In the US, quarantine requires we stay home, but many do not have homes to stay in or may lose theirs due to job or wage loss. For this reason, moratoria have been put on evictions. At the same time, after the latest police killings, and during ensuing protests against racist policing in June 2020, some were arrested for curfew violations, many pulled off the streets but others out of their homes or off their stoops. A real right to housing addresses both homelessness and uncurbed police powers that round up and break in. To address current emergencies and correct larger wrongs of American life, a rent jubilee would better protect tenants than a moratorium. It could be construed as a “taking,” allowed by the 5th Amendment, compensating landlords for their properties’ being taken to serve a “public use.” Popular takings, too, are rising up on behalf of a right to housing that goes beyond rent moratoria for some and the provision of low-grade “public housing” for others.
The Right to Housing in a Pandemic
Intergenerational Democracy and the Political Epidemiology of COVID-19
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how public health decisions in mass liberal democracies always reflect a political tradeoff between protecting privileged groups and leaving more marginalized groups precariously exposed. Examining the “political epidemiology” of COVID-19, I focus on the ways that the lives and well-being of children are sacrificed to secure adult interests. I argue that in our efforts to protect older adults we have endangered children and abandoned the future of today’s youth. This, I conclude, is indicative of a liberal preoccupation with adults and adult forms of agency, a defect that can only be adequately challenged by working toward more robust forms of democratic inclusion that include children and youth.
Which Governance Systems are Having a “Good” Pandemic?
Jennifer Gaskell and Gerry Stoker
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.
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.
Marcos S. Scauso, Garrett FitzGerald, Arlene B. Tickner, Navnita Chadha Behera, Chengxin Pan, Chih-yu Shih, and Kosuke Shimizu
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.
What Type of Freedom is at Stake?
Danielle Celermajer and Dalia Nassar
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.
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.
Five Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Afsoun Afsahi, Emily Beausoleil, Rikki Dean, Selen A. Ercan, and Jean-Paul Gagnon
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.
Holding Our Lives in Their Hands
Nancy L. Rosenblum
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.
Ulrike Guérot and Michael Hunklinger
In the past 70 years, situations that featured a lack of solidarity were always followed by the communitization of structures in the European Union. This contribution reflects on possible consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for the European Union. Even though the initial response from the EU looked unpromising and was driven at the nation-state level, the crisis may lead to new forms of solidarity through communitization. We argue that the EU needs equality for all EU citizens as well as institutionalized solidarity in order to finally become a real European democracy.