What use is disaster management
"Politics is becoming disaster management"
Eva Illouz is one of the most important diagnosticians of our time. Before the Corona crisis, the Morocco-born sociologist lived in Paris and Jerusalem. The pandemic has also noticeably changed her life. Illouz survived the lockdown, which was particularly tightly controlled in Israel, in her apartment in Jerusalem. The enforced calm of isolation has even spurred the thinking of global intellectuals. The Falter reached you via video link for the interview.
Falter: Ms. Illouz, in your book “Why Love Ends” you describe how capitalism has changed our emotional and romantic lives. Now capitalism has fallen into disrepute. The US cannot adequately protect its population from the Covid-19 pandemic. Is love coming back?
Eva Illouz: Capitalism has many powerful structures that cannot be easily changed. The transformation of love I have described had at least as much to do with political ideologies of freedom as it did with capitalism. In the Corona crisis, we were confronted for the first time with the fact that there are values that are more important than freedom.
In the future, will we think less about freedom and economic growth and more about the well-being of citizens?
Illouz: We have certainly learned one thing in the crisis: What risk are we willing to take on in order to protect the population from a pandemic? Are we ready to risk the economic existence of many people for it? In the past two months, the basic idea was: Everything has to come to a standstill so that the hospitals are not overwhelmed by Covid 19 patients. It was very noticeable to me that practically everyone around the world was using the same method to fight the pandemic. Some earlier, some later, some stricter - but social distancing was the basis of it all. And the agreement that one would rather risk the economy than life. In 1968 there was an epidemic in Hong Kong that killed between one and four million people, much more than the current epidemic. At the time, nobody thought in the slightest about shutting down the economy.
Today not everyone thinks that's great either.
Illouz: Some come from the left and protest against the measures because they say we cannot jeopardize our freedom. Others argue from the right against the economic sacrifice. In the USA, the corona crisis has shown how deeply the two camps are ideologically divided. There are those who interpret the First Amendment in such a way that the lockdown measures restrict their freedom - even if they endanger others, they insist on their supposed right. These are the same ones who walk around with guns in the name of the Second Amendment. Whether or not you wear a mask has almost become a political statement. The face shield has been mobilized for this ideological war. Covid-19 has already cost 100,000 lives. The mass protests against the racist murder of George Floyd take place against the background of deep socio-economic inequality. It found its expression in the fact that a disproportionately large number of black people died of Covid-19. The American race war is being fought over the virus.
In this global pandemic it became apparent that the neoliberal states could not proceed as successfully. Is the more social democratic model of Europe one of the winners of this crisis?
Illouz: It's pretty strange that those countries that did particularly badly are ruled by neoliberal politicians. By the way, they are also the biggest climate change deniers. You have long misjudged the danger of the virus. The damage to health and the economy is greatest there. We are talking about Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
Perhaps we will see the end of irresponsible populism as we have known it before?
Illouz: Yes and no. The corona pandemic has led to an almost overwhelming crisis of confidence. The opposite usually happens in times of war. The people stand behind the rulers, behind the flag. But that mainly happened in Europe at the beginning of the crisis. However, China has also acted criminally because it has concealed the extent of the epidemic for so long. This is a new category of crime in my opinion.
After the initial shock, people understood that some of their rulers were simply unable to protect them.
Illouz: We have to re-evaluate a lot. Capitalism is being questioned. But also everything we thought we knew about democracy. Again and again we see that even strong democracies are very, very fragile.
But doesn't this crisis show that the strong state is ultimately superior to the strongmen?
Illouz: Politics is increasingly becoming the disaster management of natural disasters. There will also be total disruptions to everyday life all over the world in the future. So far politics has seen itself as a force that propagates social and economic progress. But now it will increasingly be a question of finding answers to how one can maintain living conditions. That will not work without the state. We need a state that represents all social classes.
In an interview (Falter 19/29), the German sociologist Gabriele Winkler suggested “revolutionary changes”: a shorter working week, more welfare state, stronger democratic structures to include everyone, and community aid projects such as polyclinics.
Illouz: Sure, this is a moment when revolutionary ideas have to be formulated. However, we live in a plutocracy. The rich control the political system. I would be very happy if we could reassess the value of work. We have seen a total reversal. People whose work is usually neglected suddenly became the center of attention because they took great risks to maintain a minimal structure in our lives. In England and America, Covid-19 has hit the minorities particularly hard because they are mostly found in such jobs. I hope the memory of what role they play will remain. And how pricelessly important these jobs are.
Will the social pressure be big enough for profound changes?
Illouz: I hope so. We can now study under experimental conditions how different continents are fighting this crisis. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has presented a new plan for a rescue fund with 750 billion euros. That could be a crucial moment when the EU shows that together they can manage a crisis and act like a central authority.
A hot topic during the lockdown was whether women ended up back in the 1950s. But hasn't the isolation shown much more that women definitely don't just want to go back to children and the kitchen?
Illouz: We don't even know yet whether this crisis will really have a long-term effect. If there should be a vaccine or a drug in November or December, Covid-19 is unlikely to change our family structures in the long term. The economy and health systems do, however. Unemployment is high and many will no longer have jobs. Women who still have a job will not be able to afford to stay at home. That doesn't get along well with patriarchal structures.
Young women who previously thought that feminism was a thing of the past may have now also seen how important it is to fight for equality?
Illouz: I can rather imagine a feminist movement. Many women are now seeking divorce. Domestic violence has increased. The lockdown experience was a huge experiment as to whether the home actually means “home, sweet home”. The result: Home is not a safe place for many women. They often sit in small, overcrowded apartments with many family members and infect each other. But of course it is also about the fact that a home is only a safe place for women and children if there is a connection to the outside world.
Will governments learn this lesson and ramp up support for shelters and the like?
Illouz: It doesn't look like it in Hungary, where Viktor Orbán is distributing money for traditional families.
But the corona crisis has also shown a new trend. After separating from the mothers of their children, many fathers have learned to take care of children independently and to support themselves. Are Modern Men Better Than Their Reputation?
Illouz: Both men and women now had a completely new experience: aids that the middle and upper classes are used to - cleaning staff and childcare in the afternoon - suddenly disappeared. The level of domesticity was very high. Working women in traditionally heterosexual relationships, who otherwise buy ready-made food or go to restaurants and have their houses cleaned by others, suddenly found themselves stuck in a changed domestic setting. But so are the men. They got more busy too. We shall see what this collective experience does.
All over the world we have seen that autocrats like to use the Corona crisis for their own purposes: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to pull through the annexation of the West Bank while the world is busy with other things.
Illouz: More and more people rule through a crisis rather than in spite of it. Some crises are externally imposed, and sometimes they are even constructed. Netanyahu is also someone who lives from the crisis. It will then be easier to move constitutional boundaries and expand your own executive power. These leaders take advantage of this “Reichstag on fire” moment. Xi Jinping is currently accessing Hong Kong with the new security law. I would say crises are bad for citizens and good for authoritarian leaders because they can do what they want in the name of health and safety.
Will Netanyahu get away with his plan to annex parts of the West Bank?
Illouz: The annexation plan existed before the Corona crisis. Netanyahu would like to take advantage of the fact that there is an extremely careless and incompetent administration in the US. He wants to use this window of time to do something that violates international law. In addition, Netanyahu is moving his Likud party further to the right away from the center. He wants to open the party even further to the settlers.
The EU criticized him for this, but Austria and Hungary, unlike the other EU governments, did not support the declaration.
Illouz: We are seeing some very bizarre coalitions between Israel and states that, like Hungary, are currently extremely far to the right and do not shy away from anti-Semitic campaigns, for example against “the Jew” George Soros. Hungary is likely responsible for making Soros a meme in the world of global anti-Semitism. You can look at this in two different ways. Did Netanyahu seek these alliances out of sheer strategy? Good relations with small and medium-sized states can be of use to Israel in strategic coordination in the EU Commission. The votes of the small states also count in EU decisions.
What's the second option?
Illouz: The second possibility is even more disturbing. It's not about strategy, but about deep ideological affinity between Israeli nationalists and anti-European nationalists. Netanyahu's son Yair recently tweeted “the return of a Christian Europe”. This is also the program of the PiS party in Poland, Orbán in Hungary and the People's Party in Austria.
Yair Netanyahu was immediately celebrated as a new hero by the AfD.
Illouz: Yes, but in his clumsy way he only said what his father has been politically advocating for a while: He is putting Christian Europe against liberal Europe. Why does he do this? If you have the right to found a state on religious values - Christianity in Germany, for example - then we can do that here in Israel too. If you can be racist / anti-Semitic / nationalist / Christian, then we can also be racist / nationalist / Jewish. Perhaps Netanyahu's alliance with regimes like Orbán's started out of strategic considerations, but it ends in deep ideological consensus. Those parties that are most likely to be anti-Semitic are particularly interested in an alliance with Israel today. I can hardly think of a more cynical and ironic twist on the story.
Sebastian Kurz likes to include the Jews in the values of the European tradition. It is, he says, about Europe's Christian-Jewish heritage.
Illouz: The alliance between Christian and Jewish politicians always has an anti-immigration tendency. You have to stop the Muslim intruder at the gates. For very different reasons Netanyahu and the anti-Europeans are forming a coalition against Islam. I am not saying, by the way, that Arabs and Islam are always weak and innocent victims of this alliance. The majority of the Arab world, including Iran, is itself deeply anti-liberal. This topic was there before the Corona crisis and will continue to occupy us afterwards.
Born in 1961 in Fès, Morocco, is professor of sociology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales EHESS in Paris and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2009, Die Zeit ranked them among the twelve intellectuals who are likely to change the thinking of tomorrow. In 2013 she received the Anneliese Meyer Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2018 she was awarded the Israeli EMET Prize for Social Sciences. She currently holds the Albertus Magnus Professorship at the University of Cologne. In her most recent book, Why Love Ends. A sociology of negative relationships ”(Suhrkamp) she discussed how capitalism has changed our emotional and romantic lives
On June 9th at 6 p.m. Eva Illouz will take part in a virtual live talk of the Kreiskyforum: www.facebook.com/kreiskyforum
To the series
Every week intellectuals write or speak here about the pandemic. So far published: Thomas Macho on "Contagious Laughing", Eva Horn on "Corona and the Ecological Crisis", Alfred Noll on "The Law of Emergency", Doron Rabinovici's reply to it, "The talk of the herd", Helga Nowotny on "... the Chance to change things now ”, Lukas Resetarits' assessment that a Federal Chancellor should behave“ net wia a Rotzbua ”, Christoph Bartmann about the home office, Franzobel about different aspects of the crisis and most recently Vea Kaiser about Covid-19 as a globalized plague society
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