Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson have lost control of the fear factor

Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield; Dan Degerman, Lancaster University, and Matthew Thomas Johnson, Lancaster University

Fear has a bad reputation. Nobody wants to live in a society of fear; it’s an emotion to be avoided. As such, the role of the modern state is driven by the public’s desire to avoid those fear-inducing elements of modern life.

But that does not mean the role of the state is to eliminate fear. Rather it needs to manage what might be termed the “fear factor”. This is the fine line between using fear to encourage public compliance with the law (i.e. fear of prison is itself a preventative strategy), while at the same time convincing the very same people that they don’t need to live in a constant state of dread, anxiety and fearfulness.

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Negative emotions in dark times

Dan Degerman

We have much to be emotional about right now. In writing moment, a pandemic is upon us, with attendant political and economic crises. Among the emotions this has evoked, fear is indisputably the most palpable and discussed. But there is also frustration and anger, for example, at slow or insufficient government actions. And those who have already lost loved ones will of course feel sadness and grief. These are indeed dark times, casting a deep shadow over, or perhaps shadowed by, our inner lives.

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