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Irresponsible Citizenship

The Cultural Roots of the Crisis of Authority in Times of Pandemic

Jean-François Caron

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the serious crisis of political authorities that liberal societies are currently experiencing. Indeed, a significant number of individuals living in these societies did not hesitate to defy the sanitary rules enacted by their government which has made it difficult for them to stop the virus from spreading. What can explain such a situation? This is what this book is discussing. Whether it is the growing popularity of conspiracy theories, the distrust towards governments or cultural and religious beliefs that take precedence over the respect of governments’ directives, all these factors that have led so many individuals to act in an irresponsible way during the pandemic find their roots in the liberal tradition as it originated in the 18th century and in its more recent development which has had the effect of decentralizing the individual from his collective responsibilities in favor of an almost unlimited enjoyment of his individual freedom. This health crisis has revealed the urgency for liberal societies to establish a better balance between collective interest and individual freedom through responsible citizenship capable of protecting its citizens against the adoption of draconian measures when they will be struck again by upcoming pandemics that appear to be unfortunately inevitable.

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Chapter Three When Cultural Beliefs Challenge Respect for Political Authority

Extract

After a lockdown of approximately 6 weeks imposed in the Spring of 2020, the citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia were finally able to resume their normal life. Police roadblocks prohibiting entry into the country’s capital, Nur-Sultan, and its southern metropolis, Almaty, as well as those restricting travel between the different districts within these cities, were lifted. Slowly but surely, after the middle of May, restaurants, shopping malls and bazaars were able to resume their activities but with severe restrictions, particularly in terms of the number of people allowed in these venues, along with the mandatory wearing of masks. While this area has regained its freedom, it has also remained subject to other prohibitions, the most important of which is the limitation on the number of people allowed at any form of gathering (marriages, funerals, or any other form of private get-togethers). However, after only a few weeks, the number of infected people began to skyrocket exponentially, so the government had no choice but to re-impose lockdown measures at the beginning of July 2020. Kazakhstan became the first country to impose a second lockdown.←43 | 44→

This case, which hardly made international headlines, is, however, interesting and symptomatic of the lack of concern citizens have for demanding very clear rules on the part of the state despite the fact that this country is not considered as being a Liberal democracy.1 Indeed, the rules of social distancing that remained in place and were strongly advocated for...

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