Institute's Colloquium: Pandemic Polities. Science Governance in Democratic and Authoritarian Regimes
A Bitter Pill: The Responsiveness of Modern Autocracies in the Covid-19 Pandemic
Anna L. Ahlers
Are autocracies better equipped to tackle the grand challenges of the 21st century? A science-informed and expert-led authority that can swiftly allocate essential resources wherever needed and defend the common good against particularistic desires and harmful individualistic behavior: not least since emergency responses to anthropogenic climate change are discussed, there seems to be a renaissance of such modern authoritarian desires. The global Covid-19 crisis is now the latest arena for such considerations. But what exactly distinguishes pandemic science governance under different political regimes? In this brief talk, I will refer to specific empirical insights from the case I study closely, the People’s Republic of China, but also test some more comparative and conceptual ideas.
What Makes a Crisis? Political Narratives of Covid-19
How did the Covid-19 pandemic become a crisis? What types of scientific imaginations trigger political actions? In this mini-lecture I will focus on the reactions to the coronavirus in southern European countries, where the health and economic costs of the pandemic have been enormous. I will pay particular attention to two developments: the place of experts in party politics and the appropriation of transnational narratives. Both of these interconnected stories complicate the dichotomy between democratic and authoritarian regimes when it comes to science governance. They also invite us to revise the concept of technocracy in a politically and scientifically plural world.