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Deakin, Simon and Meng, Gaofeng (2021) The Governance of COVID-19: Anthropogenic Risk, Evolutionary Learning, and the Future of the Social State. Cambridge, UK: Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge Working Paper no. 524.

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Abstract

We consider the implications of the COVID-19 crisis for the theory and practice of governance. We define ‘governance’ as the process through which, in the case of a given entity or polity, resources are allocated, decisions made and policies implemented, with a view to ensuring the effectiveness of its operations in the face of risks in its environment. Core to this, we argue, is the organisation of knowledge through public institutions, including the legal system. COVID-19 poses a particular type of ‘anthropogenic’ risk which arises when organised human activity triggers feedback effects from the natural environment. As such it requires the concerted mobilisation of knowledge and a directed response from governments and international agencies. In this context, neoliberal theories and practices, which emphasise the self-adjusting properties of systems of governance in response to external shocks, are going to be put to the test. In states’ varied responses to COVID-19 to date it is already possible to observe some trends. One of them is the widespread mischaracterisation of the measures taken to address the epidemic at the point of its emergence in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January and February 2020. Public health measures of this kind, rather than constituting a ‘state of exception’ in which legality is set aside, are informed by practices which originated in the welfare or social states of industrialised countries, and which were successful in achieving a ‘mortality revolution’ in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Relearning this history would seem to be essential for the future control of pandemics and other Anthropogenic risks.

Item Type: Monographs and Working Papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: Covid-19, Anthropocene, risk, learning, legal evolution, social state
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
A General Works
H Social Sciences
J Political Science
K Law
Copyright Statement: Most of our working papers are available online. Please browse by year via the submenu on the left. All working papers are available for purchase in hard copy from publications at £5 per paper including postage and packaging. Contact publications@cbr.cam.ac.uk to join our quarterly email alert, order publications in hard copy, or request further information.
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2022 11:03
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/36202
Related URLs: https://ideas.r ... rwps/wp524.html (Organisation URL)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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