The coronavirus crisis and the legitimation crisis of neoliberalism

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Condon, Roderick
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This paper considers the societal consequences of the coronavirus crisis through the lens of critical social theory, advancing a social-theoretical perspective as its main contribution. The central argument is that the question of post-pandemic societal transformation be examined in terms of the pre-existing legitimation crisis of neoliberalism. This is developed through three steps. First, a theoretical framework is outlined for considering social transformation in terms of discursively mediated collective learning processes. Then, two loci of the legitimation crisis of neoliberalism are explored, the political crisis and the climate crisis, to delineate a series of antagonistic fronts shaping the contestation of this model. From this, two broad social movements contending for control of societal development emerge: radical-pluralism and reactionary-populism. Finally, the coronavirus crisis is briefly considered in terms of its interaction with this cleavage.
Coronavirus , Neoliberalism , Legitimation crisis , Climate crisis
Condon, R. (2020) 'The coronavirus crisis and the legitimation crisis of neoliberalism', European Societies. doi: 10.1080/14616696.2020.1839669
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© 2020, European Sociological Association. Published by Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an item published by Taylor & Francis in European Societies on 5 November 2020, available online: