Phoenix from the fire? Civil Society, Covid-19, and a New Cosmopolitanism -submission deadline: December 20, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an effect on the social and economic activity across the world, straining national health systems, causing deep financial stress for individuals and for nations, disrupting education and leading to profound changes in our societies. Although a watchword in the English-speaking world has been “We are all in this together”, inequalities are exposed. Two regularly cited examples are that communities with limited access to water cannot wash their hands; those who work in healthcare and food production cannot work from home. Radically uneven vulnerability to the virus has exposed and, in some contexts, politicised deep-seated inequalities and exclusions.

At the same time, ingenuity, creativity and social capital can join financial stability as hallmarks of privilege. The possibility of taking action, whether to earn money, to re-unite family, to seek out much needed medication, to feed oneself, to go to school or even at a more mundane level, to take exercise, in itself becomes a privilege. Those with strong social ties, with friendship groups and networks, who have the capacity to ask for help and to receive it, are likely to have a greater capacity for action. Technologies have made it possible to tap into those networks on a global level. The drive for self preservation may be strong in individuals, but nationally and internationally, there is also evidence of the possibility of ‘doing things differently’, as the homeless are (temporarily) housed in hotels, and patent rights for some medications are waived for poorer countries.

As governments at all levels take actions, questions of threats to human rights emerge. Inequalities and marginalisation affect people who have not previously been seen as vulnerable and the power of the community through charitable acts is limited in large part through the curtailment of social activities in a society. In some places, freedom of speech and religious freedoms are seen to be under threat; the limitations placed on individual freedoms and consequent loss of autonomy is cause for protest. In this context, roles for civil society become clear. Since we are not “all in this together”, advocacy on behalf of those who are marginalised becomes important, at individual and community levels. To counter abuses of democratic principles and violations of human rights, the traditional role of civil society as a watchdog becomes even more crucial. And finally, the need for trustworthy communication is essential to maintain a balanced social solidarity.

Isolation, whether of individuals or of countries, has released new dynamics of sociality and social solidarity as well as new marginalisations. It has raised the importance of the local, while hinting at new forms of globalisation. In this context, what prospects are there for cosmopolitanism?

Cosmopolitan Civil Societies call for papers addressing this question, within the scope of the journal. The journal is concerned with developing a better understanding of social change and cultural cohesion in cosmopolitan societies. Its focus lies at the intersection of conflict and cohesion, and in how division can be transformed into dialogue, recognition and inclusion.

The journal accepts submissions between 4000 and 8000 words in length. For this Special Issue, it will also accept shorter submissions of between 2000 and 4000 words which are commentaries on the question or which describe a local, national or global response to it. All submissions will be peer reviewed. The deadline for submissions is: 20 December 2020. Reviews will be completed by 8 March 2021. Accepted papers will be published in volume 13, number 1, in June 2021.

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