Gulf States and Islamist Responses to Covid-19: a changing relationship.

Lucia Ardovini (lucia.ardovini@ui.se) is a Research Associate at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs and author of Gulf States and Islamist Responses to COVID19: A Changing Relationship

The outbreak of Covid-19 and its quick spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the Gulf is shining a light on the unpreparedness of states and societies that, long before the pandemic, were already struggling to cope with the effects of decades of social unrest, failing state institutions, interrupted political transitions, civil wars and proxy conflicts. In turn, different state reactions to Covid-19 are also exposing glaring differences in state capacity and economic resources.

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Post-Pandemic Politics in the Oil-Addicted Gulf

Karen E. Young is Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute (Karen.Young@AEI.org) and author of Twin Crises Deepen Gulf States’ Policy Competition and Independence

In ‘Twin Crises Deepen Gulf States’ Policy Competition and Independence’, I argue that, for the Gulf Arab states, the twin crises of the Covid-19 pandemic and the collapse of oil prices in 2020 have accelerated trends already in motion. For finance ministers, it must feel like bailing out a sinking boat with a tin cup.

There will be no simple policy solution to the structural pressures for fiscal reform. The oil exporters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), even the wealthier ones like the United Arab Emirates, simply have higher spending patterns than their current revenues support.  But the Covid-19 pandemic has called upon states to intervene and support domestic economies, making the competing priorities of shrinking public sector payrolls and stimulating domestic demand all the more difficult. What emerges are trade-offs that reveal leadership priorities, and important distinctions within the ever-weakening body of the GCC on a range of policies from immigration, labor markets, tax and sovereign debt.

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Editor’s Choice December 2020: COVID-19 in the Gulf

Matthew Johnson, Editor and Senior Lecturer in Politics, Lancaster University (m.johnson@lancaster.ac.uk)

As we might expect, this Editor’s Choice concerns COVID-19. Our focus lies on examining an underreported set of impacts on a region which has generally garnered coverage on account of human conflict: the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The legacy of resource scarcity and resource curses, socio-economic inequalities and sectarian and religious conflict has been to create significant vulnerabilities to communicable disease. As such, it was no surprise to see Iran, for example, a country long subject to international sanctions, particularly affected by the pandemic. Given that so much coverage of COVID-19 has focused on crises in Europe and the Americas, it is extremely important that we understand the nature of the pandemic in the Gulf insofar as it has both the possibility of exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and other, non-pandemic crises.

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The Politics of Negative Emotions: Editor’s Choice.

Emotions seem increasingly to mark political movements and discourse. Anger, fear and sadness have, to varying degrees, been implicated in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the rise of Trump, on the one hand, and the persistence of Black Lives Matter and the impact of the Me Too movement, on the other.

A philosophical tradition that stretches from Plato to Martha Nussbaum has urged us to keep negative emotions like anger and jealousy out of politics, and to instead nurture positive ones, like love and compassion. Yet, that must be confounding to minorities, the poor and other marginalized groups, whose political claims frequently originate in negative emotions and take the form of emotional expressions. Indeed, their marginalization and attendant suffering has been exacerbated by processes, such as medicalization, which prompt individuals to think of their anger, fear and other painful emotions as personal problems to be dealt with in the medical or some other ostensibly apolitical sphere.

But not everyone believes negative emotions must be kept out of politics. Some feminists have long defended the political value of anger. And, more recently, such thinkers as Judith Butler and Deborah Gould have highlighted the politically empowering and constructive role that other negative emotions can play as well. Moreover, a series of methodological discussions on the importance of affect have brought the role of emotions in research into sharp focus. But whether these newer perspectives can survive the popular trend of blaming our contemporary political problems on passions like anger and fear remains to be seen.

This Editor’s Choice includes three essays on the place of emotions in politics from the combined second and third issues of volume 10, essays which will be particularly relevant as we grapple with the political fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fear has been among the dominant emotions in the public sphere this year. The first essay warns of the political abuses of this emotion. In ‘Moral economies of exclusion: politics of fear through antagonistic anonymity’, Søren Mosgaard Andreasen shows how fear has been used by the far right in Norway to legitimise exclusion, policing, and humiliation of Muslims, providing insights with significant implications for society more broadly.

As people have come to understand the unequal burden of Covid-19, with the most disadvantaged communities suffering the most, another emotion that has become increasingly salient is anger. In the second essay, ‘Anger fast and slow: mediations of justice and violence in the age of populism’, William Davies unpacks this emotions, borrowing Daniel Kahneman’s famous distinction between fast and slow thinking to develop a distinction between fast and slow anger. Whereas fast anger arises automatically, without deliberation, spurring physical action and reaction, slow anger accrues over time in response to perceived injustices; to conceive and enact lasting political change, Davies argues, we need a balance of both. 

The final piece draws our attention to an issue that will be central as we try to – in the words of the Biden campaign – ‘build back better’, namely, climate change. In ‘Green shame: The next moral revolution?’, Martha Claeys challenges political critiques of shame to argue that this emotion has a key role to play the greening of society. According to Claeys, green shame – the shame of behaving in ways that negatively impact the environment – can not only influence individual decision-making, but also drive sustained demands for policy changes. 

The Politics of Negative Emotions. Guest Edited by Dan Degerman is available here: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bup/gd/2020/00000010/00000002;jsessionid=6cvdfpv4qhi7o.x-ic-live-01

Bangladesh: Why a Pandemic is More Than a Threat to Global Health

Leoni Connah,
Lancaster University

Covid-19, known to the world as “Coronavirus” has caused an unprecedented crisis as it threatens human life, irrespective of location, age, gender or ethnicity. In addition to the threat the virus poses to health, the economic implications of Covid-19 are on a global scale as countries fear recession. The media has centred upon the economic implications of the UK and the U.S. but what is Covid-19 doing to South Asian states such as Bangladesh?

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