Democratic politics in virulent times: three vital lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt


This article offers three lessons for a post-pandemic democratic politics. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the deep ontological entanglements of human and non-human systems: A submicroscopic agent jumping from an animal to a human host impacts human societies across the world. In the process, the virus has revealed a second lesson: Public responses to the pandemic have exacerbated already existing inequalities and fuelled anti-democratic desires for national and individual fortification. In a world where political emergencies like the pandemic are becoming more prevalent due to climatic and ecological destabilizations, there is an urgent need to promote new countervailing democratic forces. Together, these two insights motivate a third lesson: In order to address the ecological and political challenges of the so-called Anthropocene, democratic activism and political organizing must itself become more like the virus, more viral. Inspired by swarming behaviour in complex systems, a democratic politics of transformative change must give up illusions of simple solutions and central control, and instead rely on dispersed multi-sited actions happening at many scales at once, while working towards the improbable but necessary goal that these actions might, eventually, come together and bring about change at a planetary scale.
TidsskriftDistinktion: Journal of Social Theory
StatusUdgivet - 3 maj 2022

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