Covid-19: A systemic pandemic
TU Dresden, Deutschland
Between narratives of ‘crisis as change’ and scenarios of collapse – the possible transformative dynamics of the corona crisis and their gendered dimensions are often described in opposing poles such as pure positive or pure negative consequences. Instead, this ad hoc group aims at raising open questions enabling analysis of empirical reality that avoids reductions in extremes but focuses on paradoxical, conflicting, contradictory and still simultaneous developments and social changes in the social areas of labour, care work and state regulation in their gender dimensions.
A year and a half after the outburst of Covid-19 virus it becomes clear that this pandemic is tightly involved in our socio-economic system. Within a short time after the outburst key professions and jobs in the health sector and alimentation for life maintaining became apparent. In addition, the dependence on structures for the reproduction of our societies, childcare, to set free work force became obvious. This shifted the public attention towards a social area often mainly neglected. With this, hopes for change emerged within the first months of the pandemic: a new consciousness on the importance of reproduction as well as on key occupations in life maintenance brought about hopes for an increase not only in the recognition of these occupations, but also an increase in their gratification. However, these hopes have vanished. Apart from applause and a little special bonus here and there, employees in life maintaining occupations have not experienced improvements in their working conditions. Quite the contrary: due to the ongoing of the pandemic, occupations in the reproduction sector are under constant stress and exhaustion. After the first lockdown comprehending also many companies, the state now priorities the economy and relates restrictions of social contacts mainly to the private sphere. This policy contributes to a constant high number of infections and deaths. The global scale of the pandemic calls for global distribution of vaccine, but wealthy states secured large portions for themselves. Therefore, the global inequality our socio-economic system relies on not only continues but deepens, while the hopes for fundamental change seems to be all but gone.
Crisis of social reproduction and state responses to the Global Covid-19 pandemic
1Universität Bielefeld, Deutschland; 2London School of Economics, UK; 3Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, Deutschland
The ongoing pandemic has affected multiple dimensions of life, catching the world unprepared for dealing with the virus and handling its public health and socioeconomic consequences. The Covid-19 disease itself, and the responses to it, have been deeply gendered, and, like other crises, intensify social inequalities along gender lines.
This paper engages the global Covid-19 pandemic, and the state responses to it, as a lens through which to examine the deep-rooted transnational crisis of social reproduction. Rather than seeing Covid-19 as a discrete event, we take a broader perspective and understand its transnational gendered impact (contesting equality and exacerbating inequality) as inextricable from the crisis-prone state managed nexus of production and reproduction. We analyse state responses in selected countries representing different routes to and through Covid-19 and discuss the following questions: How far do the implemented policies reinforce the “careless” capitalist economy, abstracting from those resources and services of "reproduction" which can only partly be turned into value? To what extent do they intensify existing gender inequalities? The current crisis exposes long-standing contradictions in the capitalist economic and social order, on the one hand, and the gender order (as its constitutive moment), on the other. The state responses reshape, but do not transform, the relationship between the spheres of production and social reproduction. We interpret this as attempts to keep capitalism on the move without addressing the causal mechanisms that perpetuate the global social reproduction crisis. Hence, we address a central field of (global) contestations of women´s and gender rights - a necessary step for considering alternatives within and beyond capitalism.
The Gender of R: Care and social connectivity in the reproduction of COVID
City University London, UK
Interrupting the transmission of COVID is important in reducing its reproduction. This involves reducing social connectivity, which takes place in work, leisure and care. While restricting the economy and leisure have been attempted and achieved, restricting or finding alternatives to care has been less frequently attempted or achieved. Yet, the gender relations of care are important for achieving isolation and quarantine. The paper addresses the gender of R, which matters for the transmission of COVID. It situates this issue in the theoretical debates on freedom and authoritarianism, and on neoliberalism and social democracy. It offers a rethinking of public health in these wider debates on society.
Time for caring in quarantine: The democratic value of spending and wasting time together
Universität zu Köln, Deutschland
In Care Ethics, Democratic Citizenship and the State (2020) in the Chapter: Time for Caring Democracy: Resisting the Temporal Regimes of Neoliberalism, White suggests that making more time for democracy requires making more time for care and that the processes of reclaiming this ‘care time’ would lead to a more equal distribution (White, 2020). In a quarantine, we can think of different scenarios where, for some, there is less time for care, while others might have more. However, the ‘productive time’ may remain the same as many are unable to stop working during a pandemic, even if they are privileged enough to be able to work from home. However, if we are privileged enough to have more time to spend with the ones we live with, it remains interesting to rethink Tronto’s theory and, subsequently, White’s arguments within the situation of quarantine.
Nedelsky, for instance, proposes that this ‘time for caring’ is, more often than not, achieved by simply spending time with the ones cared for (White, 2020). Or one could also rethink Nussbaum’s and Winnicott’s claim that playing teaches people how “it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than crippling anxiety” (Nussbaum, 2012,100). These processes, in their opinion, are essential for developing a democratic citizenship, which can only be attained with enough development of a narrative imagination. It could be, however, that in a situation of quarantine we have more time to play or just spend together. But the constraint to ‘care time’ spent in quarantine is that, similar to market-thinking, a pandemic might make us spend time looking from the present to the future, instead of simply spending time together.
This paper tackles the situation of households, in which individuals now actually do have to spend more time together and explore if and how this time can be translated into ‘caring time’. Furthermore, if this time spent together is ‘caring time’, it can also be scrutinised whether it could be further translated into ‘time for democracy’ in the way White (2020) argues. My suggestion is that the reality of a change in temporal constraint in a quarantine situation would show new nuances to ‘care time’ and its challenges to its translation into a caring democracy.