Governing after Covid?

A Report from Day 2

The Annual Conference of the Society for Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) is continuing to offer participants the opportunity partake in thought-provoking panels. As this year’s theme addresses the effect the pandemic had and continues to have on everyone’s life, the conference opens up a dialogue about shifts in governance prior to the outbreak which gives everyone food for thought about possible developments after Covid. On Saturday panellists explored how governing is changing and which challenges that poses for involved actors.

The panel Polycentrism: How Governing Works Today offered participants insight into how novel modes of governing are intertwined with law and legitimacy globally and how they can be unpacked through the lens of polycentrism. As such the presentation by Frank Gadinger gave listeners an overview of the concept of polycentrism, explaining that it is attempting to fill the need for new theory to capture novel phenomena like governing through norms or algorithms. He went on to explain that order within novel governing circumstances is being sought through experimentation. The emerging phenomena are however rarely being studied within an interdisciplinary context; the study of polycentrism is meant to serve as an umbrella to capture the completeness of constantly moving governing. Fariborz Zelli further outlined what this means for the opportunities and restrictions of political agency. He argued that through an ever-growing variety of international institutions, global governance is increasing in complexity. Therefore, actors must adopt different epistemic capacities to be able to adopt to institutional niches. Jothie Rajah analysed polycentrism through a socio-legal approach which aims to view law in relation to all that is social; within that context she outlined the case of land grabs in Uganda. Hence, arguing that through the plurality of law present, evictions of people and later settlements were a product of governing through violence on the one hand and governing through presentation on the other hand. Alejandro Esguerra concluded the panel with an examination of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and how power is derived in modern politics. He argued that verification of knowledge is driven by technological expertise. Hence, politics is influenced by the power to ontologically construct entities and by the power to produce legitimacy through evidence.

For anyone interested to learn more about polycentrism, this panel offered a glimpse into a soon-to-published book co-edited by researcher of the Centre for Global Cooperation Research.

The panel Roundtable: Alternatives to a Failed Economy: The New System that Can Emerge from the Covid-19 Devastationdeveloped the discussion about changing modes of governance further by questioning neoliberal capitalism. While currently it might seem difficult to imagine how we emerge from this crisis, the presenters of this panel offered thought-provoking alternatives to current systems.  Marvin Brown drew a lesson of community from the pandemic, arguing that the public is essential for living together. He hence suggested that a more just and sustainable way of living together can be achieved through civic conversations surrounding providing for and protecting another. In an economy based on provisions, money should be viewed as means of exchange rather than as the provision itself. Kali Akuno’s lesson from the pandemic was that people will find ways to engage but also that severe changes to the global economy are possible if the willingness can be found. He argues that the shutting down of economies during 2020 will have an impact on the way discussion surrounding climate justice will be held. Kali Akuno went on to explain that mutual aid responses, a larger degree of food sovereignty, increased worker organization and ecological community production as observed during the pandemic can be driving forces for societal change after it. Riane Eisler reasoned that the pandemic has shown that the economy is not resilient but that in order to change the existing system, it needs to be questioned what counts as valuable labour in the economy. Thus, arguing that care-work is fundamental for society and the well-being of the planet, based on this an economy of partnership should be constructed. These ideas are further outlined in her book; to conclude the session Riane Eisler pointed out that the pandemic can be seen as an opportunity.


From the conference: Jasmin Schmitz