COVID-19 and the Politics of Fear

Matthew T Johnson* (Editor), Matthew Flinders (Editor), Dan Degerman (Editor), Ruth Wodak, Elias Moser, Peter Jones, Claudia Leeb, Isabella Kalil, Sofia Cherto Silveira, Weslei Pinheiro, Álex Kalil, João Vicente Pereira, Wiverson Azarias, Ana Beatriz Amparo, Rodrigo Borba, Leland Harper, Pablo Fernández Velasco, Bastien Perroy, Roberto Casati, Matthew Ratcliffe Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg, Didier Bigo, Elspeth Guild, Elif Mendos Kuskonmaz, Kaspar Villadsen, Paul Faulkner, Philip Pettit, Richard Ned Lebow, John A. Hall, David Bartram, Férdia J. Stone-Davis, Frank Furedi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationSpecial issue


A year ago, the three of us came together out of shared concern for the place of emotions in politics and shared belief that many orthodoxies on fear as an instrument of public administration were just wrong. As the pandemic worked its way through communities and countries across the globe, it became increasingly clear that longstanding rejections of fear as a negative or pre-political emotion failed to grasp not just its adaptive evolutionary value, but the vital role it can play in enabling societies to deal with crises. We (Degerman et al, 2020) set out the ways in which four key frames of analysis had been rendered inadequate by the pandemic. We argued that Hannah Arendt’s notion that fear is anti-political is contradicted by numerous examples of collective action borne of preservation, adding that

Contra [Martha] Nussbaum, fear can be rational and, contra [Zygmunt] Bauman, borne of knowledge, rather than ignorance. [Sara] Ahmed helps us see that structural inequality, which has only been exacerbated by the clusters of crises and poorly managed responses in recent years, means that fear is experienced unequally during pandemic. But what she fails to grasp is the qualified importance of fear politically; effective responses to COVID-19 may simultaneously require specific groups to experience ever greater fear of disease while at the same time being aware that efforts to achieve that may actually be self-defeating. (Degerman et al, 2020: 17)

Our conclusion was that, as a consequence, there was space for new scholarship on the politics of fear. This issue is the most substantive iteration of that work.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationGlobal Discourse
PublisherBristol University Press
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'COVID-19 and the Politics of Fear'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this