During the Pandemic our ordinary lives and norms were suspended because of government mandated rules enforcing Lockdowns and other protective measures agains the spread of the virus.
And it is precisely when our ordinary daily lives are disrupted or suspended that social norms are illuminated, and the Pandemic highlighted some of these, such as our reliance on technology (digital platforms) and gender relations within the household.
Furthermore, the social polices developed in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic reproduced already existing inequalities and power relations.
All of this is according to Will Davis, Professor of Political Economy at GoldSmith’s University, who featured in a recent Thinking Allowed Podcast…
Davis argues that the Pandemic shows us the power of the Nation State – what it can achieve when there is political will to spend money (and neoliberalism as usual is suspended!) – as evidenced in the ‘Covid Secure Housing’ scheme – all of a sudden, homelessness was almost eradicated, because it was deemed necessary to get people off the streets.
However for the most part the government’s policy approach during the Pandemic was one of ‘rentier nationalism’ – further blurring the boundaries between the public and private sector by giving generous contracts to companies in managing the Pandemic.
One such example was awarding SERCO the track and trace contract, and there are many more.
This policy, according to Davis was a continuation of several decades of post-neoliberal policies in which the role of the State is to ensure that those with assets can make a profit out of them – this is true for people with houses and for companies too.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t neoliberalism which is more global and free-market, it is the State having more of a role – and in fact this was the case with the political response to the Pandemic which was less global and more national according to Davis – as evidenced in ‘Vaccine nationalism’.
Inequality in the experience of Covid-19
Davis suggests we went through a ‘crisis of space’ during Lockdown with the home the chief weapon in combatting the spread of the virus.
He notes that for those with larger homes and spare rooms, Lockdown was relatively easy, and the wealthy were more able to spend money on technology to transition to home working, for example.
Property prices even increase during the Pandemic, further benefitting the rich!
Meanwhile the poor had a much worse time, and in extreme circumstances where there was overcrowding in multifamily households with share bathrooms, it was even impossible to isolate in family bubbles, meaning higher rates of infections.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is a useful update of some very contemporary sociology illustrating how inequalities are relevant to understanding our responses to Covid-19.
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