atrocities are associated with systemic logics and grey zones that make people feel that it would be meaningless or futile to resist. To confront such challenges, Levi, Arendt and Broz all suggest, it is important to recover stories of resistance that are not usually heard or told in ways that defy the expectations of public audiences. Their distinctive storytelling strategies are not rooted in clashing theories of resistance, but rather reflect different perspectives on what is needed to make resistance meaningful in contexts where the failure of resistance is intolerable.

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Peter Levine

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.