The Coronavirus pandemic will strengthen 'the nation'
As societies become more inward-facing, the nation will become more important to international relations.Coronavirus Globalisation Health Nationalism Pandemic Politics
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Coronavirus has resulted in states choosing their own policies and acting against the advice of others. In many cases these reflect the national character of those countries. These distinctions are strengthening the idea of the ' nation' in public and private identities.
Nationalism is surging during the pandemic. State policies differ widely. Yet, they all have the same end-goal - to protect their own citizens. This fresh emphasis on the nation and those within its borders now characterises all national policy. As the virus spreads and these priorities become more established, the idea of 'the nation' takes on a more central role in daily life. As Gideon Rachman explains in the Financial Times, "the pandemic is reinforcing political trends that were already potent before the crisis broke — in particular the demand for more protectionism, localisation of production and tougher frontier controls." In some parts of the world, this trend has already taken hold. In Hungary, Prime Minister Orbán has started dismantling checks and balances on the government. Amongst these laws, which include the outlawing of elections, the Premier has brought in measures that curtail free press. Journalists that 'interfere' with the government plans can now be jailed for five years. When we emerge from this crisis, the effects of this trend will become a lot clearer: "every country is dealing with how to save the lives of their citizens and at the same time avoid total economic collapse. In times of such crises, countries are becoming more inward-looking. Foreign policy, in general, becomes less important. Human rights and the rule of law in other countries are issues of little importance for most politicians and citizens."
It is natural to organise action against the virus within nation states. But that is hardly evidence for a nationalist upsurge. Combating the spread demands cooperation across borders against a common enemy. Finding a cure for this disease relies on peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and collaboration. That will set the foundations for a new internationalism. Meanwhile, the shared trauma of this period will bring communities around the world closer together - strengthening these bonds. As Charles Foster explains, "the virus doesn’t carry a passport or recognise frontiers. The only way of stopping its spread would be to shut borders wholly, and not even the most rabid nationalists advocate that. It would mean declaring that nations were prisons, with no one coming in or out – or at least not coming back once they’d left. In a world where we too casually assume that frontiers are significant, it doesn’t do any harm to be reminded of the basic fact that humans occupy an indivisible world. Cooperation between nations is essential to combating the epidemic. That cooperation is likely to undermine nationalist rhetoric."
[P1] The coronavirus must be beaten [P2] Countries are acting alone to beat the coronavirus [P3] Countries acting alone fuels nationalism
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] Countries are not acting alone to beat the coronavirus