Special Issue "The Political Economy of the Response to COVID-19: The EU and the Rest of the World"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Contemporary Politics and Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Leila Simona Talani
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of European and International Studies, King’s College London, London WC2B 4BG, UK
Interests: International Political Economy; European Political Economy; The Political Economy of International Migration, Brexit and the City of London, The Political Economy of Italy in the Euro
Prof. Alan Cafruny
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Hamilton University, Clinton, NY 13323, USA
Interests: International Political Economy; International Relations: History and Theory; Comparative Politics: Europe; The European Union; International Law and Organization; U.S. Foreign Policy

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic that erupted in China’s Wuhan city at the end of 2019 has precipitated a global crisis comparable to that of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Just four months after Chinese public health officials identified the genome of the virus, 4.2 million people around the world have been infected and more than 287,000 have died. The future trajectory of the pandemic is uncertain. Unless and until there are scientific breakthroughs in the area of vaccines and anti-viral cures, it appears that (at least within the present balance of political and class forces) the avoidance of further catastrophic loss of life can only be accomplished through massive and comprehensive economic shutdowns in the context of depression-era levels of mass unemployment, comparable declines in GDP, and the acceleration of geopolitical rivalries.

COVID-19 is caused by a novel viral strain that has not been previously identified in humans. According to the World Health Organization, the key to controlling the pandemic is the relentless pursuit of the most rigorous approach possible including monitoring, testing, and quarantine. China has by most accounts largely succeeded in containing the virus’s spread within its own borders. Following the model of China, most states responded with policies and actions designed to control and contain, closing borders and moving citizens through various combinations of exhortation and legal measures into quarantine. This strategy has enabled South Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Taiwan to significantly decrease the number of COVID-19 patients.

The Western response has been very different. Most Western states were unprepared to face the pandemic, and delayed the imposition of rigorous approaches. Many of them are struggling to sustain these approaches when faced with popular resistance. Thus, at the present time Europe and the United States are at the center of the pandemic, although Western states have also pursued a variety of different strategies.

Given the substantial variation in state responses, it is imperative for students of international relations and public policy to investigate and comparatively analyze the strategies and policies of states as well as the role played by national and transnational scientific communities. To this aim, the contributors to this volume will address the following questions:

  1. What are the key factors that account for the variety of national responses to the pandemic?
  2. What has been the relationship between scientific communities and power? To what extent has scientific knowledge been subordinated to the logic of power in general and economic power in particular?
  3. In what ways do national and international responses to the pandemic reflect the neoliberal order in general, and the neo-liberal organization of public health in particular?
  4. Is the return of the state here to stay, and is this a good or a bad thing? Will the political management of the crisis lead to more authoritarian forms of neo-liberalism, or will state intervention in the public sphere serve to revitalize social democratic ideas and policies?
  5. Is the tension between fighting the pandemic and democracy substantive and real, or are appeals to democracy and liberty largely excuses designed to justify limits on state intervention? Where does privacy fit in this context, if at all?

Prof. Leila Simona Talani
Prof. Alan Cafruny
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • The political economy of states’ response to COVID-19
  • Neo-liberalism and the state
  • Epistemic communities
  • Scientific knowledge and power
  • Authoritarian neo-liberalism
  • COVID-19 and democracy
  • COVID-19 and state intervention

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Sweden and Coronavirus: Unexceptional Exceptionalism
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(12), 232; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9120232 - 15 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4064
The aims of this article are, first, to describe the Swedish authorities’ strategy for dealing with the sudden onset of novel coronavirus in early 2020 and, second, to explain why that strategy differed markedly from those in nearly all other European countries. From [...] Read more.
The aims of this article are, first, to describe the Swedish authorities’ strategy for dealing with the sudden onset of novel coronavirus in early 2020 and, second, to explain why that strategy differed markedly from those in nearly all other European countries. From an early stage, the Swedish government delegated decision making to the Public Health Agency, and its goal was to mitigate the effects of the virus rather than to suppress its spread. Society was never closed down in the same way as elsewhere. Using data from media reports and other publications, we argue that the agency was insulated from pressure to change course, even as the number of deaths associated with covid-19 rose far above those in Sweden’s Nordic neighbours, by four conditions: (1) the structure of national public administration; (2) an outburst of nationalism in parts of the media; (3) the uneven impact of the virus; and (4) a political leadership that was willing to delegate responsibility for policy almost entirely. We conclude by briefly comparing the coronavirus strategy to previous episodes of Swedish policy exceptionalism. This emerging pattern, we suggest, raises normative questions about the functioning of Swedish democracy. Full article
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