Many countries have developed a narrative about the unique incompetence of their governments in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been a convenient stick with which political opponents can beat those in power and biomedical elites can advance their claims to displace democracy and the rule of law as the source of state legitimacy. In the UK, there is a whole new genre of ‘insider’ books claiming that the pandemic would have been handled much better if only the policy had been driven by their authors rather than by the messy processes of democratic politics. The particular value of the two books reviewed here lies in their application of well-established bodies of social science literature to analyse the French response rather than treating it as a simple matter of moral outrage.
Bergeron and his colleagues are sociologists of organizations, with an established interest in crises, failures, catastrophes and disasters. Gaudillière and his colleagues are historians and sociologists, with a background of studies in health policy and public health. Taken together, they not only illuminate the French experience but provoke reflection about the reasons why so many countries adopted similar responses, while representing them as unique, and about the importance of developing a social scientific understanding of what has happened, rather than abandoning this to the world of biomedicine….
A Social Science Space blog