Talk: Crisis and politicisation. The example of the Covid-19 pandemic

Talk held by Amelie Kutter at the workshop ‘Politicisations of pandemic recovery’ organised by the JuRe project, which took place 15-16 June, 2023, at Helsikin University, see

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic and its management have reinforced crisis tendencies that European societies face, including social disparities that threaten social cohesion and trust in political institutions, the crisis in care and health provision, and unsustainable ways of production and consumption. It revealed the uneven distributive effects these crisis tendendies unfold and raised the question how a just recovery or just transition can be achieved. However, unlike earlier crises, the distributive effects of crisis and crisis management have not been subject of political constestation during the pandemic, nor have been efforts to compensate for the hardships induced by containment measures during recovery. What has primarily been contested is the legitimacy of national biopolitics, that is, the way and governmentality by which public authorities seek to control for the health of a population in a given territory.

The paper argues that the emphasis on self-determination vis-à-vis state authorities and the backgrounding of distributive effects of crisis management is related to the way the pandemic was constructed as a crisis in the first place and the specific type of political subjectivity – the responsible and resilient subject – that containment and recovery measures interpellated. Reflection on just recovery, thus, has to deal with the political subjectivities that arose during the pandemic and the reconfiguration of the political that they imply. This argument is drawn from discursive political studies, and a discourse conception of politicisation more specifically, which highlights the construction of political agency, opponency and voice previously unaccounted for in political competition (Kutter 2020). The argument is substantiated by secondary analyses and a range of examples from Germany, in particular.