Coronavirus, community and solidarity
This short piece seeks to offer a sober yet optimistic speculation on the renewal of community and civic solidarity in the face of the rapidly unfolding coronavirus pandemic. Over the last forty years, social and civic solidarity have been systematically undermined by the neoliberal project. Yet over a decade ago, a global crisis of neoliberal finance capitalism presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to break away from its orthodoxies and rebuild the solidarity necessary for democratic citizenship. Instead, we lived through an astonishing period during which the ‘alchemy of austerity’ reworked the crisis as one of a bloated and inefficient welfare state (Clarke and Newman, 2012). ‘Zombie’ neoliberalism staggered on and inequality grew, as communities across the UK organised to resist austerity and ameliorate the worst effects of brutal cuts and punitive welfare reform. Perversely, a solidaristic rhetoric of ‘sharing the pain’ was invoked to justify the very policies that undermined solidarity: the reduction or closure of essential public services, youth and community centres, public libraries, as well as welfare reforms that the UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights compared to Victorian Poor Laws (Alston, 2018).
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