Many of these experiences may be brief and reversible. The Covid-19 pandemic spreading at the moment has terrible human consequences. The risks of contagion are not shared equally. Many have duties that make isolation and social distancing difficult. It is important to confront the possibility of dystopian despair it is creating for the most vulnerable in addition to seeking democratic horizons during the crisis. For better or for worse, the crisis opens cracks in the present that can provide signs of the future.
An exogenous shock to the social and political realities attracts what Vivien Schmidt has called discursive entrepreneurs. They “serve as catalysts for change as they draw on and articulate the ideas of discursive communities and coalitions” (Schmidt 2008, 310). A successful intervention of discursive entrepreneurs may lead to the definition of possible ways forward in terms of the paradigm of the entrepreneur. From a different perspective, this can also mean what Naomi Klein (2020) is suggesting: “The future will be determined by whoever is willing to fight harder for the ideas they have lying around”. Klein might be overemphasizing agency here, but different media platforms are now filled with attempts to articulate immediate responses on how to control the pandemic crisis. Combined with responses of states and other institutions, a new field of participatory expertise that we call corona governance has emerged.
Corona governance includes ideological oddities, such as the right opposition asking for the left-leaning government to assume more authoritarian powers in Finland. More globally, many are asking whether the way the crisis has been handled by China provides evidence in favor of, or against, the crisis management possibilities that an explicitly authoritarian state has. In the emerging corona governance talk, South Korea is sometimes mentioned as a possible model.
If the Europeans or North Americans are now looking at Asian experiences as something to learn from, it may have some longer-term consequences. In traditional Eurocentric and colonial approaches, still very alive today, others need to learn from Europe. Learning to learn from others, if attempted by Europeans and other parts of the “global west”, could make the world less Eurocentric and, at least potentially, in some sense more democratic. Using terms coined by Saara Särmä, there is a possibility that the post-coronial world might be slightly more post-colonial. Then again, learning from China can also mean more efficient diffusion of authoritarian control techniques. For democratic futures of various kinds, the corona crisis presents both dangers and opportunities.Print