Taking ideology seriously in the time of plague: insights versus distractions
Keywords:COVID-19, ideology, populism, neoliberalism
This article argues that insights from ideology theory shed valuable light on the political aspects of COVID-19 and help understand and categorise policy responses to it. Much of the debate on the politics of COVID-19 has been dominated by questions concerning populism, but this article contends that this is not a fruitful direction for understanding current developments. The argument advanced here is that populism is a hollow and incoherent ideological category and so does not provide a suitable departure point to explore the ideological dimension of the pandemic. On the other hand, a critical engagement with the dominant ideology of neoliberalism goes a long way to explain different kinds of political fallout from COVID-19. While neoliberalism is unfit for the challenge posed by the virus, identifying the ideological underpinnings of the neoliberal approach may help to grasp its implications and formulate urgently needed alternatives.
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