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Populism, pestilence and plague in the time of coronavirus

Russell Mannion (Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Ewen Speed (School of Health and Social Care, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 4 January 2021

Issue publication date: 4 June 2021

160

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore right wing populist government responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is a narrative overview of right-wing populist policies and strategies, which is loosely structured around fascistic themes set out in Albert Camus’ allegorical novel, The Plague.

Findings

Although individual responses to the coronavirus pandemic among right-wing populists differ, they appear to coalesce around four central themes: initial denial and then mismanagement of the pandemic; the disease being framed as primarily an economic rather than a public health crisis; a contempt for scientific and professional expertise; and the “othering” of marginal groups for political ends. Populist responses to the pandemic have given rise to increased levels of xenophobia, the violation of human rights and the denigration of scientific expertise.

Research limitations/implications

This is a narrative overview from a personal viewpoint.

Originality/value

Drawing on themes in Camus' novel The Plague, this is a personal perspective on right wing populist government responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Populist responses to the pandemic have given rise to increased levels of intolerance and xenophobia and the violation of human rights and civil liberties.

Keywords

Citation

Mannion, R. and Speed, E. (2021), "Populism, pestilence and plague in the time of coronavirus", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 175-181. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHRH-10-2020-0091

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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