From the perspective of political research, the pandemic has not much changed the functioning and decision-making of established democracies. Instead, according to Mika Ojakangas, professor of political science, two trends are highlighted in the mainstream of social debate: keeping of living and accepting control.
Although coronavirus-related topics have dominated the news for the past six months, Ojakangas sees very few surprises in political action and decision-making. Established democracies are functioning as they did earlier, in an expected way.
“From the historical perspective, there have always been crises, and this current one is not among the toughest ones for decision-making”, Ojakangas states.
“In crises, people have always resorted to some kind of exceptional measures, like the temporary enforcement of emergency powers legislation here in Finland.”
Ojakangas is also one of the leaders of the profiling project “Crises Redefined: Historical Continuity and Societal Change”.
“It is also important to note that citizens approve the restrictions. For example, here in Finland, we have had no demonstrations related to the restrictions.”, he says.
Keeping of living now a top priority
With respect to public debate and decision-making in recent months, Ojakangas sees a clear trend that emphasises the priority of survival over other values. The keeping of living is ranked now very high among the leading values. Even economic values often receive a lower priority.
Ojakangas considers that this trend might remain the prevailing one for a long time now. “It will be interesting to see where it leads”, he says.
Another recently highlighted issue is individuals’ capacity and willingness to control themselves and others. Social technology offers appropriate technical applications for it.
“We are ready for control, we are beginning to control ourselves, and we are even demanding more control,” says Ojakangas.
“From a political researcher’s point of view, this is not a question of any conspiracy, but of the will and desire of citizens themselves.”
And Ojakangas is not referring just to the Koronavilkku application here. He thinks that we may soon also have many other kinds of applications by which we can control our surroundings.
Control gains emphasis
“Mere” life or survival is now what is being fostered. It can be threatened not only by diseases, but also by criminals, for instance. “It will be possible to develop an application that starts flashing when there is a convicted person in the vicinity,” Ojakangas envisions.
From the political research point of view, the development has dystopian elements. Established democracies are not yet on pace with China, however. As we know, there they use control methods somewhat without restraint.
“Of these Chinese methods, perhaps the most significant one is the social scoring system introduced in recent years, which is used for ranking citizens.”
A dictatorial future is still far from our established democracy. According to Ojakangas, in politics we are still living by the old normal, which will also be sustained in the future.
“I don’t believe that the pandemic will change political practices, but I don’t take any stand as to whether it will change people’s social behaviour. It is a question which other social scientists can answer better”, he concludes.
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